“Black women are familiar with each others’ hair care needs. We are embracing our natural beauty again.” A’Lelia Bundles declared as we discussed her great-great-grandmother and first Black self-made millionaire Madam C.J. Walker. Bundles who have partnered with Richelieu Dennis, CEO of Sundial Brands (Shea Moisture and Nubian Heritage) have launched exclusively in Sephora to offer Black women and women of color viable hair options in one of the most prominent cosmetic stores in the world. Who could have predicted that a daughter of slaves turned self-made millionaire would have her namesake and products in a Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy brand like Sephora?
“Madam C.J. Walker was the first person to devise and scale a business model that addressed the hair care and beauty needs of women of color, while also challenging the myopic ideals of the beauty industry at that time,” Dennis stated in his press release. He maintained his position when I asked him why he has such a strong interest in Black hair care. He told me that he believes products should be made with the purpose to help women with their hair care needs as opposed to using catchphrase words like “natural” and “alcohol-free” to attract women of color.
“The Natural hair movement is hurting companies and businesses that have profited off of Black women that didn’t know how to care or maintain their own natural hair.” Bundles said. Dennis pointed out that the black hair care business is a multi-billion dollar industry but women of color or now more conscientious of the products they are using for their hair. He also pointed out that Black women are aware of harmful ingredients (like petrolatum or sulfur) that can harm their skin and hair and they tend to stay loyal to brands that cater to their needs.
“I decided to use the Walker name because it resonates with people. People know who (Madam C.J. Walker) she is and what she represented and I wanted to reintroduce her to a newer generation.” Bundles explained. I asked Bundles how it felt to live up to such legacy such as her great, great grandmother but Bundles is accomplished in her own right. Besides her exclusive beauty brand in Sephora; she is also a historian, media professional, an award-winning author with distinguished awards from Harvard and a recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Indiana University. It is apparent that Bundles is very proud of her family legacy and can you blame her? She is honored to have her great, great-grandmother’s namesake celebrated in the age of social media while still maintaining her own identity. So what can we expect from the Walker beauty line? Coconut conditioners, curl enhancers, blow out crèmes, pre-wash treatments and scalp exfoliators. The majority of the products are essential oil-based with ingredients such as Jamaican Black Castor oil, coconut oil, murumuru oils and shea butter.
Currently, there is a Netflix drama called Self Made that is inspired by the life of Madame C.J.Walker.