Never in a million years, when I purchased and read On Her Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles, would I have imagined stumbling upon my family tree a little known fact that my Great-Grandmother was employed as a beautician for the legendary millionaire. Crazy, right??!!
Not unlike Madam Walker, my Great-Grandmother was a tough, resilient, God-fearing woman who never took ‘NO’ for an answer about anything….ever. So, it suffices to say when the news hit that her story would be made into a four-part mini-series movie for Netflix Executive Produced by Lebron James and Octavia Spencer, I got my snacks, libations and snuggled up with my favorite blanket to ride through history.
Born Sarah Breedlove and the daughter of slaves, Walker was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen and widowed at twenty. When she discovered a revolutionary hair care formula for black women – everything changed! I mean this was a women who was THE first self-made millionaire of any race or gender in America who lived upstate next door to the Rockefeller’s. I’ll let that marinate with you for a second.
Octavia Spencer has become the ‘Queen of Period Pieces’ with films like ‘The Help and ‘Hidden Figures. Her portrayal in the title role is bold, nuanced and respectful to the memory of this iconic hair maven. Blair Underwood is having a Black Renaissance for 2020. Being a producer in his own right on projects like Olympic Pride: American Justice, as CJ, Underwood is stellar. In one fell swoop, he makes you simultaneously love hate him all at once with a charismatic fairy dust that only Blair could infiltrate into a role. Bill Bellamy (Sweetness), Garrett Morris (Cleophus), Tiffany Haddish (Lelia), Carmen Ejogo (Addie) and Kevin Carroll are each and every one absolutely spectacular making the entire cast one of the best to be seen in 2020 in a Netflix film.
Helmed by ‘Harriet” director Kasi Lemmons, Self-Made is exquisitely done on every level. It was nice to see a project that was cinematically crafted, produced, directed, written and primarily starring women – Black women. Only a woman could address the sensitive subject matter of being black, having a gay daughter who had to assimilate because being your ‘authentic self was only accepted in certain circles. A time in America where you could be ostracized for your hair, salad of skin tone and being a women with a head for business by not just the white folks…but from your own kind.
Self-Made is a reminder of how we are so much better as a people and gender united than divided. It is because of Walker that women will spend whole days getting their hair done if only to be beautiful for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks. With legislation like the Crown Act lurking, this film should serve as a reminder that our crown is indeed our glory. No one should ever be made to fell any different under any circumstances. Here’s hoping that on March 6th you feel exactly the same way when Self-Made: The Madam C.J. Walker begins streaming on Netflix.