Black women are working together to honor the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker in the limited Netflix series, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.
Starring Octavia Spencer, it follows the hero’s journey to becoming the first self-made female millionaire in the United States. Walker’s transition from laundress to beauty mogul has inspired Black women and girls for generations, but this is a rare time that they’ve been at the forefront of telling her story.
Co-directors DeMane Davis and Kasi Lemmons, director of photography Kira Kelly, co-Showrunners Elle Johnson and Janine Sherman Barrios, writer Nicole Jefferson Asher and author A’lelia Bundles, the great-great granddaughter of Walker, sat with Netflix’s Strong Black Lead to discuss their work on the project.
“The most unique aspect of the entire series was the fact that I got to work with so many amazing women. Just to be on set with a female DP, fantastic directors, all of the heads of department, our line producer,” said Sherman Barrios, “to see all of these women in these kinds of roles that so often are allotted to men. It was just breathtaking.”
“It was hard to get this done, but we all held hands and said we’re going to do it and it happened,” she continued.
Davis revealed that she’s personally connected to what Self Made, also starring Blair Underwood, Tiffany Haddish and Bill Bellamy, is all about.
“I’m Black, I’m a woman, I got black hair. I worked for a little while in a beauty parlor,” she revealed. “I know what it’s like to watch someone walk into a salon and they’re sort of like slumped, head down, maybe a hoodie, maybe a hat, and then to see them just walk out glorious like slow motion, and I knew what it meant back then for [Madam C.J. Walker].”
David added that after reading about Walker, she “really wanted to be a part of it and it happened.”
Bundles, who wrote the biography on which the series is based, also has the privilege of being Walker’s great great-granddaughter.
“I hope that people will be inspired by Madam Walker’s story. I hope that they will see her as a complex human being, and that they will want to dig more deeply, that they will want to know the details of her life,” said Bundles, a former journalist.
“She was a woman who started life in the worst possible circumstances, but transformed herself through sheer will and perseverance, and with the mentoring and help especially of other women.”
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker begins streaming on Netflix Friday.