Long before the days of affluent beauty influencers, Madam C.J. Walker became known as America’s first self-made female millionaire thanks to her homemade line of hair care products for Black women.
The cosmetic queen’s scalp preparations, lotions, iron combs and pomades were among the first of their kind, at a time when most hair products for Black women were manufactured by white businesses. A natural entrepreneur, Walker would later employ her own “beauty culturalists” to sell her products, causing business to skyrocket. Keep in mind, this model preceded the rise of Mary Kay.
Even after her death, the Walker name was synonymous with self-care. A’Lelia Walker, C.J.’s only child, transformed her mother’s Manhattan townhouse into a salon for members of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.
Now, Walker’s legacy gets further immortalized by getting her very own Barbie doll.
Walker might have been a savvy businesswoman, but she was also a philanthropist, activist and advocate. She helped other Black women become more financially secure by establishing clubs for her employees and would offer bonuses to those who gave back to their community.
A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and official biographer, worked extensively with Barbie designer Carlyle Nuera to help bring the doll to life in an authentic way, according to USA Today.
Wearing royal purple and turquoise—two of Walker’s favorite colors—the signature doll also comes with a very important accessory: a historically accurate miniature version of “Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower,” a scalp conditioning and healing formula that Walker claimed had been revealed to her in a dream. Walker first sought out hair care solutions after suffering from hair loss herself.
“We wanted to focus on the fact that she manufactured hair care products and to make the young people and the adults who love it think about her being a businesswoman,” Bundles told USA Today.
The Madam C.J. Walker Barbie is part of Mattel’s “Inspiring Women Series,” a line that “pays tribute to incredible heroines of their time; courageous women who took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.” She’ll be joining the likes of Rosa Parks, Ella Fitzgerald and Maya Angelou. Each doll comes with a historical photo along with a short biography explaining how these female role models helped change the world.
Bundles shared the doll’s significance in an interview with NPR.
“I hope that when little girls and little boys pick up the doll, that they will see something that’s a little different than just a generic doll … as an entrepreneur and as a boss and as a philanthropist and a patron of the arts and somebody who cared about social justice, that they will perhaps see themselves and take one of those narratives,” she said.
Bundles continued, “It means a lot that a child can look at a doll, can have a doll that looks like them … so that they know that they’re part of the world.”
Walker’s Barbie is available for purchase on Mattel, Walmart and Amazon for $35.
Also, yes, her hair care line still exists.
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