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Madam C.J. Walker Series Starring Octavia Spencer Headed to Netflix

August 6, 2018
        Headshots of Madam C.J. Walker (left) and actress Octavia Spencer
Madam C.J. Walker (left) and Octavia Spencer (Spencer photo via Shutterstock)

Netflix has picked up a new limited series all about the life of entrepreneur and black hair care pioneer Madam C.J. Walker, starring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.

According to Collider, the streaming service announced last week that the series will follow the “highly irreverent story of black hair care pioneer and mogul [Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker], and how she overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and some trifling family to become America’s first black, self-made female millionaire.”

In addition to the starring role, Spencer will executive produce the series alongside LeBron James. The series is based on the book “On Her Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, historian and Walker’s great-great-granddaughter. Bundles will also serve as a consultant on the series.

Walker was born in 1867 to two Louisiana slaves. According to History, she lost her parents at age six, was married at 14 and was widowed at 20 with a two-year-old daughter. She then moved to St. Louis to work as a laundress.

When Walker began to lose her hair in 1905, she developed a method that combined scalp treatment, lotions and the use of iron combs that came to be known as the “Walker system.” She began selling and marketing her treatment directly to black women, which grew her notoriety and greatly expanded her business.

Walker relocated her headquarters to Indianapolis in 1910, where her business continued to flourish with a team of over 3,000 workers (known as “Walker Agents”) and made Walker a millionaire.

She went on to share that wealth with her employees and community. Walker established “a network of clubs for her employees and offering bonuses and prizes to those who contributed to their communities through charitable works. She promoted female talent: the charter of her company provided that only a woman could serve as president,” according to History.

Walker also donated to causes like the  NAACP, scholarships for women at Tuskegee Institute and many other black charities.

The Madame C.J. Walker Building was completed in 1927 after Walker's death in 1919, and it still stands today in Indianapolis' Indiana Avenue corridor.

A photograph of the Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis. The Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis. (Photo: Madame Walker Theatre Center)

“Every American should all know the story of Madam C.J. Walker,” James told Variety last year. “She was an innovator, entrepreneur, social activist and total game changer whose story has been left out of the history books. I hope this project lives up to her legacy with a story that will educate and inspire.”

The series does not yet have a release date, but it is set to run for eight episodes. Kasi Lemmons (Black Nativity, Luke Cage) will direct the pilot and Nicole Asher (Love Beats Rhymes) will write it.

Featured image of Octavia Spencer via Shutterstock.