How Much of Netflix’s Self Made: Inspired By the Life of Madam C.J. Walker Actually Happened?
Netflix's new series about Madam C.J. Walker isn't afraid to take a few creative leaps. But Sarah Breedlove's story is real.Carmen Ejogo as Addie Munroe in Self Made . Amanda Matlovich/Netflix Malone sold her own hair care products, which Walker depended on when neglect, bacteria, pollution and lice caused her to develop a scalp disease, . But, unlike in Self Made , Walker did actually sell Malone's products. In the show, Addie refuses to let Walker become one of her saleswomen, telling her that she doesn’t have the right “look.” In other words, she wasn't a black “ Gibson Girl ,” a turn-of-the-century advertising icon drawn to personify the ideal female. This cruel comment launches their rivalry, as Walker rightfully believes women of color should not have to aspire to a white standard of beauty. But in reality, this exchange likely never took place. Walker sold Malone hair care products in St. Louis and Denver, according to , before marrying C.J. Walker and launching her own line. Were Malone and Walker actually rivals? Yes, though the events around their feud are not as clear as Self Made writes that , not long after Walker and C.J. married, “there was a rift of some kind…that caused Madam Walker to sever ties with Malone.” There are few clues as to what exactly happened, though Bundles believes they were never close allies."I’ve come to believe that the relationship with Malone was an important catalyst that helped Sarah Breedlove McWilliams escape St. Louis and a troubled second marriage," Bundles writes."But I’ve also come to think the relationship was more transactional than collaborative." There is also no evidence that Malone recruited Walker's son-in-law to gather her secrets, nor that she poached Walker's workers. Did Walker steal Malone's formula to create her “Wonderful Hair Grower”? This is also shrouded in mystery: Was Walker's hair grower a copy of Malone's? According to Collectors Weekly , Malone wrote a letter in a Denver newspaper accusing Walker of stealing her recipe. Although Walker's hair grower was indeed a tweaked version of Annie’s, it's difficult to say whether it was directly copied. Several other women sold similar “secret” formulas at the time, , so it’s unlikely they all came from the same source. Madam C.J. Walker driving a car circa 1911. Smith Collection/Gado Getty Images Was Sarah’s son-in-law the actual worst, like he is in the show? Lelia Walker’s first husband, John Robinson, did indeed seem to be…not great. He was a hotel worker whom she divorced in 1914, , and there’s no evidence he ever opened that legendary juke joint he promised in Self Made . Considering Lelia went on to marry twice more, he might not have been the worst of the brood, however. Did Walker also marry more than once? . Her first husband died, and the other two (including C.J., ugh) both cheated on her. She deserved better. Was Booker T. Washington that sexist? Early in Self Made , when Walker tries to get Booker T. Washington to endorse her product, she interrupts his speech in an effort to corner him. He later tells Walker, “The negro man needs to be lifted first.” As in, black women come second. Oh, and he thinks cosmetic products are frivolous. Booker T. Washington. Read more: ELLE Magazine (US)
How Much of Netflix’s 'Self Made' Actually Happened?Netflix's new series about Madam C.J. Walker isn't afraid to take a few creative leaps. But Sarah Breedlove's story is real. i really enjoyed the show. MadamCJWalker
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