Hairstylists Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black winners of the Oscar in makeup and hairstyling for their work on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the Netflix drama based on August Wilson’s play of the same name that follows the titular blues singer (Viola Davis) during a recording session in 1920s Chicago.
“Thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, who were denied, and never gave up,” said Neal, who accepted the award onstage with Wilson and fellow winner (for makeup) Sergio Lopez-Rivera. “I stand here as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for the future — because I can picture Black trans women standing up here, and Asian sisters, our Latina sisters and Indigenous women. I know one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking. It will just be normal.”
Backstage, Wilson related that she has been seeing more African Americans on set, adding “it has been happening.” Neal added that “everyone benefits from diversity, and I think everybody wants it.… It’s being well received, and I don’t sense any resistance. That’s why we’re excited about the future.”
“We look forward to the time when these questions are moot,” summed up Lopez-Rivera on the topic of diversity on set.
It was the first nomination and first win for Neal, the film’s hair and wig designer and hair department head; Wilson, personal hairstylist for Viola Davis; and Lopez-Rivera, Davis’ personal makeup artist.
Wilson has worked with Davis on productions such as Widows and How to Get Away With Murder. Neal’s recent credits include Uncut Gems and Pose, for which she earned an 2019 Emmy nomination.
At Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, they topped a field of nominees that also included Emma, Hillbilly Elegy, Mank and Pinocchio.