Over the course of the last two years, Netflix has been quietly working on an original series that would explore the personal and professional life of Madam C.J. Walker, one of the most influential figures in Black history. Adapted from the book On Her Own Ground, which was written by Walker’s great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, the project details the haircare icon’s journey from beginning to end, starting with the unfortunate circumstances that launched her million-dollar business.
In Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, Octavia Spencer stars as the tenacious entrepreneur. When her business proposal is spurned by a former friend, Walker decides to create her own plan, fuelled by the lofty dream of building a beauty empire that uplifts Black women around the world. She recruits her ride-or-die husband CJ (Blair Underwood) and her reluctant daughter (Tiffany Haddish) to assist, and together, they make history.
No hero’s journey is complete without a few obstacles standing in their way, and in Self Made, there is no shortage of hardships. Set in the early 1900s, mere decades after the abolishment of slavery, our heroine faces the daunting intersection of colourism, misogyny, and classism as she tries to establish herself as a key player among the most successful businessmen of her time.
“Damn, Sarah,” her husband questions in the trailer. “How big do you want to be?”
“Big as Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller put together,” Walker answers with a smile.
Walker’s story isn’t the only narrative the limited series dives deeper into — her daughter A'Lelia is also a pivotal part of Self Made’s plot. Working alongside her mother, A’Lelia opens up the legendary Dark Tower in Harlem, NY, a space that would later become sacred ground for the Harlem Renaissance. Above the Walker Hair Care Salon and the Lelia College of Beauty Culture, the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. DuBois would gather to talk politics, art, and culture.
The miniseries offers a rare glimpse into the many roles that the Black icon played: Walker the mother, Walker the wife, Walker the community activist, and Walker the businesswoman.
Self Made will be available for streaming on Netflix on March 2020.