Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker

TV review by
Lynnette Nicholas, Common Sense Media
Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker TV Poster Image
Solid drama highlights the life of legendary entrepreneur.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Shows the power of perseverance and tenacity during a time in American history when women were not taken as seriously as men, as well as the positive benefits of not allowing a spouse or partner to limit your dreams and goals. A woman defies gender stereotypes, is bold in the face of societal norms, and provides opportunities for other women in the process. The spirit of entrepreneurship is personified, the notion of generational wealth is depicted, and ideals of being self-sufficient are personified.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Walker's story is truly one of going from rags to riches. With perseverance, bravery, teamwork and hard work, she went from being a washer woman to one of the wealthiest women in America. She did not marry into money. On the contrary, she was a woman who created her own wealth. She also trained other women to be self-sufficient business women as well. Ransom, a genuine gentleman, personifies what it means to be a loyal friend and business partner. Though she has her flaws, Addie showcases what it means to have a competitive spirit -- and that it's possible to be both beautiful and intelligent. 


A woman is slapped by her husband, who later walks away from their marriage. 


There's some sexual innuendo, and light kissing by adults in the first episode. In a later episode, there is a sex scene between two consenting adults that is graphic, but there's no nudity visible on screen. In a later episode, there is an attempted rape of a woman.



There's some adult language: grown men are called "boy", the words: "f--k you", and "s--t" are used once. Parents will need to explain to their teenagers the difference between the word "ni--er" which has a negative connotation associated with it, and the word "Negro" which was an appropriate term for this time period that Blacks used as well as others.


There's a major theme of making money as well as wealth building in the series. However, the consumerism in most cases doll not carry a negative connotation. Fancy cars are purchased, and luxurious homes are purchased and built.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There's some adult drinking and cigar smoking in private homes, and in a few saloon scenes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker is a drama series about a successful African-American female entrepreneur in the late 1800s. Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Harriet) and DeMane Davis (Queen Sugar), Walker's journey isn't all glamour and sophistication, as viewers see her trials, failed relationships, and the tenacity that it took to be an entrepreneur and trailblazer. There are some gender stereotypes, a woman is slapped and abandoned by her husband, and a few adult love scenes that have no nudity, though one scene graphic and there's sexual innuendo. Rare swearing includes "s--t," "f--k," and adult men are called "boy." Parents will need to explain to their teenagers the difference between the word "ni--er" which has a negative connotation associated with it, and the word "Negro" which was an appropriate term for this time period that African-Americans used as well as others.There's a small amount of drinking done by adults. However, there are very powerful themes of courage, perseverance, working hard to achieve goals, and not allowing societal norms to limit one's potential. There's also very powerful messaging of being self-sufficient and not depending on a man or spouse for money. This series provides a great opportunity to share with teens and adults alike about Walker's philanthropic legacy as well as the contributions that she made to the hair care industry.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCLS2002 March 20, 2020

Inspiring but not for kids

The summary is pretty accurate as is the "counts" for the parental guidance things. However, the "consensual sex between adults" actually is... Continue reading
Adult Written byNoelleh1 March 21, 2020


Octavia Spencer is a sparkling gem as always! This got it wrong though. There is an attempted rape and that needs to be listed under violence.
Teen, 13 years old Written byJordancarter March 21, 2020


Love it! Thought it was very inspiring,educational. It shows the wonderful story of Madam cj walker and her struggles and good outcomes. As far as the content.... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byasmartkid5 March 21, 2020

Exellent Show

I think it is a great show.There is no explicit sences,but they use the N-word a lot. I would only recommend for mature teens.

What's the story?

SELF MADE: INSPIRED BY THE LIFE OF MADAM C.J.WALKER is a four part television series based on a book On Her Own Ground written by A'Lelia Bundles that is based loosely on the life of the legendary self-made millionaire Madam C.J. Walker (Octavia Spencer), her husband C.J.Walker (Blair Underwood) and her only child Leila (Tiffany Haddish). This inspirational story centers on Walker and her rise from a washerwoman to a trailblazing entrepreneur who built a haircare empire that made her America's first female self-made millionaire.

Is it any good?

Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker highlights several prominent African-American figures including Booker T. Washington, W.E. B. Dubois and more, as well as prominent historically Black institutions like Tuskegee Institute and Spelman College during a very pivotal time in American history. Overall, the series does a good job of providing a glimpse of what life was like for middle class and elite members of African-American society in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Through the plights of both Addie Monroe (Carmen Ejogo), a light-skinned Black woman, and Walker, viewers get a glimpse of the residue of colonialism and slavery in the form of colorism, an issue in African-American communities for many generations. 

However, while the legacy and story of Walker is both inspirational and powerful, and the set design wonderfully detailed, the series has some distracting production elements. The music soundtrack feels too modern for the time period, and the present-day boxing scenes don't add much to the overall storyline. Standouts include Blair Underwood in his role as Walker's second husband, C.J. Walker, the amazingly talented Roger Guenveur Smith as Booker T. Washington, and Carmen Ejogo masterfully portrays a fierce competitor who has internalized a superiority complex as a result of having a fairer complexion. The series provides a sophisticated perspective of how astute, cultured, and hard-working African-Americans navigated, endured and even overcame setbacks. Viewers will be inspired as they watch a woman ahead of her time carve out her place in history during a time period when social norms called for women to let the men take the lead in matters of business.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways in which Madam C.J. Walker defied gender stereotypes about women during the time period in which she lived. Was this common at the time? 

  • Who are the female role models in Self Made: Inspired By The Life of Madam C.J. Walker? What are some of the character strengths that these female role models convey? 

  • Teamwork, perseverance, and entrepreneurship are all themes in this series. What is entrepreneurship? What's the connection between entrepreneurship and perseverance? What are some of the examples of perseverance displayed by Walker?

TV details

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