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Dede Ayite First Black Woman to Win Tony for Best Costume Design Play

Dede Ayite First Black Woman to Win Tony for Best Costume Design Play

Dede Ayite has become the first Black woman to win a Tony for best costume design of a play at the 2024 Tony Awards.

Though nominated for her work on a few shows, Ayite won for her work on the now-closed Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.

The show, which opened in October 2023 and closed the next month, is set in a bustling Harlem salon where West African immigrant hair braiders create masterpiece hairstyles for local women while amid uncertain circumstances that ultimately face the community to confront being an outsider in a place they call home.

Written by Jocelyn Bioh, Jaja’s went into the 2024 Tonys up for five awards.

During her acceptance 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, including her brother cheering her on from Ghana, and her collaborators. She also thanked Bioh, “who wrote such a beautiful piece” as well as the costume shops and makers, saying of the latter, “without them I would not be here and the show would not look as amazing as it does.”

Ayite’s win comes after Montana Levi Blanco won best costume design in a play for The Skin of Our Teeth in 2022.

Backstage, Ayite marveled at her history-making win, calling it “huge.”

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“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 added, “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.”

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