Review: ‘Self Made’ is an Inspiring Watch

Before Fleabag, in her rousing speech to Anthony, declared that “hair is everything”, women, all over the world, already knew that. And if there is another strong-minded woman’s opinion you needed for further validation of the fact, heed Madam C.J. Walker’s words. “Hair is heritage. Hair is power,” she says and then goes about changing her life, as well as that of thousands of other African-American women, just because of hair. The Netflix series, ‘Self Made’, tells the incredible rags-to-riches story of America’s first black, self-made female millionaire.

Self Made: Inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker Recap

Sarah Breedlove was born a free woman but had lived most of her life in slavery of poverty and destitution. She worked as a washerwoman and was stuck in the same routine for so long that it felt like she would never break out of it. As time went by, she found her body withering away, her hair suffering the worst of it. Her husband, too, left her because of it.

It was when a woman called Addie Munroe knocked at her door that her life took a turn. Addie helped her take care of her hair, and as her locks got back their former glory, Sarah, too, grew more confident of herself. She found the strength to get back on her feet and do more than just doing others’ laundry for the rest of her life. Her courage and conviction take her to new heights and she gets all that she had always wanted, but she also has to face betrayal and desertion on the way of becoming the legendary figure, Madam C.J. Walker.

Self Made: Inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker Review

To become a millionaire in the time when both your race and your gender are still on the oppressed end of the spectrum is a feat that only the people of the highest calibre can achieve. Madam C.J. Walker had the dreams that knew no bounds, and yet, in her endeavour, she often found herself limited due to her colour and sex, just because others couldn’t see beyond it. And yet, she bested all odds against her and became the legend that she is remembered as now. To bring such an inspiring story on the screen is a challenge, and the one that ‘Self Made’ tries its best to perfect.

Having Academy Award-winner, Octavia Spencer, as the charismatic lead is the biggest plus point of the series. Despite being the hero of the story, there are a lot of other dimensions to Walker’s character, and Spencer brings all of them to life in a magnetic performance. Be it the confidence of Madam Walker or the helplessness of Sarah Breedlove, be it a strong business-minded woman who is dedicated to making her dreams come true or a simple girl who is still fastened to the innocent memory of being with her parents, Spencer never fails to paint the many shades of her character. Of course, she has the advantage of playing a role that is so enthralling in itself that you can’t help but revel in it. However, there are times when the actresses’ impeccable acting talent is what improves some of the scenes that would’ve otherwise felt bland.

The supporting cast, too, rises to the occasion and all of them inhabit their roles effortlessly. Carmen Ejogo as Madam Walker’s nemesis is villainous and tragic at the same time and by the end, you might find your feelings for her quite different than how it started out. Watching Tiffany Haddish as Lelia, who goes from a directionless girl to a woman who knows exactly what she wants, is a pleasure as well.

Keeping it to just four episodes allows the story to be precise and quick-paced. However, there are some places where you can feel it hitting a rough patch in what is otherwise smooth sailing. At times, it is a certain monologue that could’ve been written better, or a certain scene that seems out-of-place and rather unnecessary. In the first episode especially, which is titled ‘Fight of the Century’, the moves of the characters against each other, paralleled with another fight of the century, already worked well enough to convey the emotion. To show a literal boxing match could be called a bit superfluous.

Fortunately, the problems are only are a trifle when compared to the rest of it. To sum it up, ‘Self Made’ is the series that you shouldn’t miss. The show does have some flaws, but it is easy to look past them and enjoy the splendid story it tells of an inspiring woman.

Rating: 3.5/5

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