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Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson become first black women to win hair and makeup Oscar

The Guardian logo The Guardian 26/04/2021 Adrian Horton
a man and a woman standing in a room: Photograph: Chris Pizzello/EPA © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Chris Pizzello/EPA

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first black women to win for best hair and make-up at the Oscars, for their work on Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

“I stand here, as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling, with so much excitement for the future,” said Neal in accepting the award, along with their fellow stylist Sergio Lopez-Rivera.

Neal, the department head, and Wilson, Viola Davis’s personal hair stylist, won for their work on the film about one of the few openly lesbian, black performers in America in the 1920s.

Neal, who designed Oprah Winfrey’s wigs for 2017’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, created 100 wigs for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in less than three weeks, based on the fewer than 10 photographs that exist of the legendary “mother of blues”, according to Vogue.

a man and a woman standing in a room: Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson and Sergio Lopez-Rivera, winners of the award for best makeup and hairstyling. © Photograph: Chris Pizzello/EPA Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson and Sergio Lopez-Rivera, winners of the award for best makeup and hairstyling.

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“I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking, it will just be normal” for black women, trans women, and Latinas to be claiming Oscars, Neal said.

The film’s costume designer, Ann Roth, 89, also made history as the oldest woman to win an Oscar, tying Agnés Varda and James Ivory for the oldest winners.

While celebrating her work, the presenter Don Cheadle said Roth “reads the script and asks herself questions about the character like: ‘When she goes to bed, where are those clothes? Do they fall on the floor? Does she hang them up?’ From there, Ann builds the costumes which define the character.”

Roth did not give a remote speech, and Cheadle accepted on the Academy’s behalf.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by George C Wolfe, was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best actor for the late Chadwick Boseman.

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