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Dede Ayite Wins Tony Awards for Costume Design in ‘Jaja’s African Hair Braiding’

Dede Ayite Wins Tony Awards for Costume Design in 'Jaja's African Hair Braiding'

At the 77th Annual Tony Awards, Dede Ayite made history by being the first Black woman to win for Best Costume Design of a Play. 

Her award was for her work on “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.” Ayite shared her hope that her achievement would encourage young designers to keep going, even when things seem tough.

The play, written by Jocelyn Bioh, first showed on Broadway in October 2023. It tells the story of West African hairstylists in a Harlem salon, weaving together their dreams, loves, and secrets with their craft of braiding hair.

Ayite believes her role in costume design is more than just creating outfits; it’s about showing that Black people are valuable just as they are. 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.

She stresses that one doesn’t need to be seen as magical or extraordinary to be important. 

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 historic win with “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” Dede Ayite has earned additional accolades this year, including nominations for Best Costume Design of a Musical for “Hell’s Kitchen” and Best Costume Design of a Play for “Appropriate.”

Previously, she received Tony nominations for her work on “Slave Play” and “A Soldier’s Play.” Ayite’s forthcoming projects include designing for “Home” and the Broadway revival of “Our Town.”


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