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Mia Neal speaks up for Black trans women & other moments from the Oscars

Mia Neal (right) accepting the Academy Award for Hair and Makeup alongside Jamika Wilson and Sergio Lopez-Rivera
Mia Neal (right) accepting the Academy Award alongside Jamika Wilson and Sergio Lopez-Rivera for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"Photo: Screenshot/ABC

At the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony today, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to win an Oscar in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category. They were awarded for their work on the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, centering on a fictional portrayal of legendary out singer Ma Rainey.

In her acceptance speech, Neal told the small Hollywood audience at the event and the millions watching from home, “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.”

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Neal shared her family’s struggle with racism in America, and why that gives her hope for other marginalized people to eventually not only break barriers, but make them an issue of the past.

“[My grandfather] was an original Tuskegee Airmen, he represented the US in the first Pan Am games… he graduated from Northwestern University at a time that they did not allow Blacks to stay on campus, so he stayed at the YMCA,” Neal said.

“And after all of his accomplishments he went back to his hometown in hopes of becoming a teacher. But they did not hire Blacks in the school system. 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.”

 

 

Neal’s comments highlighting the barriers Black trans women face was just one of several moments where LGBTQ people were honored, recognized, and remembered at the Oscars, despite a limited number of openly LGBTQ awardees and nominees.

Travon Free, a bisexual comedian, writer, and former athlete, won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for writing and co-directing Two Distant Strangers.

Wearing a custom tuxedo with the name of Black victims of police brutality in the United States, Free said in his acceptance speech, “James Baldwin once said, ‘The most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain’ …Please, don’t be indifferent to our pain.”

Free is also the first Black person to win in the live action short film category.

Jan Pascale won the Academy Award for Best Production Design for her work on the film Mank. She accepted the award by thanking her wife, Louise, “who inspires me every day.”

Pascale was also nominated in the same category in 2006 for Good Night, and Good Luck.

Viola Davis, who starred as the bisexual Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, presented Tyler Perry with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

“I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LBGTQ,” said Perry. He continued, “I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian.”

Still, the only film with LGBTQ characters or talent that took home a trophy was Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which also earned an Oscar for costume design by Ann Roth.

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, focused on the titular character played by Andra Day, was shut out.

On the red carpet prior to the ceremony, out star Colman Domingo stole the show. Andra Day and Viola Davis, playing out bisexual women in Oscar-nominated films this year, also stunned the cameras.

The cast of Queer Eye also surprised their castmate Karamo Brown, who was working as a red carpet correspondent for E! News. A new season of the show was just announced.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jan Pascale won the Academy Award for Best Production Design in 2006. She was nominated but she did not win that year. We regret the error.

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