Octavia Spencer stars in Netflix miniseries ‘Self Made’
Madam C.J. Walker is known for being the first self-made female millionaire in the United States, thanks to her illustrious cosmetic company. Her life has been adapted into Netflix’s new limited series “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” starring Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer as the ambitious Sarah Breedlove who had a dream to create a company in a post-slavery America.
When audiences first meet Madam C.J. Walker, she hasn’t transformed into the driven company head quite yet; in fact Spencer first graces the screen as a broken woman. Sarah’s abusive husband leaves her after her hair falls out and she makes her living as a laundress. Sarah’s life turns a corner when she meets Addie Monroe (played by Carmen Ejogo), a woman selling a miracle hair growth product. The series picks up a few years later when a more confident Sarah asks Addie if she can sell her product on her behalf as she feels the product changed her life. Addie laughs off Sarah’s request, pointing out that Sarah doesn’t have the look she wants to market to her customers (as Addie is a light-skinned and thin black woman while Sarah is a darker and curvier black woman).
In an effort to prove to Addie that she can sell the product as well as any of her light-skinned sales girls, Sarah liberates some tins from Addie’s home and sells them by sharing her story of her hair. When Sarah triumphantly returns to Addie’s with the money from selling all the tins, the two have a fallout that ignites Sarah’s desire to create her own hair growth product and start her own company.
The series traces Madam C.J. Walker’s life as she moves her family to Indianapolis to start her company, away from Addie’s shadow and finds some success until Addie follows her and tries to steal her customers. Audiences will watch as Walker faces obstacles in getting investors, building her factory and expanding her company. The series also looks at her marriage, her relationship with her daughter Leila and her complicated relationship with Addie Monroe.
“Self Made” features a stunning cast, featuring Blair Underwood as C.J. Walker, the husband who lent his name to the company, comedian Tiffany Haddish as Leila and Garrett Morris as C.J.’s father. Underwood’s performance is spectacular as a man who wanted to celebrate his wife’s success while simultaneously feeling emasculated by his role as his wife’s employee. Haddish’s character is a refreshingly light and fun performance in the dramatic series as she plays Sarah’s lesbian daughter, Leila.
However, it’s Spencer who shines the brightest in this series as she artfully portrays the highs and lows of Sarah’s career. She never misses a beat and has beautiful chemistry with her fellow cast members.
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Episode duration: 45-50 minutes
Similar series: Catherine the Great
“Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” is available on Netflix. Viewers might also enjoy watching “Catherine the Great” starring Helen Mirren. The miniseries depicts the later portion of Russian Empress Catherine the Great’s reign. The series is available on HBO.