By now, fans of black art know not to get their hopes up at awards shows; even a nod to diversity in the nominations pool tends not to work out in their favor. So this year, Black Panther fans braced themselves for the film to be yet another token which ultimately lost out to other films. But Black Panther made history at the Oscars, with black women at the forefront.
First, according to The Cut, Ruth E. Carter took the Oscar for Outstanding Costume Design — her first after previously being nominated for Amistad and Malcolm X. Black Panther, as many have pointed out, is the first superhero film ever to be nominated in the Best Picture category, but with Carter's win, the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially had its first Academy Award. Carter is the first black person ever to win in the category and her speech was incredibly moving — a particularly impressive feat considering she followed up one of the night's most hilarious bits, which featured Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry dressed as characters from The Favourite.
Carter, wearing a regal cape and Regency Era-inspired silhouette herself, exclaimed, "Wow, I got it! This has been a long time coming." She accepted the award from Henry, who bowed deeply before handing her the statuette. In her speech, Carter thanked Spike Lee for giving her her start and said she hoped she'd made the filmmaker proud. Lee, decked out in a royal purple suit, stood up in the audience and bowed before her, too.
In her acceptance speech, Carter continued:
Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king. It's been my life's honor to create costumes. Thank you to the Academy. Thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead on screen. Thank you to my crews around the world who helped bring Wakanda to life; our genius director Ryan Coogler, you are a guiding force. Thank you for your trust in understanding my role in telling the African-American story.
She joked that "adding Vibranium to costumes is very expensive" before thanking the film's producers, and finally, ended her speech honoring her 97-year-old mother, who was watching the telecast from home. "My career is built with passion to tell stories that allow us to know ourselves better," Carter said. "Mom, thank you for teaching me about people and their stories; you are the original superhero."
Next to break barriers was Hannah Beachler, the first black person to be nominated in the Outstanding Production Design category, who also won for her work on Black Panther, according to the Los Angeles Times. Through tears, she said as she accepted the award:
I stand here stronger than I was yesterday...I give this strength to all of those who come next, to keep going, to never give up, and when you think it's impossible, just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: I did my best, and my best is good enough.
The film missed out on its two sound nominations, with the awards for both Sound Mixing and Sound Editing going to Bohemian Rhapsody. Ultimately, Black Panther also lost out on the night's biggest honor, with the Oscar for Best Picture going to Green Book. But it's hard for anything to dull Carter and Beachler's shine in this moment.