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'Self Made' on Netflix tells of first female millionaire | The Berkshire Eagle


By Gary Gerard Hamilton, The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Madam C.J. Walker may be one of America’s most successful “pull yourself up by your own bootstrap” stories, but many have never heard of her. However, that’s changing, thanks to the recent release of a Netflix limited series starring Octavia Spencer.”Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,” which also stars Blair Underwood, Tiffany Haddish, Bill Bellamy and Carmen Ejogo, tells the story of America’s first female millionaire, who was also black, at the turn of the 20th century. Her path to riches would be noteworthy in any era, but it’s particularly impressive given the discrimination and roadblocks women and blacks had to endure at the time.”I knew about her since I was a little girl because my mother taught us about her. We were from humble beginnings and Madam was from humble beginnings,” said Spencer. “She dictated her path in life, and what an inspirational and aspirational story to use as an example for young people who were from nothing. … She was able to do all of that without having the right to vote or the right to own anything because of her gender and color.”

Walker, whose real name was Sarah Breedlove, created and marketed hair products for African American women at the turn of the 20th century. The four-part drama is based on the book “On Her Own Ground” by author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great granddaughter. Kasi Lemmons, who helmed last year’s “Harriet” film and DeMane Davis both direct two episodes.

Although Bundles says this has been a project “50 years in the making” with many starts and stops, it almost failed this time as well. Spencer says she nearly walked away from the project before basketball superstar LeBron James and his business partner, Maverick Carter, intervened (both are executive producers on the project, along with Spencer).

Walker, who died in 1919 at age 51, was not only an extremely successful business woman, but a philanthropist as well. She gave generously to what are now known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and fought for anti-lynching laws.

Bundles hopes that her great-great grandmother will serve as an inspiration to those who know about her and those who are just learning of her, and that everyone will dig even deeper into her story.

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