Madam Walker was a master marketer. But her brilliance was in taking it to another level by training women, by traveling, by making very motivational speeches and by providing independent income for women who otherwise would have to be maids and sharecroppers.
As one of the pioneers of modern hair care and cosmetics, Madam Walker is still an inspiration to a lot of people going into the business.
It takes a long time, I think, to get to the place where you realize you may love the hairstyle that somebody else has.
I have lived almost seven decades. So I’ve had my hair journey where I wasn’t comfortable with my hair.
Don’t sit around and wait for the opportunities to come. You have to get up and make those opportunities come.
I know of at least two black women who are billionaires: Sheila Johnson, who co-founded BET, and Oprah Winfrey. And I know of hundreds of black women whose net worth is over $1 million.
Both my parents worked at the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, with my dad eventually being hired by another company called Summit Laboratories that made chemical hair straighteners.
By 1916, as Madam Walker herself was developing more assertive views on race, she was becoming eager to assume her place alongside Harlem’s famous, influential and intriguing residents.
A lot of people think Oprah is channeling for Madam Walker, and there are lots of parallels.
She used her wealth and philanthropy to contribute to Black schools and colleges, she gave the largest gift the NAACP had ever received to it’s anti-lynching fund… Madam Walker’s life was one of transformation and re-invention.
I wrote my first report about Madam Walker when I was a senior in high school in 1970.
DuBois – my intellectual hero – had written an obit of Madam, praising her… I began to see Madam Walker beyond the definitions others had given her.
Through the years, Madam Walker has certainly become a staple of anything that has to do with black history, women’s history and entrepreneurship.
The real Annie Malone was not a light-skinned woman.
I think a lot of times, the historical piece is often a way to comment on the present.
Natural hair is just my personal preference.
As much as any woman of the twentieth century, Madam Walker paved the way for the profound social changes that altered women’s place in American society.
Madam Walker was a woman who transformed herself in a very American, rags-to-riches way.
Today, there’s no excuse for not learning how to get our financial houses in order. Some of us close our eyes, take a deep breath and say a prayer when it comes to managing our finances.
Madam C.J. Walker was born in 1867, two years after the civil war ended. She was a daughter of a slave. She had no formal education. Both her parents died by the time she was seven. Yet, by the time she died in 1919 at age 51, she was one of the most successful businesswomen America had ever seen.
We all draw inspiration from women whose names make the headlines and whose stories are in the history books, but often our greatest inspiration comes from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, and friends.
If a CEO takes an interest in you and he happens to be an Asian man, then that’s great, but as an African-American woman, you want to make sure that if the executive vice-president of the company is an African-American woman that you get to know her.
For many years Madam Walker was just a little footnote in history. As a woman who made haircare products, she was really consigned to something trivial.
Madam Walker’s legacy lives in her philanthropy as well as in an amazing line of hair care products.
Madame Walker was one of the four iconic women who really created what’s now the modern hair-care and cosmetics industry, and we know about her in the black community because everybody gets their hair done.
There is a core of people who know and love Madam C.J. Walker, but there’s a much larger audience who don’t really know about her. I think ‘Self Made’ will give people a window into her life.
I love people who have really long locs. I love how they can go in different directions or pile it up into a big crown on the head.
There are schools that have rules against afro puffs. They say it’s distracting. But nobody is saying that about a little girl who has ponytails.
I’d seen how ‘Green Book’ had been a box-office hit, but left pianist Don Shirley’s family feeling betrayed because his life and relationships had been distorted.
There was a period of 10 years where the conventional wisdom was Black shows don’t sell overseas, therefore nobody is interested.
I was like other teenagers in the late 1960s; I too was very interested in having an Afro and getting rid of the perm that was in my hair.
And mothers and daughters – mothers need to help their daughters love their hair. And some mothers know how to do this, and some mothers help their daughters love their hair.
I’ve found that once people are introduced to Madam Walker’s story, they are inspired but also perplexed about why she was omitted from their history lessons.
For some people, success is a zero sum game. They think that if they push other people out of the way, fewer people can compete with them. That’s one way of seeing the world. It’s dog eat dog. It’s, sadly, always going to be there.
We live in a culture where European beauty standards are dominant.
You know the AME Church has a history of empowering black people and having an international outlook. So it was the women of the church who began to give Sarah Breedlove an image of herself as something other than an illiterate washerwoman, and she wanted to make her life better, and her daughter’s life better.
Many people have told me that once they learn of Madam Walker’s accomplishments they are surprised, even embarrassed, that they have never heard of her. But they shouldn’t be. Her extraordinary story was simply omitted from the history books.
