Our entertainment writer Miyuki Lotz shares a must-view while we’re all stuck at home.
Self Made: Inspired by the life of
Madam C. J. Walker
Origin: United States
Running Time: 45-49 minutes
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Tiffany Haddish, Carmen Ejogo, Garret Morris, Kevin Carrol, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Blair Underwood
Directors: Kasi Lemmons, DeMane Davis
Cinematography: Kira Kelly
Music: Larry Goldings
Limited series currently streaming on Netflix.
One thing I learned about dreams…they do come true.
Take Sarah Breedlove…born in the mid-1800s; Orphaned at age seven in Delta, Louisiana; Moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi at age 10: Married at age 14; Pregnant at age 16; Widowed and a single mum at age 20; Only to become the first, documented, self-made millionaire in American history.
Sarah – who would later be known as Madam C. J. Walker – established her mogul status by upholding quality beauty products for African American women, as well as maintaining an impeccable reputation for herself. However, despite big dreams being on the horizon for our heroine, she definitely came from humble beginnings. A domestic worker for most of her life, with two mouths to feed and barely making enough wages to cover rent, was the life she lived for many years before pioneering on an entrepreneurial journey of great accomplishments.
The miniseries stars Octavia Spencer as our central character, Madam C. J. Walker. Spencer delivers as always, with complete transparency in her performance backed by a powerhouse of talent. She gives the perfect balance of desperation, ambition, and hopefulness in her portrayal of Madam. The supporting cast is equally solid, with an exceptional performance from Blair Underwood who plays the devoted husband spiralling towards a foreboding predicament.
It is important to note that this is a fictionalised depiction of the actual events that encompassed Madam C. J. Walker’s life. The limited series, although grounded for the most part, does play with a stylised essence. This is present in the colourful use of textiles throughout the costumes, partnered with the jovial original soundtrack that sounds a lot like a Broadway musical at times. The ‘spectacular’ apparitions Madam entertains during her journey to success also add to the visual of Fantasy, cementing that this story is indeed inspired by a true story, rather than based on one.
Regardless of the rumoured discrepancies to the actual life lived by Madam C. J. Walker, Self Made makes for captivating viewing. An empowering story about a coloured woman in the early 1900s defeating all odds, overcoming every challenge, defying the status quo whilst maintaining a sense of dignity, philanthropy and social activism through generosity is remarkable. It is a modern day rags-to-riches story that will have you feeling so inspired to pursue your own dreams no matter how grandiose they may seem.
Overall Rating: * * * *
Behind the scenes trivia
- Octavia Spencer’s company, Orit Entertainment, helped green light the production.
- All the core women involved in creating the series were of African American decent.
- The series is based on the biography, ‘On Her Own Ground’, written by A’Lelia Bundles – Madam C. J. Walker’s granddaughter.
- The series was completely filmed throughout three cities in Canada – St. Catharines, Ontario and Toronto.
- Madam C. J. Walker made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the first female to become a millionaire from nothing.