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The Hair and Makeup Team Behind Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Making Oscars History

Vogue writer Christopher A. Daniels just gave us the details on the hands behind the beauty in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom! Starring lead Viola Davis, the film is among the most notable performances of her late co-star Chadwick Boseman. Read more on the talented hands who brought the film to life below!

Courtesy of Netflix

During the wardrobe fitting for Netflix’s adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, lead actress Viola Davis challenged her glam squad to remove vanity from her transformation into becoming the legendary blues singer. She encouraged them to “do it scared.”

That tip from the Oscar winner paid off. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s hair department lead Mia Neal, Davis’s personal hairstylist Jamika Wilson, and Davis’s makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera are up for one of the film’s five Academy Award nominations this year. As Davis earns her fifth career nomination for portraying “the ugliest woman in show business,” the most ever for a Black actress, Neal and Wilson are also the first African-American women to get nominated in the hair and makeup category.

“Viola gave us all permission to just really focus on the character, not on Viola,” says Neal, a Juilliard alumna like Davis. “She wasn’t worried about how she personally appeared on camera. She wanted us to give the same experience to our audience that Ma Rainey had.”

Everyone doing the How to Get Away With Murder star’s hair and makeup started their individual research on “the Mother of the Blues” after costume designer Ann Roth’s team shared the fewer than 10 photographs that exist of the feisty, openly lesbian 1920s-era entertainer. Because information on Ma Rainey was scarce, each team member relied on details and facts about the roaring ’20s to accurately depict the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson’s singular work from his Century Cycle plays that chronicles a real person.

Courtesy of Mia Neal

Get the full story from Vogue here.

Vanessa Roberson

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