The makeup and hairstyling team for Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has made history for the second time this year. Tonight, Mia Neal, hair department head of the film, and Jamika Wilson, star Viola Davis’s personal hairstylist, became the first Black women to ever win an Oscar for makeup and hairstyling after becoming the first Black women to be nominated in the category last month.
Neal created over 100 wigs for the film, including two worn by Davis, one of which she meticulously handmade from imported horsehair to mimic what the real-life Rainey wore when performing. Wilson, who was the hair department lead for How to Get Away With Murder, and has been working with Davis since 2008, fashioned and applied Neal’s custom wigs each day to transform Davis into the “Mother of the Blues.”
“She wanted someone who could style her hair and handle it,” Wilson told NPR. “African Americans are familiar with both types of hair, y’know? We just don’t do one texture of hair. We can do it all. And by actors now speaking up and saying that they want someone who can handle their hair, they have to bring an African American hairstylist because there’s not very many Caucasian hairstylists that feel comfortable doing African American hair.”
Neal and Wilson won alongside Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Davis’s personal makeup artist, who started working with the star on How to Get Away With Murder. “I want to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, were denied, but never gave up,” Neal said in her historic acceptance speech. “I also 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. And our Latina sisters. And Indigenous women. And I know that one day, it wont be unusual or groundbreaking, it will just be normal.”