Self-Made: What happened to Madam CJ Walker’s company?

Netflix dropped Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker earlier this year with Oscar winner Octavia Spencer in the title role. The four-part series was adapted from the 2001 book On Her Ground written by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles. Many people have watched the series and want to know more about the real-life Walker and her company.

What happened to Madam CJ Walker’s company?

Madam CJ Walker was an American businesswoman who rose to fame thanks to her line of haircare products and cosmetics aimed at African American women.

The daughter of freed slaves, she became one of the first female millionaires in the US.

She initially worked as a washerwoman and started working on haircare ranges to help cure baldness and scalp infections which were common at the time.

Walker worked for Annie Turbo for a couple of years as a sales representative before relocating to Denver in 1905.


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There, she served as a cook for a pharmacist, where she learnt the basics of chemistry and improved her products.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannia, she developed what became known as the “Walker Method” or “Walker System of Beauty Culture”, which led her to build her empire.

She eventually moved the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company to Indianapolis in 1910 and grew her business.

By 1913, the company had expanded to the Caribbean and Central America making her wealthy.

However, Walker gave back to society and the African-American community by donating money to organisations such as the African American Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP’s) anti-lynching fund.

She also helped to provide scholarships for students at black schools and colleges, along with providing financial support to retirement homes and orphanages.

The BBC reported Walker’s products are still available through Unilever’s subsidiary Sundial Brands which revived Walker’s products in 2013.

Sundial’s founder Richelieu Dennis purchased Walker’s mansion in New York and plans to convert it into a think tank for female African-American entrepreneurs.

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What inspired the music for Self-Made? also spoke exclusively to the show’s composer Larry Goldings about writing music to accompany the inspirational true story.

The show features both period music and more cotemporary numbers including a cover of The White Stripes’ classic Seven Nation Army.

He explained: “Initially I thought I would approach it with period sound. I thought ragtime and early jazz because certainly there were scenes that called for that and in terms of what was happening in the scenes.”

The Grammy-nominated songwriter and keyboardist continued: “But as we got started, it was clear a slightly more contemporary direction was wanted and needed and so I ended up wanting to make a couple of hybrids, which seemed to work.


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“One was, for the more dramatic scenes where it was really just about supporting the drama but I still wanted to fuse that somehow with a reminder of the era.

“So one of the sounds is sort of an emotional sound but either with instruments of the era like trumpet or piano and that and or instruments fused with some jazz harmony that wouldn’t get in the way but that would still support the emotion needed behind the score.

“So there was that sound and then there was the more up-to-date sound more in keeping with jazz but the hip hop element. There was a need and a desire for more contemporary music to be licensed or the score.

“All of which were contemporary artists. Once that became clear, that was also a direction that was happening throughout the series. I started to make some fuse that were jazz with more of a backbeat.”

Goldings researched Walker’s life as much as he could for his work on Self Made but said he was mostly “reacting” to the interpretation of the story.

He made sure he also knew musical history during the period the show was set in.

The star said: “I think musicians are always extra-sensitive to period films when they watch it. When they get it wrong, it’s so obvious and annoying. One of the things I was looking forward to was getting that part right.”

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker is streaming on Netflix and the soundtrack is out now

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