Madam C. J. Walker’s great-great-granddaughter on carrying the family torch
A’Lelia Bundles said she finds it 'heartbreaking' that Black women entrepreneurs continue to face hurdles in business
As the great-great-granddaughter of hair care pioneer Madam C.J. Walker, A’Lelia Bundles proudly carries the torch of her family’s heritage onward.
Bundles’ book, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, laid the groundwork for Netflix’s latest mini-series, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.
The series stars actress Octavia Spencer as one of the most revered entrepreneurs in Black history alongside Blair Underwood as her husband, Mr. C.J. Walker.
With a birthright rooted in hair, Bundles reflected on how Madame C.J. Walker’s legacy influenced how she viewed her own hair growing up.
“My mother was really very good about making this a nurturing process,” the author told theGrio.
“So fortunately, I never got some of those negative messages that I know a lot of people got. And my mother always acted as if it was the joy to do my hair, even though I’m sure it wasn’t.”
Though her family always showered her mane with admiration, Bundles faced her own obstacles when it came to loving her own curls. But with patience, she began to accept her hair for all of its glory and limitations.
“I have lived almost seven decades. So I’ve had my hair journey where I wasn’t comfortable with my hair,” Bundles said of her personal hair journey.
“It takes a long time, I think, to get to the place where you realize you may love the hairstyle that somebody else has. But my hair is not going to really do that, right? So what is it about my hair that I can appreciate that I can learn to love?”
Perceptions of Black hair morphed drastically over the last generation, but unfortunately there are some elements of Black life that have stayed the same. The four-part series is set in the early 1900s, but we can find very relevant modern themes present throughout.
“Whether it’s voting rights, you know, whether it’s women, whether it is our ability to start businesses, to have investments, with the racism, the lynching, Black Lives Matter 1.0, those same themes of race and gender and politics still resonate,” Bundles explained to theGrio.
“Some parts of it are heartbreaking to me. But it means that we realize you can’t just give up the fight. You have to keep pushing.”
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker premieres on Netflix Friday, March 20.