History was made at the 93rd Academy Awards. Alongside hair department lead Mia Neal and makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Viola Davis’ longtime hairstylist Jamika Wilson won the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Not only did this cement a second win for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom — the dramatized story of blues icon Gertrude "Ma" Rainey — but Neal and Wilson became the first Black women to ever win in the category.
Wilson says she’s “honored” to be one of the first, and has felt the impact of this win. “My initial reaction was, ‘Thank you God, you knew this all the time, but never in a million years did I think about winning an Oscar. Your plan for me was bigger than I ever envisioned for myself,’” Wilson tells TZR over email. “It was impossible to envision this moment as there was no example for me. Young Black girls didn’t know they could be a ballerina until they saw Misty Copeland. They didn’t know they could play tennis until they saw Serena and Venus Williams. Without representation, people do not know what they can achieve. Winning shines a light on what can be achieved.”
Moreover, the win reflects the amount of work the entire makeup and hair team put into the film. According to NPR, Neal crafted 100 wigs for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which were later styled by Wilson. And as we all know, releasing a movie in 2020 was no walk in the park. “Doing press for Ma Rainey during a pandemic presented many challenges, but when working, safety was always at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The downtime of shutdown allowed my creative juices to regenerate and I entered the Ma Rainey press run inspired,” Wilson says.
Coincidentally, Wilson also did Viola Davis’ hair for the Oscars, perhaps also becoming one of the first hairstylists to receive the honor while also having her work there that same evening. Wilson called that experience hectic, joyous, and surreal, and noted her relationship with the hair care brand Matrix — “I’m grateful to work with a brand that I can use for every creative style I imagine” — as well as Davis herself.
“Viola and I met in 2008 for the press run of Doubt. Our first project together was an editorial photoshoot,” says Wilson. “Viola is a beautiful human. It continues to be my honor and my blessing to work with her and call her friend. She inspires me on every level. I am so grateful to Viola for the opportunities she has blessed me with, and thankful to her for seeing me and helping me see myself.”
So, what’s it like to be a first — to make history? Wilson calls it phenomenal. “To know young girls will look to me and see that they too can achieve this goal fills my heart with joy and pride,” she explains. “I’m overjoyed with this blessing. The win is validation of all my years of long hours and hard work.”