Teresa Odom
Category: 2022 College Winner

Teresa Odom

My Inspiration: Madam C.J. Walker

Within Black America, there is one aspect of our lives and of our culture that reigns supreme and that is our hair culture. How we take care of our hair, the variety of hair products for our hair, the different textures, and styles. The culture of sitting in your mama’s or big mama’s kitchen chair early in the morning. She is heating up the straightening comb on the stove top. You anticipate bending your ears down because that hot comb burn is something serious! Nevertheless, our culture would be nothing without the contribution of hair care giant Madam C.J. Walker.

Madam C.J. Walker (Sarah Breedlove) was an African American entrepreneur & philanthropist. She was the first black female self- made millionaire in America. Walker made her fortune through the development and marketing of cosmetics and hair care products for black women, the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company. She and her husband moved to Indianapolis and founded the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1910. The business expanded into a factory, hair salon, and beauty school to train her sales agents. They added a laboratory to help with research. Many of her company’s employees, including those in key management and staff positions, were women.

During this month, which is Women’s History Month, I chose to write about Madam C.J. Walker because she is an absolute inspiration to me. She lived during a time that African Americans and women where denied the right to certain privileges. And not to mention, a time when they made it hard for people of color to have a decent life. Her dream gave birth to one of the cornerstones of Black Culture. Sure, she had numerous setbacks along the way, but she never gave up. Madam C.J. Walker fought to see her dream come into fruition. I have my own goals and dreams on which I am currently working. I am 49 years old, and I am a mother. I have sacrificed a lot. Now, I am putting myself first and doing what I have always wanted. I re-enrolled into college last year and I am about to graduate with my associates degree. I will continue my education for a bachelor’s degree of social work in Fall 2022.

It has been a tough journey, but when I look at the successful African American women before me such as Madam C.J. Walker, I know I can do anything I put my mind to. Madam C.J. Walker was the first black female self-made millionaire. So, I ask myself, why can’t I be extremely successful? I believe wholeheartedly that I can, and I will be successful. From Madam C. J. Walker’s example birthed Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Shonda Rhimes, and many more. Madam C.J. Walker came from humble beginnings and STILL became successful. She is Black History & a Woman in History. She is iconic and she inspires me to hold steadfast to my dreams, no matter what.