Tony Awards, Costume Designer, African Hair, Designer

‘Jaja’s African Hair Braiding’ Costume Designer Makes History With Tony Awards Win

Dede Ayite was also nominated for Best Costume Design of a Musical for "Hell's Kitchen" and Best Costume Design of a Play for "Appropriate."

In a groundbreaking moment at the 77th Annual Tony Awards on June 16, Dede Ayite made history by becoming the first Black woman to win the Tony for Best Costume Design of a Play.

The Ghanaian-born designer’s triumph came from her work on the Broadway production “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.” According to Playbill, Ayite’s historic win held profound significance, as she expressed hope that “…it inspires other younger designers to know when it feels impossible, even when they’re unsure, to just keep moving forward.”

Backstage, a grateful Ayite paid tribute to the collaborative nature of theater. “It’s not just me, it’s not just my associate. It’s the costume shops. It’s the playwright. It’s the director…it really is a community that comes together to share a story that means a lot,” she said in a “2024 Tony Awards First Impressions” clip as she conveyed her deep appreciation for the recognition bestowed upon her beloved craft.

“Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” penned by Jocelyn Bioh, made its Broadway debut in October 2023, BLACK ENTERPRISE previously mentioned. The play immerses audiences in the lives of West African hairstylists at a Harlem salon, where love, aspirations, and secrets intertwine as they create intricate braided hairstyles for their customers.

Ayite’s work extends beyond mere aesthetics, as she previously told The Daily Beast, “Illustrating that Black people are human and are worthy regardless of how you might perceive them, that matters to me…I’m not doing a show in order to prove to anyone that I matter enough…Even the idea of ‘Black girl magic,’ in some ways it’s problematic. I don’t need to be magical for me to matter. I don’t need to be extraordinary by your standards. Of course I’m magical; I’m human.”

Beyond her groundbreaking win for “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” Ayite also garnered nominations this year for Best Costume Design of a Musical for “Hell’s Kitchen” and Best Costume Design of a Play for “Appropriate.” Her prior Tony nods came for “Slave Play” and “A Soldier’s Play.” The prolific designer’s upcoming projects include “Home” and the Broadway revival of “Our Town.”

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