Movie Review: Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

Movie Review: Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

Maliyah Anderson, Writer

The opinions, viewpoints, and beliefs expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the opinions, viewpoints, or beliefs of the Titan Times newspaper, Tuscarora High School or Frederick County Public Schools.


If you’ve been looking for a good movie or series to watch on Netflix like I have, then this is one worth watching. An African-American woman’s hair has always been a big part of their lives because it is very unique, sensitive, and important to them. You might be thinking “Um… what? Hair is just hair.” Yes, hair is just hair, but for an African-American woman, it is her history, her race, and her spirit. This Netflix limited series with four 50 minute episodes was released in 2020 and is about an African-American washerwoman who rises from poverty to become the owner of a beauty empire that specializes in caring for black women’s hair, soon becoming the first female self-made millionaire. This series stars Octavia Spencer, Tiffany Haddish, and Carmel Ejogo. 


In the first episode of the series, the main character, Sarah (Madam C.J. Walker), goes to her hairdresser Addie to get her to help her hair grow in exchange for washing Addie’s clothes. The hair product Addie uses on Sarah’s hair eventually helps her hair to grow and she gains back her confidence. Because of this, Sarah then tries to help Addie sell her hair product. After Addie rudely tells Sarah no, Sarah steals some of Addie’s product and sells it behind her back. Sarah then begins to make her own magical hair growth product and tests it on her daughter until she gets the formula right. Once Sarah gets the formula the way she wants it, her product begins to sell and Addie confronts Sarah about how she could never compete with her. Sarah and her husband then make a big decision to move to Indianapolis to get Sarah’s business up and running. Sarah soon opens up a salon in her home but the business is slow and Sarah’s husband, CJ, gets irritated because they have no money. Addie then moves to Indianapolis to compete with Sarah. Towards the end of the first episode, Sarah’s house gets caught on fire by a large explosion due to the making of the product and Addie uses this situation as a way to steal Madams customers. 


In the second episode, Madam tells her plan of opening a factory to businessmen but none of them invest. Sarah then learns that Booker T. Washington is coming into town and realizes if she explains her plan to him then she will be able to get her factory. Once she is unable to get his support she turns to his wife, Maragaret Washington, by doing her hair and telling her to put in a good word for Sarah. But, Margaret says no as well. Later on, Mrs. Washington comes to Sarah’s house with investments from a group of women. This gives Madam a lot of hope for her business. 


In the third episode, it shows Madams factory and all the workers in it. She plans to open salons all over the country with her top saleswomen. Sarah and her daughter go to Harlem for a business meeting to propose a deal of having Madams hair products in the 10 Cents or Less stores. She gets the deal! Sadly, when Madam comes home she finds out her husband is having an affair with one of her top saleswomen, Dora. It gets worse… Sarah’s team of saleswomen quit and go to work for the enemy, Addie, instead. In spite of this, Madam sends her daughter to Harlem to open up a salon and it ends up going very well. 


In the fourth and final episode, Sarah moves to Harlem to be with her daughter and she discovers that her kidneys are failing and she doesn’t have long to live. Madam tells her daughter she wants an heir, and this puts a lot of pressure on her because she has recently discovered she is more attracted to women than men. Madam plans a huge conference at her home and her workers threaten to quit because of a deal with a drugstore. Sarah doesn’t go through with the deal because she realizes she has an army of powerful women and would choose them over anything. I’m not going to spoil the entire ending, but it gets even better. So, go watch this amazing limited series about race, women, and hair.