The newly released Netflix show Self Made tells the story of Madam CJ Walker, the first woman to become a self-made millionaire in America. The limited series is a spectacular ode to Walker that beautifully depicts the hardships faced by African American women. Yet more importantly, it shows the successes and strength of women, their tenacity, and their undeniable ability to overcome.
Madam CJ Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, suffered from a scalp disease that caused her to lose her hair. After her affliction led severe hair loss, Walker invented a line of hair products for African American women and grew her business to span across the country. Walker is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the first woman to become a self-made millionaire in America.
Netflix released all four episodes of Self Made on Mar. 20, starring Octavia Spencer as Madam CJ Walker, Tiffany Hadish as her daughter Lelia, and Carmen Ejogo as her fictional rival, Addie Munroe. The length of the show is perfect, as it doesn’t drag on, but it is long enough to tell the full story. Spencer does an award-worthy job portraying Walker, as her strong appearance and confidence mirror that of her role. The show captivates while also being informative.
Self Made did receive criticism for its portrayal of Addie Munroe, who is loosely based on Annie Malone. Malone is an entrepreneur who competed in the hair care business against Walker. In the show, Munroe refuses to allow Walker to sell her products due to Walker’s dark complexion. However, in real life, Malone herself was a dark-skinned woman. Some fans felt their feud in the show was unnecessary. On the other hand, adding a villain type character makes the show arguably more entertaining. Viewers can root for Sarah, while despising the discriminatory Munroe.
Another notable character is Lelia, Walker’s daughter who greatly supported the business and opened her own hair salon in Harlem, New York. In the show, she develops a lesbian relationship with one of her friends. In real life, however, there is no clear documentation of Lelia being queer. Regardless, she threw parties where she allowed people to express themselves in any way they pleased, and she played a large part in the Harlem Renaissance.
Despite any shortcomings in terms of accuracy, the show is entertaining and helps spread Madam CJ Walker’s story. It is important for women in history to be recognized and celebrated for their achievements, and Self Made does an exceptional job of this.
(Sources:Yahoo Lifestyle, msn, Twitter, Netflix)