These days store shelves are filled with products made for Black hair. But you can’t have a conversation about Black hair products without mentioning the OG, Madam C.J. Walker. She changed the game in the early 1900s with her homemade line of hair products for Black women, which made her the first American self-made millionaire.
Today, over a century after Madam Walker launched her revolutionary brand, it is getting an exciting reboot. MADAM by Madam C.J. Walker is a line of hair care products from Sundial Brands designed to care for textured hair from scalp to strand. The 11-product line is available at select Walmart stores and online at Walmart.com. And the best part, everything is under ten dollars.
We spoke with A’Lelia Bundles, the great-great-granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker, and Cara Sabin, CEO of Sundial Brands, about the special partnership they created to share Madam Walker’s vision of healthy hair with a new generation.
Bundles and Sabin began collaborating on the MADAM brand at the beginning of the pandemic with the same goal in mind – high-quality products that were widely accessible and honored Madam Walker’s legacy in the best way possible. “I have a great respect for history,” Sabin said. “And I knew having [A’Lelia] by our side would guide us in the most authentic way.”
As they developed their products, Sabin says the team recognized that Black women are constantly rediscovering their relationship with their hair. And they wanted to make sure the MADAM line included something for everyone. “For the past several years, there has been a lot of focus in Black hair care on natural hair and the pursuit of the perfect coil,” she said. “We wanted to honor all of the different facets of how [a Black woman] wants to express herself.” The result – a line that respects, protects and perfects the infinite number of ways Black women choose to wear their hair.
Sabin says the scalp-to-strand system is what sets the MADAM line apart from other products on the market. In addition to the shampoo, conditioner and styling products, the line includes scalp products uniquely formulated for textured hair, something she says the market was missing. “The original line from Madam Walker was all about scalp health, which is the key to healthy hair,” she said. “A lot of scalp products are very stripping, which can be the death of textured hair. We wanted to strike a balance between having healthy ingredients for the scalp and hydrating textured hair.”
“Our homage [to Madam Walker] is the Wonderful Hair and Scalp Balm to Oil. The consistency looks like the original product, but the technology has been updated to replace some of the ingredients we no longer use,” Bundles added.
Although the brand is steeped in Madam Walker’s legacy, Sabin says they are relying on social media and beauty influencers for a fresh perspective that reaches a younger audience. “We made a concerted effort to tailor the campaign so it would be able to live and thrive in an environment like TikTok,” she said. “We wanted to break expectations and express this over 100-year-old brand in a way that feels fresh and unexpected.”
But she adds that their customers don’t have to be convinced to embrace the beauty of their natural hair. “The consumer we’re speaking with loves her hair and doesn’t need to be told to accept it. She’s just looking for tools to help her be the best version of herself,” she said.
Bundles says she’s proud of the MADAM line and loves that she can share her great-great-grandmother’s story with a new generation. “For years, I’ve been writing and speaking about her. And someone always asks if they can still buy the products. Now I can say ‘yes, and they’re great!’”