octavia spencer

Octavia Spencer is Playing Real Life She-ro Madam C. J. Walker in Upcoming Netflix Limited Series

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Netflix has announced that it will be making a limited series based on the life of Madam C.J. Walker, with Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer producing the series and playing the title role. The press release for the series describes the show as 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.”

The eight episode miniseries is based on the book On Her Own Ground by A’Lelia Bundles (Walker’s great-great-granddaughter). Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) will direct the pilot. The story of Madam C. J. Walker is a fascinating one, and is long overdue for a biopic. Born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove, she was the first child in her family born into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Walker developed and produced her own line of hair care and beauty products for black women, selling her wares door to door.

(image: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History)

Walker expanded her empire, building a manufacturing factory, a beauty school to train sales agents, and a laboratory to develop new products. Along the way, Walker hired other black women in positions of power, which was unheard of at the time. Eventually, she employed thousands of women in her empire, giving them work and the financial means to be independent.

Walker used her wealth and influence to help grow various charities, and was a contemporary of Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune, and W. E. B. Du Bois. She was also an early member and generous donor to the NAACP.

Walker’s remarkable story and life as an entrepreneur and activist is remarkable, and it’s thrilling to see her story get the treatment it deserves. Octavia Spencer is a brilliant actress, and Kasi Lemmons is a powerful and underrated director (seriously, go watch Eve’s Bayou). We have high hopes for this series.

(via Collider, Biography, image: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for City Year Los Angeles)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.