Dede Ayite becomes the first black woman to win Tony Award

Dede Ayite made history at the Tony Awards in New York, clinching the award for Best Costume Design in a Play for her incredible work on the show “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.”

Dede Ayite- Yahoo

Set in a bustling Harlem salon, the play explores the lives of West African immigrant hair braiders crafting stunning hairstyles while grappling with their sense of belonging in a community that views them as outsiders.

Written by Jocelyn Bioh, the critically acclaimed “Jaja’s” was a strong contender at the Tonys, nominated for five awards.

Although the show had a brief run, opening in October 2023 and closing just a month later, its impact was profound, particularly highlighted by Ayite’s outstanding costume designs that brought the characters and their stories to life.

In her acceptance speech, Ayite expressed heartfelt gratitude towards her family, especially her brother who supported her from Ghana.

She also extended thanks to her collaborators, including Bioh, whom she praised for writing such a powerful play, and the dedicated costume shops and makers, declaring, “Without them, I would not be here and the show would not look as amazing as it does.”

Speaking in the Tony Awards pressroom, Ayite reflected on her historic win. “It’s huge,” she said, recognizing the significance of her achievement not just for herself but for aspiring artists facing uncertainties.

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.”

She emphasized that her victory was a collective success: “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.” Ayite’s win is a beacon of inspiration, celebrating the power of community and the importance of staying true to one’s artistic vision.


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