Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker is an American drama web television limited series, based on the biography On Her Own Ground by A’Lelia Bundles.

A period tale set in four parts, Self Made is inspired by the life of an entrepreneur, and political and social activist of the late 1800s, Madam CJ Walker. But the world knows her better as the first self-made female millionaire in America. She erected an empire of hair care products that was born out of sheer frustration over her loss of hair, which she thought made her look ugly. Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer plays the lead part. She carries on her shoulder the responsibility of representing the struggle and strife of a woman with serious social and cultural baggage. Also one who went from rags to riches on her merit and steadfast determination. 

Born to parents who were former slaves, Walker was the fifth child to them. With meagre resources, she barely went to school. Orphaned early, she became a washerwoman, sometimes earning less than two dollars a day. And then the big turnaround happened. All this and more had to be assimilated and contextually placed by Spencer and she did a fine job of it through the series. 

Not only was this an important story to be told but also one that would take the protagonist from supporting roles to a lead one for the first time. She approached it with the restraint a story like this beckons. Self Made is an extremely uplifting watch, filled with optimism and determination. Every time Walker stands up for herself, a new rush of enthusiasm urges for us viewers. It’s a powerful story of coloured women and their triumph. 

Tiffany Haddish plays Walker’s daughter named A’Lelia. Another well-essayed part, A’Lelia is free-spirited and fun, and is her mother’s greatest companion. But she’s also unpredictable. First, she marries a man out of the blue and then, almost as shockingly, rejoices when they decide to divorce. As the story builds up, she is shown to be attracted to another woman but this aspect is fictional. 

The series picks up many important matters, some of them dealing with prejudiced beauty (especially hair) standards, cultural underpinnings for women of colour, and the fight to build themselves up post-slavery. 

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