Left: Walker in 1912; Right: Octavia Spencer as the inspiring businesswoman in the Netflix series “Self Made,” which debuts this month. (Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of A'Lelia Bundles / Madam Walker Family Archives; Netflix)

Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana in 1867, was the most successful black wellness mogul of her day. Now a new Netflix series will show how this enterprising daughter of freed slaves empowered generations of black women to prosper.

Breedlove was in her 30s when she began treating her bald spots with beeswax, copper sulfate, and sulfur. She found it so effective she sold it to other black women door-to-door in Denver. In 1908, having married a Colorado journalist named Charles J. Walker, she launched a beauty school in Pittsburgh with the profits from “Mrs. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” Soon she was training a legion of women who earned a living selling her products.

Sarah married her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker, a newspaper advertising salesman she met while living in St. Louis, in 1906. He became her business partner in the venture, too. This is how she became known as Madam C.J. Walker.

She marketed herself as an independent hairdresser and retailer of cosmetic creams. Her husband’s advertising experience proved beneficial in promoting the business but the biggest asset was Sarah going door-to-door teaching other black women how to groom and style their hair using her scalp condition and healing formula, Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. Read More

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker is an upcoming American drama web television limited series, based on the biography On Her Own Ground by A'Lelia Bundles, that is set to premiere on March 20, 2020 on Netflix.


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