I’m sure some of you have heard about the new Netflix series Self Made about Madame CJ Walker. I haven’t seen this show, but when I heard that they did Annie Malone wrong, I just had to talk about it.
This is the second time when real life affects my “Dear Innovare…” album. First, we have the unfortunate passing of Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango who wrote “Soul Makossa” (AKA The song “Wanna Be Starting Something” ripped off) as mentioned in “Cameroonian Originality March” and now Self Made slanders Annie Malone?
This ticked me off so much since CJ Walker is NOTHING without Annie Malone and I hate how she never got the credit for being the first ADOS female millionaire and also the first one to make a beauty college. It seems like I’ve been proven right about so many different things over the past year or so like how I was exposed to The Lion’s Share documentary or Petite Noir’s La Maison Noir music video. This is why we need to tell our own stories. I was glad that the blogger talking about this Wongel Zelalem thought it was an amazing learning experience and wanted to get the history right. If you’re curious about her accent, it’s because she’s from Ethiopia, by the way. The truth needs to be shared out there.
Madame CJ Walker, you weren’t the first lady of that honor
You were a former client of her
From Metropolis, Illinois to St. Louis, then to the Second City was the first beauty expert of her time
Hair, face, hands
All became better with Malone’s expertise for those with melanin
She built a college just for cosmetology
Despite $14 million in her prime, you stole those formulas
Women of all colors benefited from the Poro Brand
CJ…or is it Sarah?
You’d be nothing without Annie
She lost her business, but she won’t be lost in history anymore
No woman can be attractive
Without a beautiful complexion and an innovative mind
That’s right, everyone. Madame CJ Walker was NOT the first African-American female millionaire!
The first was none other than Annie Malone hailing from the tiny Southern Illinois town of Metropolis. She was an entrepreneur who started her own beauty and personal care business with the Poro company. Malone made so many products for different uses and she eventually opened her own cosmetology which also made her the first black owner and founder of a beauty school in America. She was charitable, opened a community center for the youth, and helped out her neighborhoods when she lived in Chicago. Unfortunately, Walker literally stole Poro formulas and made her own business, became rich, and more popular than Malone which is so tragic. I doubt they’re going to talk about that in that upcoming CJ Walker movie with Octavia Spencer.
Annie, even though I could care less about the beauty industry (the fact I have a Y chromosome is certainly the biggest reason why), but I respect you for doing for self and for giving back to the community. You deserved so much better.
I would like to give major props to Kreb for introducing me to this beauty pioneer on one of his blog posts. Dude, you’re great and I learned a ton from this post and others from you.
Fun fact about her birthplace: Metropolis is the only town of that namesake in America and it became the “official” hometown of the Superman character. There’s a museum of Superman in that town and the real life Metropolis, IL was even featured in a comic issue where Supes actually has to save it from danger. Also, this would make me second only to Sufjan Stevens who namedropped that town in a song. Hahaha!
The picture of Annie Malone is from The Freeman Institute.