Madam C.J. Walker’s descendant relaunches the matriarch’s haircare line
"This collection embodies Madam Walker's spirit of empowerment and pays homage to modern women of color," said Walker's great-great-granddaughter A'Lelia Bundles.
The illustrious Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, became one of the nation’s first women self-made millionaires more than a century ago by turning the use of hot combs, brushes, and the “Walker Method” pomade formula she perfected into a Black haircare empire.
Today, Walker’s descendants, including her great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, are continuing their ancestor’s legacy with the recent launch of MADAM by Madam C.J. Walker, a new Sundial Brands beauty and haircare line.
The collection of 11 new products was inspired by the pioneering Black-American haircare mogul herself, according to the company.
“We worked together to merge 100 years of research, development, science and technology to ensure that the products are as innovative and effective as the original Walker line,” Bundles said in a press release about the new brand’s creation. “This collection embodies Madam Walker’s spirit of empowerment and pays homage to modern women of color.”
The buying power of Americans with textured hair has been increasing for years as the country becomes more diverse. Black-American buying power alone reached more than $1 trillion last year, according to Nielsen data cited by Yahoo.
In 2018, the Black haircare industry generated more than $2.5 billion, according to Essence.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave a boost to home hair care product sales beginning in 2020, when millions of Americans stopped leaving the house for work and recreation and started doing their hair at home more often, according to an April 2021 Nielsen IQ analysis.
Major cosmetics makers have been paying attention.
Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Ignite Venture Studio, for example, invested millions in Sunday II Sunday, a brand created by Infinite Looks, Inc., founder Keenan Beasley, ahead of its May 2020 launch, according to CNN.
Sundial Brands and Walmart have collaborated on a distribution deal to bring MADAM to 3,000 of the retailer’s nationwide stores in addition to Walmart’s website.
“We are thrilled to continue Walmart’s commitment to expanding our beauty and haircare offering for women of color with a brand that has a storied legacy and exciting future,” Walmart Merchandising Director of Specialty Hair Angel Beasley said in a written statement.
The power of Walker’s life story and legacy may help give her descendants’ new brand a boost.
One of five children born to formerly enslaved parents on a Delta, Louisiana, cotton plantation in 1867, Walker, who went by Sarah Breedlove at the time, overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles that faced Black Americans living in the post-Civil War deep south.
Both of her parents died of unknown causes by the year Breedlove turned 8-years-old. She married a man named Moses McWilliams at the age of 14 and moved to St. Louis with her daughter, A’Lelia, after McWilliams died.
Fellow Black haircare pioneer Annie Turnbo Malone hired Breedlove as a commission agent in 1905. Breedlove’s second husband, Charles Joseph Walker, is the man who gave her her famous moniker and title, according to Biography. He also helped Walker travel the country selling products to Black Americans to build her business empire.
Her eponymous company’s profits grew to equal what would be considered several millions of dollars today. Walker opened her own factory and beauty school in Pittsburgh in 1908 before moving her business operations to Indianapolis two years later.
It was there that Walker trained her famed sales beauticians, known as “Walker agents,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.
“As [Walker] traveled around selling the products, she saw that those women were really happy to have hair-care products, but what they needed was education and economic independence,” Bundles recently told Glamour. “She made that as much a part of her mission as the products themselves.”
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