Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson Just Became the First Black Women to Win a Hair and Makeup Oscar

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson just made history at the 2021 Oscars: They are now the first Black women to ever win a hair and makeup Academy Award. The two won for their work in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Mia Neal was the hair department head on the film, and Jamika Wilson is star Viola Davis’s personal hairstylist. (Davis plays the titular character in the movie and earned a best actress Oscar nomination.) 

“I want to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, [and] were denied but never gave up,” Neal said in her 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 won’t be unusual or groundbreaking. It will just be normal.”

She continued, “Thank you to the Academy, to Netflix, to Denzel Washington, to George C. Wolfe, to Ann Roth, to Ms. Viola Davis.” 

Wilson previously told Variety, “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.”

And she said of her groundbreaking nomination, “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.”

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