What to watch: Self Made

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Newspaper ad salesman Charles
Joseph Walker (Blair Underwood) and his wife, Sarah (Octavia
Spencer), who becomes a hair-care mogul in Self Made
Newspaper ad salesman Charles Joseph Walker (Blair Underwood) and his wife, Sarah (Octavia Spencer), who becomes a hair-care mogul in Self Made

Subtitled Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, this mini-series is loosely based on America’s first female self-made millionaire.

In the early 1900s, after marrying newspaper ad man Charles Joseph Walker (Blair Underwood), washerwoman Sarah Breedlove (Emmy nominee Octavia Spencer) builds her haircare empire with the help of her husband and daughter, Lelia (Tiffany Haddish from Girls Trip).

Sarah, the first freeborn of an enslaved family, becomes Madam CJ Walker, a black hair-care pioneer – but not without a battle at every turn. Her former employer and beauty business mentor, Addie Malone (Selma’s Carmen Ejogo), becomes her villainous rival and her dominated husband feels neglected and (spoiler alert) has an affair, while she confronts countless hurdles, including betrayal, sabotage, sexism and colourism.

Tiffany Haddish, usually seen in comedies, takes o
Tiffany Haddish, usually seen in comedies, takes on a more serious role as Sarah’s daughter. (PHOTO: NETFLIX)

Based on the biography On Her Own Ground by Sarah’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, the show shines a light on several issues worth contemplating – the foremost being Western standards of beauty.

Despite some artistic licence taken by the show’s creators to embellish the story, it’s worth watching for Spencer’s performance alone. It’s also nice to see Haddish, who usually stars in comedies, in a more serious role.

2020. 4 EPISODES. 13.

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