Mrs. CJ Walker was a pioneer in many ways. She was America’s first documented self-made millionaire woman, cultivated the modern black hair care and cosmetics industry, and created the role of the 20th century businesswoman. So it’s only fitting that Mattel added n Walker to its Inspiring Women series alongside others like Ella Fitzgerald, Helen Keller and Jane Goodall.
Walker was born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove on the plantation where her parents were once enslaved. Growing up as a farmhand and laundress, she is known to often say “I started by giving myself a boost.”In the 1890s, that’s exactly what she did when she began experimenting with a solution for a scalp condition that was causing her to lose most of her hair. She soon changed her name to “Madame” CJ Walker and began selling Madame Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, a conditioning and healing scalp formula. For a year and a half after creating the product, Walker traveled the South and Southeast and went door to door selling the formula. By the early 1900s, Walker had established several factories, hair and nail salons, training schools, international brand recognition, and numerous philanthropic initiatives.
Mattel’s new doll “…[captures] Madame CJ Walker in the period of her life when she was building her empire, the true definition of self-made. Thinking about how she believed in her Wonderful Hair Grower as a product, selling it door to door,” says designer Carlyle Nuera. “So I had to include it as an accessory for the Barbie!” The mini-Walker has a product box small enough to fit on a fingertip and was designed to have a removable lid with a scaled-down image of the haircare pioneer on top.
Nuera worked directly with Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, who spent years learning about her ancestor’s heritage. Bundles wrote the biography On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Mrs. CJ Walker, founded the Madam Walker family archives and became the brand historian for Madam CJ Walker’s MADAM hair care line. Thanks to Bundles’ extensive knowledge of Walker, even the most detailed aspects of the doll have been perfected, such as the colors of her clothes. “It was important to show Madame Walker in a different light,” Bundles says. “She liked purple and turquoise. In the past, the photos were black and white so you couldn’t see that. So it was good that we were able to give it a bit of a twist and use more vibrant colors.
Bundles hopes the doll will share her great-great-grandmother’s story and legacy with a whole new generation. “It means a lot that now little girls everywhere will be able to play with a Madame CJ Walker doll and learn about her organically,” says the author and historian. “The image and symbolism of this doll will bring the story of Madame Walker to the world in another way.”
Scroll down to see more images of the incredibly detailed Madame Walker doll.
Mattel has released a doll in honor of the first self-made female millionaire, Madame CJ Walker.
The doll was designed by Carlyle Nuera, who worked closely with the great-great-granddaughter of hair care pioneer, A’Lelia Bundles.
With Bundles’ abundant knowledge of her ancestor, Mattel was able to carefully craft the doll to best represent who Walker was.
The mini-Walker even comes with a small version of its famous product, Madame Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.
“She loved purple and turquoise,” Bundles says. “In the past, the photos were black and white so you couldn’t see that. So it was good that we were able to give it a bit of a twist and use more vibrant colors.
Bundles hopes the doll will share the inspirational and influential businesswoman’s story and legacy with a whole new generation.
Madam CJ Walker Doll: Website
All images via Mattel.
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