By Winnie The Fashionista | Apr 30, 2020
It is not just hair.
In the words of Madam C.J Walker…
“Hair is beauty.”
“Hair is emotion.”
“Hair is our heritage.”
“Hair tells us who we are,where we’ve been and where we’re going. “
Hair or lack of it can be the crowning glory of a woman. Madam CJ Walker embodied the true spirit of entrepreneurial flare and undying determination. Her life events inspired the mini series: SELF MADE,INSPIRED BY THE LIFE OF MADAM C.J. WALKER. I would suggest you watch the movie first because this article contains a small degree of spoilers.
Set in St.Louis 1906, Madam CJ is seen to be losing her hair. Her husband even says she looks like a mangy dog…The nerve. A mulatto woman, Addie Monroe, comes and uses her magic hair growth product on her and she sees a change in less than 8 months. Madam CJ Walker did laundry for Addie Monroe in exchange for this magical growth product. Madam C.J felt that she could sell it and become a partner in the business. It shocked her when she could not join the business because of her lower class and ‘undesirable’ racial appearance.
Left: The actual Addie Monroe. Right: Madam Walker and Addie Monroe in the movie.
Driven by anger and sadness in equal measure, she works hard, every day in her kitchen, mixing formulas and testing them on other black women who love and buy her products in droves. She moves to another city and by now her hair is thriving, she has a new man, star in her eyes and a mind full of dreams. She sets up a salon which culminates in the opening of her own factory and the exponential growth of her brand. The crux of the series is the life long rivalry between Addie Monroe and Madam C.J Walker.
The movie continues to follow the life of Madam Walker and her family as she navigates the murky waters of early 20th century America.
Other than hair, it broaches topics like marriage, family, racial relations, gender relations, conflicted identity and overcoming obstacles.
In true Hollywood fashion, the scenes conjure a sense of nostalgia. We get to see tools, products and things we used to use in the past as recently as the 1990’s: Hot combs, the use of sulphur based products and elegant vintage hairstyles! Madam CJ’s primary focus was healthy hair. The series states…“While she didn’t invent the hot comb, she popularized the use of heated styling devices still found in homes and hair salons around the world.”
The biopic shows the struggles that black women and men have faced with hair since the days of old. The struggles have been physical and psychological. The struggle of black hair being shunned, the struggles of taking care of black hair because it is very coily and gets dry, the struggles of styling it and growing it…
Madam CJ Walker is tenacity in the flesh. In the biopic she says:
“Making products for hair is my passion. It has been easy, but no matter what…I refuse to give up the fight.”
She managed to overcome all these huddles and lifted others up in the process. She helped black women grow their hair and their confidence with it. Thanks to her, her products and her hair salon, women had gained a new sense of pride that did not previously exist.
On top of all that, she went on to become one of the most respected businesspeople to date. In the Guiness Book of World Records, she is listed as the first self-made, female millionaire in the United States. If that is not a respectable fete, then I don’t know what is!
Wonderful hair leads to wonderful opportunities. So it is not just hair. It is an identity.
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