Harlem World Magazine spoke to A’Lelia Bundles, the Great-Great Granddaughter of Madam CJ Walker, about her fabulous history and some of the projects she’s working on these days.
Mrs. Bundles has been an incredible resource for HWM informing our readers and listeners with interviews and podcasts about her Great-Great Grandmother who lived in the Dark Tower on 108 West 136th Street in Harlem during the 1920s.
It’s great to hear of the new products created in honor of MADAM by Madam CJ Walker beauty products and that Ms. Bundles were available to discuss the launch and the history behind the brand project. Here’s the interview with A’Lelia Bundles:
Harlem World Magazine: Who came up with the concept for the MADAM by Madam CJ Walker?
A’Lelia Bundles: MADAM by Madam CJ Walker has been a model of collaboration with our Sundial Brands and Walmart partners. Because of Cara Sabin, CEO, of Sundial Brands and Beauty & Wellbeing North America, Unilever, I participated in early brainstorming sessions about product concept, packaging, messaging, and marketing. As MADAM brand historian, I shared vintage photos and Walker Company history with the team early in the process to provide context. I especially loved the energy and vision of the creatives who really grasped the legacy power of the brand. I’m very grateful that they honored Madam Walker’s original intentions while updating the look and feel for a 21 st century consumer.
HWM: What can you tell us about the different types of products in the line?
AB: For the launch of MADAM by Madam CJ Walker, we introduced what we call our Scalp to Strand System because we wanted to amplify Madam Walker’s philosophy that healthy, strong hair begins with a healthy, nourished scalp. We also wanted to give our consumers the freedom and confidence to style their hair the way they want, whenever they want. From natural and protective styles to heated and relaxed options, our Scalp to Strand’s proprietary “damage-defying” technology helps repair and strengthen textured hair from the roots to the ends. Our 11 products include cleansers, conditioners and styling gels, serums, and sprays for individual hair care regimens.
HWM: Do you have any favorite products?
AB: My personal favorites for my wash day regimen are our Revive & Reset Shampoo, Strengthen & Restore Conditioner, Split End Smoothing Serum, and a small amount of Stretch & Define Curl Cream. For a daily style refresher, I use a pea-size or dime-size amount of our Wonderful Hair & Scalp Balm-to-Oil, which was inspired by one of Madam Walker’s original products. With winter coming, I know I’ll be using our Instant Repair Deep Conditioner more often. Our Healthy Scalp Serum and Strengthen & Shine Braid Spray have many fans. I recommend experimenting because we have such a variety of hair textures, so what works for me may not work for you. And what works in the summer may not be what you need in the winter.
HWM: When was the launch date of the products? Where can readers purchase the MADAM by Madam CJ Walker products?
AB: Our line launched on January 31 st in collaboration with Walmart’s 3,000 stores nationwide and online at Walmart.com. We were very intentional about having an affordable price point at a retailer with Walmart’s reach, especially in these times when we’re all trying to stretch a dollar.
HMW: As we live with COVID, still reeling from BLM, why were the products released now?
AB: Especially during times of challenge, we need to pay special attention to self-care and self-love. There has never been a time when Black people weren’t facing challenges, so we’ve always had to find ways to fortify ourselves. Sometimes personal pampering is the best way to get ready for life’s daily challenges and to boost self-confidence. What we see in the mirror is very much a reflection of what we’re feeling inside.
Why now? During the first months of COVID, most beauty salons weren’t open so many of us had to adjust our hair care regimens. This gave MADAM by Madam CJ Walker an opening for consumers to take a look at us and to try our products. Many people who were at home and working remotely had a chance to do a big chop or grow their hair long or experiment with natural styles. We have something for all those options.
We know that our hair has been politicized for centuries and that many of us have felt the pressure to conform, but at MADAM by Madam CJ Walker, we celebrate textured hair and advocate for the freedom to style your hair however you wish. We’re particularly proud that the CROWN Act was initiated by Dove, MADAM’s sister brand. Our motto — Respect. Protection. Perfect. – celebrates the many dimensions of Black women and girls.
HMW: How does it feel being the Great-Great Granddaughter of Madam CJ Walker and seeing how far the brand has come?
