Let’s start with a little history; Madam C.J. Walker was a woman of steel! She is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first female self-made millionaire. She made her fortune through developing and marketing a line of cosmetics and hair care products made for black women. As a woman in the early 20th century, and a black one at that, she must have had an extra serving of strength to go against all those odds and fight for what she believed in.
The 4-part Netflix series, Self Made is a recreation of her life, and let me just say that Octavia Spencer couldn’t have embodied the presence of Madam CJ Walker any better than anyone else could have. The supporting talent in the whole series is also exceptional!
Now on to the actual show. I originally started watching it because I was interested in the history of Madam CJ Walker. After all, she is a legend. From the very first episode, I could already tell that I was going to watch all four parts in one sitting. Sarah, played by Octavia, who came to be fondly referred to as Madam CJ Walker is ambitious to a fault. You can see it in the way she refuses to let anything or anyone come in the way of her dream of opening a factory.
Her story begins with her as a washerwoman who had serious hair issues. Her hair causes her to have low self-esteem and in turn affects how she sees both herself, the world around her. Her knight in shining armor came in the form of Addie Monroe, who introduced her to a product that was formulated for nappy hair. She patiently worked on Sarah’s hair until she got a transformation she didn’t think was possible. Her hair quite literally changed her life and she desperately wanted to work with Addie to sell the product that made her see herself as somebody for the first time in her life.
Addie however isn’t too keen on a partnership because she prefers to work with light-skinned girls. Instead of giving up, Sarah decides to make her own product and forge her own path. The ups and downs, lows and highs of her journey to success are what the mini-series is all about. We are taken on a roller coaster of emotions with her supportive husband who starts to feel threatened and emasculated by Sarah’s ambitions and eventually cheats on her.
Although quite a few parts felt so unnecessary in my opinion (case in point, the random boxing match that came out of nowhere), Octavia Spencer embodies madam CJ Walker so well that all other distractions don’t hold too much ground.
It’s definitely a must-watch for me!