‘Ma Rainey’s” Hair Team Are the First Black Winners of Oscars Category
Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson – two members of the hair and make-up team behind the film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” alongside Sergio Lopez-Rivera – have made history by not only being the first black female nominees within the category, but the first winners also.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, adapted from the famous play by August Wilson, primarily follows the legendary, titular blues singer over the course of one-day in a Chicago recording studio, with Viola Davis (“The Help”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, “Fences”) cast in the lead role.
The victory of the hair and make-up team is not only notable due to it being the first time the academy has acknowledged black hair and make-up nominees, but as their were very few pictures taken of the real-life Ma Rainey, meaning the character’s portrayal and looks were taken from extensive research.
While Sergio was responsible for the makeup of the film, Mia and Jamika handled the creation and styling of the characters’ hair. According to her chat with Vogue, the Juilliard-trained Mia created 100 wigs in less than three weeks for the film, including two for Viola Davis made from horsehair, just as the blues singer used to wear them.
“It’s like today’s synthetic hair because it holds a set,” Mia told Vogue. “She was a Black woman traveling during the 1920s. She couldn’t get serviced in every salon, so she had to have something in her bag that was ready to go for her performance.”
On receiving the award, Jamika, who has worked as Viola Davis’ hair stylist since 2008, similarly told Vogue: ‘[It’s like an] out-of-body experience. My mind is totally blown, I really can’t believe it. It’s such an honour and blessing. It wasn’t my goal to be a nominee for an award—it was to go to work and do my best. I’m going to do my best to bring myself back into my body so I can just enjoy the moment.”
“The possibilities are endless, and this nomination proves that,” added Mia. “Evolution is inevitable, and it’s happening. Any African American or young person of color going into this field should know people do want diversity. You are wanted, and you will be welcomed. Go in and work hard because there is space for you, and we’re living examples of that.”