“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” hair department head Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, hairstylist to Oscar-nominated actor Viola Davis, made history on Monday when they became the first Black women to be nominated for makeup and hairstyling.
The award was created by the Academy in 1981 after the 1980 film “The Elephant Man” was not recognized.
Neal, who previously worked on “Uncut Gems,” said, “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. I have to raise my expectations for myself because this was something I never thought that I could achieve.”
Neal said it was something she never thought she could achieve, and her nomination was important for anyone who looks like her. “You can raise the bar now. You can be recognized in this way as well.”
She also praised Denzel Washington, who helped bring the August Wilson story to Netflix as an executive producer.
Wilson added, “I feel like I have to pinch myself. I’m just completely honored to be nominated for this award because I’m doing something that I love. I never imagined myself being here. I just can’t explain the feeling. I’m doing something that I love and now I’m nominated for an Academy Award.”
On the history-making nomination, Wilson said, “The recognition of my art and talent by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is bigger than me. It is for every young hairstylist who dreams beyond the salon chair to work on a motion picture set. It is for the young child who tells their parent they want to be a hairstylist to receive a response of ‘That’s not a real career.’ The nomination is validation that hair styling is an art form, a craft and a skill. It also shows every Black woman or man doing hair that we can achieve, and importantly that our talent and skill is equal and exceptional.”
“To be the changing point of this is amazing,” she added. “It’s crazy to think that we are the first Black nominees in this category, but we aren’t the last. I agree with what Mia was saying, that now I feel like I need to step up my game like we’re setting this example.”
Based on the Wilson play, the film tells the story of Ma Rainey (Davis) during a time when segregation and racial oppression were widespread in America. The story takes place during the course of one hot Chicago day as Rainey steps into the recording studio for a session.
During recording, she and Chadwick Boseman’s Levee have a contentious dynamic as he explores his ambitions beyond being a trumpet player her.