Oscars: Finally, Black women earn nominations for hair and makeup

Ama Nunoo March 18, 2021
A scene from the five time Oscar nominated film. Photo: Netflix

Two Black beauty professionals have made Oscars history as they receive nominations in the makeup and styling category for their work in the movie, ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.’ According to Variety, the hair and makeup category was first created in 1981.

Gary native Mia Neal was the film’s lead hair department head and Jamika Wilson was the personal stylist to the lead character Viola Davis, who is also the most nominated Black actress in Oscars history after receiving a nod for her role in the film.

The late Chadwick Boseman received a posthumous nomination for the same film as well. Neal told Variety, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be honored by such a prestigious committee. To be with Jamika and for us to be the first African Americans nominated in this category is overwhelming.

“Sometimes it is good not to have high expectations at other times, Neal realized she had lowered her especially because it is hard to top an Oscar nomination.”

“I have to raise my expectations for myself because this was something, I never thought that I could achieve,” she added.

The people in the hair, makeup, and style department only appear in the credits which most people hardly pay attention to. To Neal, she never expected to get an Oscar nomination because she always saw herself as a behind-the-scenes person and is overwhelmed by the love their work on the set of the Netflix-produced movie is receiving.

Wilson admitted that the nominations only go to show how much an art form hairstyling is, validating the work of all the talented Black beauty professionals in the industry.

“This nomination is validation that hair styling is an art form, a craft, and a skill,” Wilson wrote on Instagram. “It also shows every Black woman or man doing hair that we can achieve, and more importantly that our talent and skill is equal and exceptional.”

Per the Chicago Tribune, the New York-based hair professional and the Juilliard School of Professional Internship for Wigs and Makeup said it took about 60 to 80 hours to make some of the custom wigs worn by Viola on the set mainly because most of the hair from the 1982 August Wilson play was set in the horsehair era of the 1920s.

“I had to do it strand by strand,” said Neal, who estimated it took her 60 to 80 hours. She had to boil the wig several times to set it into a certain style.

After all the hard work that went on behind the scenes and from the cast as well, ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom‘ deservedly received five Oscar nominations. Chadwick and Viola got one each, Neal and Wilson got one. The film was nominated for best production and best costume design as well.

This year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced on March 15, have been praised for being diverse, unlike previous years.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 18, 2021


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