Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker stars Octavia Spencer in a role that has been waiting for her since the beginning of her career. She was the perfect Sarah, AKA Madam C.J. Walker.
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker explored Sarah’s early life, her developing ambition, her business acumen, her failed marriage, and her triumph as the wealthy leader of a whole army of women of color who became entrepreneurs under her tutelage.
It began when the stress of being a washerwoman with an abusive man made all of Sarah’s hair fall out. She was saved by Addie (Carmen Ejogo), who had a hair product that brought Sarah’s hair back to life. Sarah soon realized that all black women would want such a product, not just light skinned beauties like Addie.
She wanted to sell for Addie, but Addie refused. That began a rivalry that lasted the rest of their lives.
Sarah basically took Addie’s hair growing formula, modified and improved it a bit, and started selling it herself. When that was a success she increased production and created other products. Soon she was raising cash to build a factory in Indianapolis.
Sarah wouldn’t take no for an answer. There was plenty of no in her life. She was a woman, she was black, she was uneducated. Nothing stopped her. Her driving ambition led her to open salons all over the country, train women in sales and business ownership, and become a very rich woman.
Actually, C.J. Walker (Blair Underwood) was her husband. That’s where the company name came from. He played a role in advertising and helped in anything that needed doing. He thought he was the brains behind the company, but he wasn’t.
I actually loved seeing the hunky Blair Underwood kissing and snuggling with Octavia Spencer. Definitely a lovely thing to see. I should turn that around. My patriarchy is showing. Blair Underwood was so lucky to be Octavia Spencer’s leading man, to get to kiss and snuggle with her!
Lelia (Tiffany Haddish) was Sarah’s daughter. She was a bit aimless. She married a good-for-nothing guitar player. Only when the butch and gorgeous Esther (Mouna Traoré), who worked for her mother, caught her eye did she find herself.
Coming to understand her sexuality gave Lelia focus at last. She learned the business and opened a successful salon in Harlem. Harlem was her heaven – a place where women could be anything they wanted and it was all beautiful.
Lelia never married again but she adopted Fairy Mae (Kiki Hammill). Sarah sent Fairy to college at Spelman. She carried on the family legacy after Sarah and Leilia were gone.
Kasi Lemmons directed 2 episodes of the 4 in this mini-series. There were fantasy moments in the story. Sarah and Addie in the boxing ring, tap dancers to razzle dazzle potential investors, moments illustrated with music and song from Sarah’s imagination. I found the fantasy off-putting at first, but once I accepted it I was charmed by it.
The cast was big and all black. The story was inspiring, although I’ve read it wasn’t 100% accurate. The essence was there.
Watch the trailer.
If you’ve seen this one, please share what you thought of it.