God puts pack rats together with non-pack rats.
People will buy products for quality, and they will buy products for bargains.
There are two national historic landmarks: the Madam Walker Legacy Center in Indianapolis and the Madam C.J. Walker House in Irvington, New York.
For all my life, I’ve been trying to tell Madam’s story and really it’s a labor of love just to make sure people know about her and the empowerment she gave to other women.
She was born Sarah Breedlove on a plantation in Delta, Louisiana, where her parents had been slaves. At 14, she married to get a home of her own, to get away from a cruel brother-in-law with whom she was living. At 17, she had her only child, A’Lelia, who I’m named after.
Why is she Mrs. C.J. Walker? It really was a matter of her trying to insist that people respect her, because during that time, white people would call any black woman ‘Sally.’ ‘Aunt Sally.’ So this was like… you can’t call me that.
Madame Walker was mythologized like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but I want to show that she was fabulous on her own.
Every ethnic group has a mythology… Until ‘Roots’… there was nothing in the popular culture to refute the paragraph in elementary school history class that said, ‘Slaves picked the cotton, were happy and life wasn’t so bad.’
To her credit, Madam Walker discerned that black women wanted to conform to white Victorian models of beauty. She was aware of the double- sidedness of her products – helping black women appear more European in look, with straight hair – but she always maintained that she was simply selling products that promoted hair growth.
Madam Walker, as part of the first generation out of slavery, really was inventing the way that she operated in the world.
Wearing your hair natural is a positive statement about who you are. It’s not a protest to somebody else. It’s affirming you.
I hope that people will be inspired by Madam Walker’s story. I hope that they will see her as a complex human being, and that they will want to dig more deeply, that they will want to know the details of her life.
My mother was the fourth generation of women to have worked with the Walker company. As a little girl, I would go to her office while she worked. She was a very capable woman.
So Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, when applied after shampooing the hair more frequently, allowed women’s scalp to be healthier and their hair to grow back. That was her most popular product.
Madame Walker selected Indianapolis as the headquarters for her growing business more than a century ago in 1910 because of its central location and thriving black business community.
I think Michelle Obama ought to wear her hair exactly the way she wants to wear her hair. I am not looking for Michelle Obama to cut her hair off like I have mine, very short. I’m not looking for her to do twists. I’m looking for her to wear what’s comfortable for her.
From the beginning, Madam C. J. Walker’s message was as much about hair and beauty as it was about empowering other women. She knew that confidence and self-assurance are key ingredients to success, and that true beauty comes from within.
Inner confidence is what makes us successful.
Women of African descent, since the beginning of time, have altered their hair, decorated it and used it to designate status.
There are literally hundreds of stories about women of color that haven’t been told that are amazing, fantastic, better than anything else.
For more than three years, I’d been part of a complex and frustrating dance as my nonfiction, fact-based material was translated from book to movie by scriptwriters whose visions, goals and sensibilities often were quite different from mine.
One of the key things for me about Madame Walker’s life is that she really does represent this first generation out of slavery when black people were reinventing themselves, and as a woman who was the first child in her family born free, she was trying to figure out a way, and she moved from Delta, Louisiana.
Madam Walker’s name gets thrown out as either the savior of black women’s hair or she’s the evil devil.
It’s very hard to be a kid, especially in a predominantly white school or white town where other people want to police your body and hair.
I’ve always been fascinated by Madam Walker’s ability to use her money for political causes. I find her story so inspires people that it gives me great joy to share the story.
I began to discover that, in addition to her stunning achievements, there were flaws as there would be in any person’s life. I wanted to tell Madam’s story in an honest, frank way.
A’Lelia Walker did not subsidize specific writers, but she provided a place for all kinds of people to gather. She was one of the few blacks who had the money to allow her to entertain in the large scale.
We buy too much stuff we just don’t need. We’re trying to look cute for next weekend when we ought to be thinking about the next decade.
Madam Walker was an incredible woman, but she wasn’t the only one of her time who was. She just took it to the highest height.
The saying was that Madam Walker made the money, and her daughter – my great-grandmother – spent it.
If you wear your hair straight or natural, it’s all fine with me. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t politically conscious or that you don’t have good thoughts about progress.
We didn’t sit around the dining table talking about Madam Walker, but the silverware that we used every day had her monogram on it and our china for special occasions had been Madam Walker’s china… and the baby grand piano on which I learned to read music had been in A’Lelia Walker’s apartment in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance.
What grows from our head is something that we should love. The larger society can love it or not, but it’s not their decision to make.