We love it when Ruth E. Carter makes headlines. And, because she works so damn hard, we get to see her do that pretty often.
Carter’s work as a costume designer spans more than 30 years across more than 60 movies and TV series, and throughout that prolific career, she has broken more than a few barriers. For her work in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, she became the first Black woman nominated for the Costume Design Oscar at the Academy Awards. More recently, it was her resplendent Black Panther costumes that took her ceiling-shattering to new heights, making her the first Black woman to win the category’s Oscar. (Rewatching her acceptance speech hits different after the loss of Chadwick Boseman, who can be seen ecstatically pumping his fists as the costumer for Wakanda makes her way to the stage.)
Now, Carter has taken her trailblazing to the streets—quite literally. After a virtual sidewalk ceremony on Feb. 25, she is the first Black costume designer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In fact, Carter becomes only the second costume designer in all of movie history (after Edith Head) to receive the honor, one that has tended to be reserved for celebrity actors and directors.
But for all the glass ceilings Carter has shattered, she is eager to look to the future. “We’ve got to stop saying, ‘You’re the first,’” she told Variety. “We’ve got to see what the second, the third and the 10th are going to do.”
The momentum created by Carter is not lost on other Black storytellers who could fill those slots, like Charlese Antoinette Jones, who designed the costumes for this year’s Judas and the Black Messiah. “[Carter] opened a lot of doors for us. Even me being considered [for awards] right now is due to her winning and laying this groundwork,” reflected the designer in an interview with Variety.
It’s fitting that Carter’s latest achievement comes at the end of Black History Month and at the beginning of Women’s History Month. Not to mention, Coming 2 America drops March 5 on Amazon Prime, and the costumes Carter designed for it might just give Black Panther a run for its money. It feels like the perfect time to revisit some of Carter’s iconic work. But just know: It is next to impossible to whittle her massive career down to such a short watch list. Think of this as the intro course, but there is so much more available for extra credit. Check out five of her best among far too many to choose from—listed below.
The 93rd Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25th at 8 pm EST. Watch it live on ABC or go to ABC.com and log in with your TV provider.