Mia Neal become one of the first Black women to win an Oscar for Best Makeup & Hairstyling for her work on "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."
Lead hairstylist and wig designer Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to win an Academy Award for Best Hair and Makeup in the category's 40-year history for their work on "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Neal started laying and slaying hair as a little girl in Gary, Ind., playing with Barbies. When Neal was a student at Jackson State University, a coworker at Mac encouraged her to apply to the Juilliard School of Professional Internship for Wigs and Makeup. Her extensive work in New York theater, film, and television was necessary for transforming Viola Davis into the larger-than-life mother of blues, Ma Rainey. The team only had 10 reference photos of Ma Rainey, and they painstakingly researched to bring the characters to life. Neal created over 100 wigs for the film in under three weeks (Wilson, Davis' personal stylist, was ineligible for our list). Neal meticulously made a historically accurate horsehair wig for Davis, cleaning and ventilating every strand by hand. Neal dedicated her Oscar to the ancestors and told Vogue she hopes it inspires future generations. "Any African American or young person of color going into this field should know people do want diversity. Erase your own fears, doubts, and preconceived notions. You are wanted, and you will be welcomed. Go in and work hard because there is space for you, and we're living examples of that."