The Netflix miniseries portrayed Addie Monroe as Madam C.J. Walker’s competitor, but she was actually inspired by real-life history-maker Annie Malone.
Netflix’s “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” captured the trials and successes of a Black woman, creating an inspiring story about entrepreneurship and following one’s dreams. A large part of the series focused on her interesting competition with Addie Munroe who acted as the foe. What’s important to note in the series is Walker’s portrayed rival was inspired by her actual competitor in real-life, but of a different name. Why Netflix and writers of the series decided to change her name is unknown, but what is certain is Addie Munroe was actually inspired by American businesswoman, chemist, and millionaire Annie Malone.
Annie Malone in many ways both resembled and differed from her character portrayal in the series. The series didn’t divulge details on Munroe’s origin story but similar to Walker, Malone too came from humble beginnings. She was born to formerly enslaved parents and raised as an orphan by her older sisters, much like Madam C.J. Walker.
At the age of 31, she began experimenting with hair care, which ultimately led to her creating her signature product, the Wonderful Hair Grower. Her products, along with Walker, contributed greatly to haircare systems overall and further advanced the means of Black haircare. In addition to her hair growth products, Malone’s claim to fame came from her revised method of straightening hair. Her new technique figured out a way to straighten Black women’s hair without damaging it. Selling her products door-to-door, Malone built her wealth and created a successful business.
Although the series didn’t highlight the positives of her and Walker’s relationship, Malone’s hard work and success served as inspiration for Walker. What’s also left out of the series is the fact that Madam C.J. Walker was a student of Malone at her beauty college. It was Malone’s science experiments and products that helped treat Walker’s scalp psoriasis. She also gave Walker her big break as a sales agent for her company. Malone’s efforts and talents helped her become recognized as the first Black female millionaire, as reported by Vox.
— Shelby Ivey Christie (@bronze_bombSHEL) February 8, 2017
According to Heavy, in 1918 Malone founded Poro College, a cosmetology school for Black women, also home to Malone’s growing business. She ran 32 branches of her beauty school while continuing to run her business. Vox reported that her work continues to live on today through Annie Malone Children and Family Services, a center founded in 1888 to meet the social and educational needs of children and at-risk families in St. Louis, MO.
Annie Malone was just as much of an innovator as Madam C.J. Walker. It’s important to acknowledge all of her contributions as another hard-working Black woman who also paved the way for not only Black haircare but women entrepreneurs.