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Academy Awards 2019: Hannah Beachler just made history with her powerful speech

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Hannah Beachler, the production designer on Black Panther, and Ruth E Carter, the superhero movie’s costume designer, both picked up awards at the 2019 Oscars.

Only three black women in the history of the Oscars have won an award in a category outside of acting.

Two of those happened tonight: Hannah Beachler and Ruth E Carter, for production design and costume design on Black Panther. Carter, in particular, is one of the industry’s most respected figures, a costume designer who has been Oscar-nominated twice before this evening for her work on Malcolm X and Armistad. Now, she can call herself the first black woman to win an Oscar for costume design. 

Beachler, who was the production designer for Oscar-winning film Moonlight and Beyonce’s Lemonade album, is not only the first black woman to win an Oscar for production design, but the first black woman to be nominated

“I got it,” Carter said, accepting her award to a rousing standing ovation. “This has been a long time coming… I dreamed of this night. Now, we don’t have to wait for the first - we have the first.”

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Carter went on to thank director Spike Lee, who hired her on Malcolm X. “Thank you for my start,” she said. “I hope this makes you proud.”

It was costume design, Carter said, that made Black Panther sing. “Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design we turned him into an African king,” Carter said.

“My career is built with passion to tell stories that allow us to know ourselves better,” Carter concluded. “This is for my 97-year-old mother watching in Massachusetts. Mom, thank you for teaching me about people and their stories. You are the original superhero, thank you!” 

Ruth E Carter

If Carter is the veteran, with an almost-30 year career in Hollywood, then Beachler is the newcomer. She got her start in films thanks to director Ryan Coogler, who hired her to do the production design on his movie Fruitvale Station. Since then, the pair have collaborated on Creed and Black Panther, for which Beachler won an Oscar for production design.

In a very relatable moment, Beachler fished out her reading glasses and scrolled through her iPhone Notes app to find her speech. And when she did, it was incredibly powerful.

“I stand here stronger than I was yesterday. I stand here with agency and self worth because of Ryan Coogler,” Beachler said, tearfully.

“Who not only made me a better designer, a better storyteller, a better person. I stand here because of this man who offered me a different perspective of life. Who offered me a safe space. Who is patient who gave me air, humanity and brotherhood. Thank you Ryan, I love you.”

Hannah Beachler

She concluded: “I’m stronger because of my family who supported me through the roughest of times.” 

“I give this strength to all of those who come next to keep going and to never give up and when you think it’s impossible just remember this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: I did my best, and my best is good enough.” 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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