The series provides a sophisticated perspective of how astute, cultured, and hard-working African Americans navigated, endured, and even overcame setbacks. Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker highlights several prominent African American figures, including Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, 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, who masterfully portrays a fierce competitor who has internalized a superiority complex as a result of having a fairer complexion. 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.