Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson Are the First Black Women to Win an Oscar For Hair and Makeup

Danielle Jackson
·1 min read

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson made history last month as the first Black women to be nominated for an Oscar in makeup and hairstyling, and they broke the glass ceiling even further on Sunday night when they took home the big award.

Neal and Wilson worked as hairstylists on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which starred Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, who both received nominations in the best actress and actor categories, respectively. Neal served as the film's lead hair department head, and Wilson worked as Davis's personal on-set hairstylist, and they won the award for best makeup and hairstyling alongside makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera.

As the team accepted the award, Neal prefaced her speech with a touching story about her grandfather, a Tuskegee airman who was denied the opportunity to become a teacher in his hometown, even after studying to become one for years.

"I want to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in [and] were denied but never gave up," Neal said. "And 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'll just be normal."

Neal and Wilson's win isn't only historic, but it's also another reminder of why representation behind the scenes is important in terms of the amazing work that can happen when Black beauty professionals are hired to work with Black talent on film and TV projects.