Home / News / Dede Ayite Becomes First Black Woman to Win Tony Award for Best Costume Design

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

Dede Ayite has made history as the first Black woman to win the Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Play at the 2024 Tony Awards.

Despite previous nominations for her costume work, Ayite secured the award for her designs in the play Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, which has since closed.

The production, which premiered in October 2023 and ended in November, is set in a vibrant Harlem hair salon where West African immigrant stylists craft intricate hairstyles for local women while dealing with challenges that force the community to confront their outsider status in their new home.

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Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, written by Jocelyn Bioh, was nominated for five awards at the 2024 Tonys.

In her acceptance speech, Ayite, who was also a nominee in the same category for her work on Appropriate and for Best Costume Design of a Musical for Hell’s Kitchen, expressed gratitude to her family, including her brother in Ghana, and her collaborators. She praised Bioh for writing a wonderful play and acknowledged the costume shops and makers, stating that their efforts were crucial to her success and the show’s visual appeal.

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Speaking in the press room, Ayite reflected on the significance of her achievement, calling it “huge.”

“For those just starting out, feeling unsure and scared, not knowing the path forward, I hope this moment says, ‘Keep going.’ Tell the stories that matter to you, that you believe in, and the opportunity will come. That’s what is happening for me now.”

She added, “This win is not just about me. It’s about the community that supports and loves me. We did this together.”

The 2024 Tony Awards were held at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York.

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