Marchlena (Marci) Rodgers: Costume Designer

What brought you to Howard University? 

I was attending Chicago State University in 2002, and I came home one day and told my father I wanted to leave Chicago. He supported my decision, but told me to apply to Howard. In the summer of 2002, my father dropped me off at Slowe Hall and told me to make friends. His last words to me before he left was, “I will be back to get you in May.” Unknowingly, I was fearless then, I just didn’t know it.

What was your major?

B.B.A. '05, Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing

Describe your career path. What opportunities and decisions led to your current position?

I am a costume designer for theatre and film. Not sure if this answers the question, but I reached out to my mentor—Helen Hayes Awards recipient, Reggie Ray, who was a professor in Fine Arts. I assisted him on a show at Theatre Alliance DC. From there, I worked with him as closely as I could, and when the opportunity came, I started to assist him full-time. Months later, I visited University of Maryland and met my other mentor, Helen Huang, who interviewed me on the spot. Weeks later, I surprisingly received an offer to apply to the MFA program at UMD.

What personal and professional satisfactions do you get as the founder of Marci Rodgers Costume Design? 

I am following my dreams. I remember saying this is what I wanted to do, and I truly believe [now] that if you speak something into existence, it will happen.  It’s something supernatural about that. I just hope I am motivating someone to follow his or her dreams.  [The] professional satisfaction I get [is knowing that] whatever you put your mind to, you can do. I knew very little about costume design, but I worked hard, stayed up late, put my social life on hold (thanks to Reggie) to make sure I was ready when the time came.

What are you passionate about in your work?

I love, love, love to see when I render something and it comes to fruition. To be able to use color and texture…to me, that’s what artists do. We mix colors and textures.  Or even when my actors tell me they love their costumes, that means a lot to me.

What does the future hold for Marci Rodgers Costume Design?

Designing for theatre and film.

How has your HU School of Business experience helped shape your success? 

It has helped me in many ways. I will never forget my first day at the School of Business. Mr. Gray said, “ Network, network, network.” So, that’s what I do. Also, as a costume designer, we have to keep budgets – which means, money.

In what ways are you making a positive impact in the world?

I believe I am impacting the world by showing someone it is okay to step out on faith. No, it’s not easy, it will never be. But you were given wings, so why not fly?

What is the most incredible thing that’s happened to you since graduating? 

So many things! I was blessed to do what I love. I met Reggie, my mentor. …I have had the honor to work with Broadway Costume Designers and Tony Award Recipients, Paul Tazewell and Ann Roth. Also, I have had the honor to work with Emmy nominated Rita McGhee [B.S. ‘89], Oscar Nominated Ruth Carter and Oscar Recipient, Spike Lee.

What was your favorite HU moment?

On Friday, April 8, 2005, when my chapter graced the campus with all pink and green and introduced 137 pearls. I will never forget how packed the yard was. We shut the yard down, literally.

How do you support Howard University as an alumna?

When I have the time, I come back and talk to students about my experience as a working professional—be it in business, fashion [or] costume design.

Please share some advice for Bison students and alumni who are interested in your career field or pursuing a dream job.

Don’t give up. Keep saying it over and over. It may seem silly, but I am a walking testament. Remember to be ready. You have to put in work, lots and lots of work. It will be hard, and sometimes you may ask yourself, “Why am I doing this [for free] at times…” Well, here’s why: When your time comes, it will be well worth it, because you have paid your dues.


Social Media

Instragram: @marcialagio












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