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Charlese Antoinette

For Charlese Antoinette ’05, a career of dressing Hollywood stars like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci and Daniel Kaluuya began on Henry Avenue at Jefferson.

The fashion merchandising and management graduate—now a TV and movie costume designer for A-listers—spent hours putting on fashion shows with the Black Student Union, absorbing skills from fashion, textile, and business professors, and importantly, quizzing Gutman librarians and scouring the University archives.

“It’s part of why I’m so good at research now,” Antoinette says. “It’s a huge part of my career.”

Antoinette worked on “Newlyweeds” and “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” both of which went to Sundance in 2013. After this early career success, she moved to Los Angeles—an unexpectedly difficult transition that left her homeless and couch-surfing with friends.

The “Newlyweeds” director, Shaka King, and Antoinette kept in touch over the years, and he contacted her to be the costume designer for his next big picture, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The 2021 biographical crime drama about the betrayal of Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton earned six Oscar nominations and won two.

“It was truly life-changing in how I looked at myself as an artist and the world around me,” she says. “I’m really grateful this is the project that propelled me.”

Since then, Hollywood keeps calling for her skills. As a costume designer, Antoinette creates characters for a film or TV show through clothing, setting the looks from the extras to lead stars. She collaborates with directors, writers, showrunners, production designers, prop masters and more.

Her most recent big project was “Air,” which hit theaters and streaming in April. The Matt Damon and Ben Affleck film centers on Nike’s game-changing partnership with Michael Jordan to create the Air Jordan brand. She also has a Damon/Casey Affleck heist movie in the works.

For students looking to follow her lead in Hollywood, she urges patience and persistence too.

“It’s not an instant gratification kind of industry,” Antoinette says. “The focus should be on being the best artist you can be and creating amazing work that you’re happy with.”