Gary native Mia Neal won the Academy Award for Makeup and Hairstyling along with Jamika Wilson and Sergio Lopez-Rivera for their work on Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” on Sunday, April 25, during a televised ceremony.
Neal and Wilson became the first Black stylists nominated in the Oscar’s history, and winners, in the category. Neal, the department head, created the wigs worn by actress Viola Davis in the film.
The Guardian newspaper reported in its April 25 edition that 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 the Blues,” according to Vogue.
Variety magazine, which reports on the motion picture industry, had predicted in its Awards Circuit prediction schedule in the April 21 issue that nominees for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” would take the win for Makeup and Hairstyling.
While the overall ceremony had historically low ratings, locals viewing the production were treated to the announcement of the victory and a touching victory speech where Neal told the story of her grandfather, James Holland, a Tuskegee Airman, track star, and former Gary deputy mayor who died in 2002.
In her acceptance speech, Neal acknowledged ancestors who had forged a path for her success, and said she envisions a time when a woman of color accepting a major award would be commonplace.
“So I wanted to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, were denied, but never gave up. 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 will just be normal.”
Neal made her remarks in memory and honor of her grandfather, a Northwestern University graduate, after becoming the first Black woman to ever win an academy award in the category of Makeup and Hairstyling, which was created in 1981.
In celebration of the historic win by Gary’s hometown favorite, Horace Mann High School alumna Mia Neal, the Gary Crusader reprinted its March 27 article on page 10 in the May 1, 2021 issue, which the story of the nomination of the new Oscar-winning makeup and hair stylist is presented.