Self Made brings Madam C.J. Walker to the silver screen


Courtesy of Medium

Well-respected entrepreneur and philanthropist, Madam C.J. Walker finally sees her story told in the new exclusive Netflix series, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. Octavia Spencer plays Walker in the series and is joined by Tiffany Haddish to tell this inspiring story. If you are looking for something to watch while social distancing, check this show out.

Luis Ponce, features editor

Almost 100 years after her passing, the story of Madam C.J. Walker finally got the long-overdue screen treatment with Netflix’s recently released mini-series, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. With Octavia Spencer as Walker, the series shines a light on the story of the first self-made female millionaire. The series currently stands as a success with audiences and took the #2 spot on Netflix’s current Top 10 list.

Self Made follows Sarah Breedlove, an African American woman who begins to sell her own hair grower after getting rejected as a saleswoman for her “image.” As time progresses Sarah, now known as Madam C.J. Walker, grows her business into a successful black hair supply empire. 

Though the series intends to retell Walker’s story, the subtitle shows the audience upfront that the narrative showed contains a handful of dramatized events, which commonly happens with shows based on historical figures. This does not affect the actual plot, though it does leave the audience wanting to learn more about her life before the events that take place during the series. Nonetheless, the show remains extremely entertaining and inspiring. 

When considering the acting, the majority of the performances featured in Self Made do not come as a surprise. Octavia Spencer, in one of her first roles as a lead, shows how much charisma and talent she possesses: from the moment she appears on-screen, viewers instantly feel drawn to her and quickly empathize with her situation. On the other hand, Lelia Walker, played by Tiffany Hadish, stands as a very compelling character and serves as most of the comedic relief throughout the show yet Haddish does not bring anything new to the table and her casting feels out of place for this production. 

The style the story gets told in uniquely uses visuals to help tell the story in an original way. The wardrobe and the setting follows a fitting aesthetic for the time it takes place, but they incorporate certain modern touches that make it intriguing to watch. The series also includes a series of daydream-esque or symbolic sequences that work hand in hand to further the story and the hardships Walker goes through.

Though it took long to finally represent this incredible story, Netflix did her justice by creating an entertaining and inspiring show that explores several untouched themes like colorism, sexism, and the difficulties of starting a business as a person of color in the past. 

The Chant’s Grade: A-