“Self Made” – a flawed but interesting portrayal of Madam C.J. Walker

Courtesy Photo


By Jessika Fulton, Staff Reporter

Netflix recently released a limited series of four episodes titled “Self Made: Inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker.”

This show is a Netflix original that follows the extravagant life of Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam C.J. Walker, and her long journey to achieving“self made” wealth from hair care products.

“Self Made” offers viewers a roller coaster of emotions and confusion. One minute there is a flashback to give the story line structure and meaning, then somehow the plot skips ahead a year to the present with Walker successful and wealthy.

While it may seem messy and quite random, the series has an inspiring meaning that highlights overlooked aspects in African-American women’s history and everyday lives.

Walker was the first African-American woman who built her wealth from the ground up in the early 1900s. By the time of her death, she had a net worth of about $600,000 and it all came from hair care products and salons.

Walker wanted to give African-American women who had trouble keeping up their appearance and hair a fighting chance. This prompted the creation of “Madam C.J. Walker’s wonderful hair grower.”

While the series is based on historical facts, portions struck me as inaccurate, particularly Walker’s encounter with Booker T. Washington. In the series, their encounters seem a little antagonistic and childish; however, their real relationship was recorded as having been more complex and ultimately ending with mutual respect.

Other than a few flaws and some shaky details, the story of Walker is groundbreaking and Netflix does a great job of the historical accuracy. The series features an award-winning cast starring Octavia Spencer as Madam C.J. Walker and Tiffany Haddish as her daughter. These two together give slight comedic relief to a downhill spiral of emotions. These actresses truly make the series strong with their incredible acting and the way they adapt to the progression of time.

While it can be a mess at times, at the end of the series I felt that I had learned about a groundbreaking American figure who is rarely talked about.

It is an eye opening show that will appeal to any entrepreneur, history buff or anyone that loves a good inspirational story. I believe everyone should give “Self Made” a shot to get a glimpse of life in the 1900s and to recognize the hard work of a self made entrepreneur.

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