'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' hairstylists make history with Oscar nomination

BySandy Kenyon OTRC logo
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Hairstylists for 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' make Oscar history
The Oscar-nominated film "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is the story of a pioneering blues singer during a recording session in the 1920s.

NEW YORK -- The Oscar-nominated film "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is the story of a pioneering blues singer during a recording session in the 1920s.

The movie, based on an earlier play, received five nominations, including one for the late Chadwick Boseman and one for Viola Davis in the title role.

Her hairstyling and makeup team was also recognized, and Oscar history was made as a result.

The Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling was first given out 40 years ago, but this year marks the first time Black women have been nominated.

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It happened thanks to Davis, who required help for a role that fundamentally altered her appearance.

"When she's doing a character, she wants to be truly authentic," said Jamika Wilson, who has styled the star's hair since 2008. "She wants to know everything about the character. She doesn't care about the ugly. She doesn't care about being glamorous or any of that. She's very true to who she is. She helps you to see who you are, and she's very loyal."

Now, Wilson is making history alongside Mia Neal, who made Ma Rainey's wigs and put them on Davis during the shoot.

They are the first African American women ever to be Oscar-nominated in the category.

"It should never have taken this long," Wilson said. "But I am happy about the evolution of it all."

It's something she thought could never happen.

"I thought it was unreachable, because I never thought about it," she said. "And I'm saying that because I never did see anyone that looked like me who had received an award so prestigious."

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She credits performers of color like Davis with opening up opportunities for hairstylists of color.

"We are seeing more of us on set because our actors are speaking up and saying they want hairstylists who can do their hair," she said. "Who know how to treat the hair, who knows how to style the hair so they can feel comfortable."

Wilson's Oscar nomination is an indication that doors previously closed are now opening.

"It shows to every young kid, every young woman who desires to be a hairstylist in the entertainment field that they can go higher," she said. "And reach this nomination too."

Mark your calendars: April 25 is Oscar Sunday. Live coverage begins Sunday morning and continues all day with special "On The Red Carpet" coverage leading up to the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. After the last award is handed out, stay with "On The Red Carpet" for continuing coverage. Be sure to follow @OnTheRedCarpet on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok for all your Oscar news and information.