Self Made series review – Netflix provides story on first American female millionaire

By Daniel Hart
Published: March 19, 2020 (Last updated: November 23, 2023)
Previous ArticleView all
Netflix Series Self Made Season 1 - African American entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker


Netflix limited series Self Made tells the real-life story of African American entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker with wonderful direction and honesty.

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker is a Netflix limited series based on the true story of African American entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker who built a haircare empire that made her America’s first female self-made millionaire. The series will be released on the platform on March 20, 2020.

Although Netflix’s Self Made is a true story, what makes it so compelling and enticing is that it makes the lead character look cornered by the world. The way each episode is directed makes the character Sarah Breedlove, played by the ever-present Octavia Spencer, feel like the entire world is the enemy. It relies on the character constantly fighting for social justice, while battling other cultural pitfalls. Everything feels impossible and void.

And that’s why the Netflix series works. It’s a concerning rags to riches story that ties itself to a world built to be purposefully resentful against your existence. Sarah Breedlove, who eventually transforms into entrepreneur Madam C.J Walker, is bruised by big defeats coupled with small victories. Sarah has to fight the fact she is black, a woman and unprecedented in times when men ruled the world. And Self Made presents this notion well in a charming but truthful way.

The Netflix series does not shy away from cultural references. How blacks were referred to as “negroes” and “colored”. Self Made banks on rawness rather than shying away from the truth. Men sour at the fact that Sarah wants to build her own female enterprise, which was seen as a strange concept in the early 1900s.

Self Made is only four chapters but it uses that time wisely, slowly presenting Sarah’s struggles to build a business centering on hair products while battling a competitive enemy and an insecure husband that appears to suffer from his own fragile masculinity. Octavia Spencer does her usual best performance. In stories that require themes involving cultural divides, Octavia always seems to thrive.

The biggest surprise and addition to Self Made is Tiffany Haddish who plays Lelia, Sarah’s daughter. Her story is important to the LGBTQ community, expressing what it would have been like to be attracted to the same sex in times where it was banishable.

There are plenty of stories to gnaw on in Self Made, and audiences will be impressed by the business achievement she made in a white man’s world. Some stories deserve to be told and this is one of them.

Netflix, TV Reviews
Previous ArticleView all