AB: I am thrilled to continue my great-great grandmother’s legacy with the launch of MADAM by Madam CJ Walker. It’s particularly gratifying to be in partnership with stellar Black women leaders at Sundial Brands and Walmart because they understand the importance of incorporating Madam Walker’s spirit of women’s empowerment in everything we do.
We worked together to merge 100 years of research, development, science, and technology to ensure that the products are as innovative and effective as the original Madam CJ Walker line.
HMW: How different is the hair recipe from Madam CJ Walker’s original products?
AB: Our Scalp to Strand System continues Madam Walker’s goal of promoting healthy scalps and healthy hair. Her original products – Vegetable Shampoo and Wonderful Hair Grower – were revolutionary when she founded her company in 1906. Her Walker System addressed the specific needs of the times when there were very few commercially available hair care options for Black women. MADAM by Madam CJ Walker’s innovative formulas are inspired by the original formulas, and benefit from more than a century of research and development specifically focused on textured hair. It’s important to me that Sundial’s laboratory team employed 21 st century science and technology to take Madam Walker’s original ideas to a new and equally effective level.
HMW: How can Harlem World Magazine readers find out more about MADAM by Madam CJ Walker?
AB: To find out more about the beauty line, you can visit the MADAM by CJ Walker website and our Instagram and TikTok accounts.
HMW: Do you have any insider tips for people wanting to use the products?
AB: I’m very conscious of the fact that each of us has her own unique hair journey. We carry all of our ancestors and their DNA in each strand of our hair so what works for me may not work for you. What works for you, may not be what your daughter or your mother needs. The particular combination of MADAM by Madam CJ Walker products that is exactly right during the summer may need to be adjusted during the winter when we’re indoors where the air is drier. If we exercise regularly, we need to be aware of perspiration. Those who use heat and chemical straighteners will need to deep condition more often. We were very intentional about creating formulas and solutions at affordable prices, so I hope you’ll experiment to see what works for you. Start with Revive & Reset Shampoo, Strengthen & Restore Conditioner, Split End Smoothing Serum, Healthy Scalp Serum and
Wonderful Hair & Scalp Balm-to-Oil. My advice really is to be kind and patient with yourself on your hair journey. Learn what works for you and what flatters you.
HWM: Is there anything you would like to add, such as reasons why readers will enjoy products?
AB: During every step of the process, we were conscious of trying to design products that addressed the many facets of today’s Black women and girls. As Black women, we know the importance of being seen and the power of community and self-love. We are proud of our MADAM by Madam CJ Walker beauty line not only because of the incredible products but because our brand’s founder still inspires us. In the spirit of Madam Walker, we know there is nothing more powerful than a Black woman who believes in herself when she goes out into the world!
HWM: As usual, thank you for an amazing story and good luck with the new MADAM by Madam CJ Walker beauty product line.
AB: Thank you.
HMW: Thank you.
How could we have a new product launch and not have a reader Challenge. So, we challenged reader Susie to test some of the new MADAM by Madam CJ Walker beauty products. Here’s the interview:
Harlem World Magazine: How did you use the product?
Susie: I used the Revive and Reset Shampoo twice for washing my hair. I put the Strengthen and Restore Conditioner on my hair while still wet, left it in for 15 minutes, and then washed it out. Later I put the Smooth and Sleek Heat Protectant Spray on my hair while still wet and blow-dried my hair.
HWM: How did it feel?
Susie: The shampoo and conditioner made my hair feel soft and silky
HWM: Was it hard to wash it out?
Susie: No, thanks to it being silky it was easy to wash out.
HWM: Did you like the product?
Susie: Yes, I did
HWM: Was there anything you didn’t like about the product?
Susie: I wish the scent was stronger. I could barely smell it.
HWM: Would you recommend it to a friend? Why or why not?
Susie: Yes, I would if I had friends who wash their own hair.
HWM: Would you buy and use it again? Why or why not?
Susie: Yes, I would purchase and use it again because as an African American woman, I’m in support of Madam CJ Walker’s products.
HWM: Thank you.
Susie: Thank you.
“We re-imagine, recreate, and redeem cultural omissions and misrepresentations of Blackness, for the culture. ….” This post is made in partnership with British Pathé.