Variety Streaming Room
Diedra Dixon, Chadwick Boseman’s hairstylist on-set of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” said she wanted to add some flyness to his appearance as the character he portrayed was ambitious and edgy. “When it…
Diedra Dixon, Chadwick Boseman’s hairstylist on-set of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” said she wanted to add some flyness to his appearance as the character he portrayed was ambitious and edgy.
“When it came to his look, Chad was actually very particular about how he wanted to look,” Dixon said. “He wanted to be polished but still wanted to have a little oomph.”
In the Variety Streaming Room hosted by artisans editor Jazz Tangcay, the film’s hair and makeup crew discussed what drew them to the project, as well as the historical research that needed to be done in order to accurately depict 1920s Chicago. Tangcay points out that even though Ma Rainey is hailed as the grandmother of the blues, there are many details about her life that are missing. Mia Neal, head of the hair department on the film, said she typically builds her research by diving into the photographers of that particular era.
“For the twenties, a lot of Harlem Renaissance photos exist,” Neal said. “There were a lot of people who left the South and came North, so you see like a mix of different characters to pull from.”
As far as Ma Rainey’s character, Neal said she was a woman that recreated herself and now had access to things that people of color weren’t supposed to have.
“This is a person who saw finger waves in the magazines on the white women and said, ‘I would like to have that also,'” Neal said. “And she purchased a wig because her hair won’t make those waves. It’s all of those things so when you start to play with it psychologically like that, then you’re able to kind of build and fill in spaces that you can’t find.”
Sergio Lopez-Rivera, who served as Viola Davis’ makeup artist, said it’s critical to understand the psychology and socioeconomic status of each person when doing hair and makeup for a character.
“There was not a lot accessible to women of color in the 1920s, makeup-wise,” Lopez-Rivera said. “You had to make do and she was used to doing this because she was constantly on the road.”
Other panelists include hair department head Larry M. Cherry, Boseman’s makeup artist Siân Richards and makeup department head Matiki Anoff.
Watch the full conversation above.