Women

Ghana’s Dede Ayite is now the first Black woman to win a Tony Award for best costume design of a play

At the 2024 Tony Awards, Ghanaian designer Dede Ayite became the first Black woman to win a Tony for best play costume design.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the trailblazer won the award for her work on the now-closed Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, despite being nominated for several other series. Jaja’s entered the 2024 Tony Awards with five nominations.

Jocelyn Bioh wrote the script for the show, which took place in a busy Harlem salon where West African immigrant hair braiders make masterpiece hairstyles for local women amid uncertain conditions that force the community to confront being outsiders in a city they call home.

During her victory speech, Ayite, who was also nominated in the same category for her work on Appropriate and in the Best Costume Design of a Musical category for Hell’s Kitchen, thanked her family, notably her Ghana-based brother, and her partners.

She also complimented Bioh for “writing such a beautiful piece,” as well as the costume retailers and makers, saying, “Without them, I would not be here, and the show would not look as amazing as it does.”

In the Tony Awards press room, Ayite marveled at her historic achievement, describing it as “huge.” 

She expressed, “People like me that are just starting out and aren’t sure and are fearful and just don’t know what it’s going to take, and you don’t know how to find that step to take you forward, so I’m just hopeful that this moment says, ‘Just keep at it.’ You know, tell the stories that matter to you, tell the story that you find value in, and the moment will meet you. That’s what’s happening for me right now.”

She continued, “It’s not just about me, but we did it: the community that supports me, the community of people that love me each day and cheer me on. For me, I just feel like it’s not just about me right now. It’s the community. It’s that we have done it together.”

Dollita Okine

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