When I stumbled upon “Self Made” on Netflix, I was immediately intrigued because I’m an avid fan of anything featuring Octavia Spencer. What I wasn’t expecting was to thoroughly enjoy a 1900’s biography spiced up with hip-hop music, receive a history lesson and the overwhelming feeling I could conquer the world as the final credits passed.
Taking place in the early 1900’s, we watch the rise of black hair care pioneer and businesswoman Madam C.J. Walker (Spencer). Stuck in an abusive relationship, Madam Walker, then known as Sarah Breedlove, crosses paths with Addie Munroe, a beautiful light skinned hair care entrepreneur who changes her life.
Addie Munroe refuses to hire her as a saleswoman because her skin is too dark. Spurned and determined, Sarah Breedlove steals tins of hair care product and learns to make her own. As her success grows, a lifelong rivalry flourishes between the two women.
As Sarah Breedlove’s company grows into a budding empire, she chooses the name Madam C.J. Walker. Overcoming criticism for her skin, gender and choice of business, she becomes the first female millionaire in America.
Everything from the storyline to the acting makes this series unbelievable. Never in a million years did I think hip-hop and R&B music would pair well with a period piece, but now I’d argue there’s no better match. The music not only set the tone, but paid homage to African American culture.
Spencer’s performance as Madam C.J. Walker was phenomenal. However, the most surprising was seeing Tiffany Haddish in anything besides a comedy. While she is known to earn a good laugh, her dramatic portrayal of Walker’s daughter proved she is so much more than comedic relief.
Throughout the series, magical realism is used to offer a glimpse into Madam Walker’s mind. It sets the tone for her rivalry with Addie Munroe as they box. The dance sequences and sparkling paths pave the way to her success and the haunting of her potential poster girl shows how haunted she is by beauty standards.
If you’re searching for a good mini series that will blow your mind or just a way to pass the time in quarantine, “Self Made” is worth the click.