Meet Mayes C. Rubeo, the First Latina in Oscar History to be Nominated for Best Costume Design

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Photo Credit IG mayescrubeo

From Berlin to Los Angeles, a Latina explored all the options when it came to making the best possible costumes for an incredible story.

This is Mayes C. Rubeo (Mexico City, 1962), a Mexican designer with over thirty years of experience whose career has led her to work with directors such as Mel Gibson (Apocalypto) or James Cameron (Avatar).

But it was her work on Jojo Rabbit, the American comedy-drama film written and directed by Taika Waititi (Boy, 2010, Thor: Ragnarok, 2017) and based on Christine Leunens’ book Caging Skies, that earned her an Oscar nomination in the 2020 edition of the award show.

As she told the media, Rubeo “likes to get creative when she’s putting together the wardrobes for the cast members in her movies.”

“I went through my collection of textiles that I own throughout the years, and get the best ones appropriate for the fashion period,” said Rubeo. “We went to a vintage store in Berlin, then in Rome, in L.A., in Prague, everywhere.”

Born in Mexico in 1962, Rubeo studied at the José Guadalupe Zuno Hernández school in Guadalajara, and then moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s, where she studied at Los Angeles Trade Tech. After graduating, she moved to Italy to work with Italian costume designer Enrico Sabbatino.

Her first works were in collaboration with John Sayles in films such as Men With Guns and Sunshine State. However, it was his work with Gibson that would lead her to a new professional stage and work with Cameron, James Wong and Duncan Jones.

Her work has been characterized by her ability and taste for taking risks.

“I do, I’m very instinctive in my life. I follow my gut feeling,” said Rubeo. “The moment that I divert from that, things go wrong. So I learned to really follow my instinct and go for it and it has always worked for me.”

But the Oscar nomination is not something that takes away her sleep.

As she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rubeo explained her decision to spend Oscar nominations morning working at her latest gig, Marvel’s WandaVision. “I always try not to pay attention because I never get nominated for anything I do,” she said.

Once the nomination was received, Rubeo admits that, despite not believing it at first, the joy was overwhelming: “It’s a wonderful time for me.”

Regarding her work on Jojo Rabbit, — a film that recounts the story and personal conflict of Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, a member of the Hitler Youth — the designer explained to the Times her commitment and experience in the work, especially with Waititi:

“My main home is in Trevi, Italy. I have my textile collection there. I have many pieces, some from the 18th century. Lots of really old Chinese textiles. Mexican embroideries, embroideries from Northern Europe,” she explained, “I was very happy to give it to the movie. I don’t want them on my shelf like a good wine. If I can contribute to the costume design of the movie, they can live forever. I love the project. And I love Taika Waititi.”

In 2020, Rubeo shares the nomination with artists such as Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson, Mark Bridges, Jaqueline Durran, and Arianne Phillips.