Self Made is a movie about Madam C.J. Walker, an African American washer woman who rises from poverty to build a beauty empire and become the first female self-made millionaire overcoming rivalry, turbulent marriages, gender inequality and family shenanigans. Based on A’Lelia Bundles’ Biography of Madam C.J Walker entitled On Her Own Ground.
This Netflix series titled Self Made consists of four parts and is inspired by the life of Madam C. J. Walker. It is a must watch for every entrepreneur especially the female folk as it is packed with both life and business lessons. Octavia Spencer nailed it with her performance as Madam C. J. Walker and owing to the fact that it’s a true life story with a little twist to increase its entertainment value only adds to its worth.
Madam C. J. Walker originally known as Sarah Breedlove was born two years after the liberation of slaves, she lived as a free woman but with restricted opportunities. She first worked as a washer woman with various hair issues which affected her confidence level. She got married at the age of 14 in order to put a roof over her head and had a baby girl from this marriage. She became a widow at the age of 20 and got married into another abusive marriage. She embraced the name Madam C. J. Walker after she married her 3rd husband.
Addie Monroe changed her life by introducing her hair product specifically designed to help women of color which worked wonders on her hair. Madam C. J. Walker did Laundry for Addie in exchange for hair products and care, this arrangement seemed to work for a while but Madam C. J. Walker wanted more from life and tried becoming a sales agent for Addie who preferred beautiful and lighter colored black women as her agent. In the movie she even takes some products which she sells successfully but Addie blinded by her opinion of Madam C. J. Walker still refuses to let her sell and instead talks down on her which provokes her into starting her own hair care line.
Madam C. J Walker works day and night to produce her hair care products especially in trying to reduce the smell noticed in Addie’s hair care product. She is finally ready to launch her own products after experimenting on her daughters and friends hair for weeks. In order to make her products more viable she moves from her present community to Indianapolis. In Indianapolis she is doing well until Addie also decides to move to Indianapolis, threatened by Addie she decides to do a “buy one get one free” promo. In the bid to meet up with existing orders her home burns down, and she watches Addie scoop all her customers.
Still determined to succeed at all cost she finally puts a down payment on a factory but is unable to get investors even after several attempts. She tries desperately to meet Booker T. Washington for an endorsement deal but this also proves abortive, she then approaches his wife. She pleads for her support and as a bold step crashes into the conference pleading for investors which she never gets because Washington also has his sexist opinions of women entrepreneurs. On the bright side the wives present at the conference gather and support her financially.
Her business finally begins to flourish and she begins to give her a husband a back seat, threatened by her success and neglect her husband cheats on her with her number one sales agent while her son in law begins to give information to Addie on Madam C. J Walker. Her daughter also breaks up with her husband officially based on his deceit. In a twist of fate Addie recruits all her top sales agent to work for her, leaving Madam C. J Walker stranded, as soon as she finds out she runs to Dora’s house (her number one sales agent) to poach her back and discovers her husband is sleeping with Dora. This causes a lot of emotional damage for her but finally she defeats her demons and makes some drastic decisions.
Leila, her daughter is sent to New York to kick start the business there, this proves successful as her hair care line only becomes more successful. As Madam C. J. Walker expands her business she learns that she is dying and pressures her daughter for a heir which her daughter is unwilling to provide. She finally adopts a beautiful young girl and divorces her husband after he reveals her formula to Dora and consequently Addie.
During her conference she makes the decision to keep using sales agent instead of mass producing and selling her products in shops. This was done after her sales agent revolted against the idea. She choose to keep empowering black women as against profitability, she was also active in her community and church.
“I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others”Madame C. J. Walker
She died shortly afterwards on the 25th of May 1919 at the age of 51 from kidney failure and complications of hypertension. Her hair care products are still available and thriving in the hair care market of today.