Building a Beauty Empire

Walker Theatre CenterIn 1867, when Sarah Breedlove was born to former slaves on a Louisiana plantation, no one imagined she would found a beauty empire and become a self-made millionaire. Orphaned by seven, married at 14, and a widow by 20, young Sarah took her daughter and moved to St. Louis to join her brothers.

But when another setback caused Sarah’s hair to fall out, she wasn’t about to give up. Her search for a cure drove her to launch a business that would include training schools for sales reps and beauty advisors (years before the empire-building example of Mary Kay Ash, who would found Mary Kay Cosmetics).

By the time she died in 1919, the persistent young Sarah had become known as Madam C. J. Walker—self-made millionaire, business tycoon, and philanthropist. Check out the video and some great archival photos at Biography.