“Big as Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller put together,” is how Madam C.J. Walker (Octavia Spencer) describes her vision for her business in the forthcoming Netflix limited series Self Made. The show chronicles the life and career of Walker (born Sarah Breedlove), who launched her own line of hair products in the late 1800s and would go on to run a beauty empire. Though her statement might not seem radical by 2020 standards, post-slavery racial tensions and gender bias made it difficult for the then-burgeoning mogul to be taken seriously as a businesswoman at the turn of the 19th century. She prevailed, however; when Walker died in 1919, she was the richest self-made businesswoman in America.
The trailer brings viewers to the beginning of Walker’s story, when the stress of daily life caused her hair to fall out. She vowed to create and sell her own hair products, and she did exactly that. “Sisters, let’s talk about hair; they put us down, tell us we’re ugly, make us feel ugly,” Walker says in the clip. “Wonderful hair leads to wonderful opportunities.”
Self Made is inspired by the book On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, written by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles. The limited series stars Tiffany Haddish as Walker’s daughter, Lelia; Blair Underwood as her husband, Charles James Walker; and Carmen Ejogo as Addie, Walker’s business rival.
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker hits Netflix on March 20.