The stylists of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” made history at the 93rd Annual Academy Awards on Sunday. Makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera, hair department head Mia Neal, and Viola Davis’ personal hairstylist, Jamika Wilson, took home the statue for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, with the last pairing becoming the first-ever Black stylists to win in the category. Neal took the lead for the acceptance speech, thanking the Academy, Netflix, Davis, and “the spirit of Ma Rainey.”
“I want to thank our ancestors who put the work in and were denied, but never gave up,” Neal said, recalling the battles of her grandfather, James Holland. A unique Tuskegee airman, he graduated from Northwestern University when they didn’t permit Black understudies to remain nearby and battled to look for some kind of employment as an educator in a education system that didn’t invite Black teachers.
“I 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, our Asian sisters, our Latina sisters and Indigenous women. And I know one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking — it will just be normal.”
Davis’ “Ma Rainey” performance has earned her critical acclaim throughout awards season and her dramatic transformation for the role was inspired by a few scant photos found of the Mother of the Blues.
“They say she always looked like she was dripping in sweat, all the time,” Davis told ET in October. The blood and tears are Davis’, but “the sweat is from my makeup artist.”
In a meeting with Vulture, Lopez-Rivera clarified that since they needed to avoid prosthetics, “the challenges became very organic” concerning keeping the singer’s signature sweaty greasepaint consistent throughout production. With the film’s use of close-ups and focused shots, Wilson noted that the perspiration became “an incredible character in and of itself.”