The stunning transformation of Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is more than a millionaire business mogul, she’s a living legend. Throughout her illustrious career, Stewart has done it all — from modeling to working in finance to catering for celebrities. She even hosted television programs and wrote top-selling books as well.
Despite personal setbacks — including a bitter divorce and, yes, an insider trading conviction and subsequent stint in prison — Stewart has maintained her reputation as America’s domestic role model, while continuing to build her brand into the mega success it is today. She may have a reputation for being slightly cold and haughty, but she’s still widely admired by fans and foes alike. After all, it’s hard to remain neutral to her innate talent as a chef, crafter, gardener, and all-around domestic doer. Perhaps that’s why she continues to charm a new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs and DIYers on social media (her Instagram account is on point).
Want to know how she got her start and became the wonder woman she is today? Read on to get the scoop — this is the stunning transformation of Martha Stewart.
Martha Stewart is from modest beginnings
Martha Stewart’s life story is certainly something for the record books. Most awe-inspiring is the fact that this mega-successful woman actually had a very modest, humble upbringing, according to her website. Growing up in the working-class town of Nutley, New Jersey in the ’40s and ’50s, Stewart was one of six children. Named after her mother — often referred to by the star as “Big Martha” — she was surrounded by cooking and sewing and all sorts of do-it-yourself projects. These formative years helped foster her love for creating and crafting.
While Big Martha helped influence Stewart’s innate talent, her father, Edward Kostyra, may have planted the seed of her huge success. Often referred to as a strict discipline-enforcer, Stewart’s father (and his perfunctory personality) instilled in Stewart a sense of persistence and drive (via People). In the Motto section of Time, the media mogul and domestic diva shared the most meaningful — albeit slightly generic — advice her dad ever gave her: “You can do anything you set your mind to!”
Martha Stewart got her start as a model
It is almost as if Martha Stewart had a whole other life before she became the famous DIY goddess success story she is hailed as today. Before she frosted her first cake on screen, or shared a technique for gardening (here are some gardening hacks you wish you knew sooner), she appeared in magazine editorials, ads, and catalogs as a model. In high school, the 5’9″ inch beauty was busy with gigs in the modeling world, as noted in her biography on her website.
When Stewart moved to New York City to attend Barnard College on a scholarship in the late ’50s, she continued to work as a model, walking various high-end runways and posing for the camera for campaigns. With a beautiful face and a flattering figure, Stewart earned about $50 per hour — quite the lucrative gig not just at the time, but also by today’s standards. Her clients ranged from Chanel to Unilever, and she juggled this all while simultaneously earning a college degree (via Business Insider).
Martha Stewart worked as a stock broker
Martha Stewart may know how to properly fold a fitted sheet and can cook a homemade supper like the ultimate retro housewife, but do not be fooled by her domesticity. In addition to building herself an empire from the ground up, Stewart is highly educated and incredibly smart.
While she originally considered being a chemistry major at Barnard College, as noted by Business Insider, she actually graduated from the elite New York City institution in 1963 with a degree in architectural history. But instead of taking a gig in her field of study, Stewart went to work as an institutional stock broker.
One of very few women in the business at the time, Stewart learned the basics of managing money, and became a stellar salesperson at the boutique firm Pearlberg, Monness. She was there for seven years before she decided to try her hand at entrepreneurship (via The Guardian). Still, Stewart credits her training there as a foundation for her budding industry acumen: “The job taught me so much about what it takes to build a real business, a real company — a meaningful and useful enterprise,” she explained on her website.
Martha Stewart taught herself to cook and launched her own catering business
While Martha Stewart’s career in finance was certainly promising and lucrative (she made a six-figure salary in the ’70s, as noted by Investopedia), she still decided to branch off and start her own business a little bit closer to her home — and dearer to her heart. To that end, Stewart launched a catering company from her own kitchen in Westport, Connecticut in 1976, per her website.
Of course, Stewart always had a love for cooking, and had the basics down pat thanks to informal training by Big Martha. But she decided to take her culinary knowledge to the next level by reading and recreating many of the edible masterpieces in Julia Child’s traditional French cookbooks, as reported by Fox News.
Stewart’s homey but elevated twist on classic comfort foods had a mass appeal, and her small business quickly became a big success; she made a name for herself locally and nationally. Within a decade, her business was worth $1 million, and she was the go-to catering service for celebrity clients and major corporations (via Biography).
Martha Stewart went through a bitter divorce in the public eye and learned some life lessons
In 1961, Martha Stewart married Yale law student Andy Stewart. And while their marriage would last two decades, ultimately, it wouldn’t be as successful as her budding business.
A People article dated back to 1995 quoted Andy Stewart in 1980: “Martha is not tolerant of my negligence or my foolishness or my eccentricities.” Seven years later, Andy left Martha and “reportedly obtained a court order forbidding Martha to speak to him.” Did Stewart’s legendary perfectionism drive their marriage to its eventual demise? While it may have played a part, details remain speculative. In 1993, Andy Stewart married Robyn Fairclough, a former assistant to Martha Stewart.
Many sources close to Stewart say the whole period was extremely difficult for her. Still, Stewart pushed on. And as for her advice to others going through a similar situation? She told former real housewife Bethenny Frankel (and a viewing audience) on an episode of the talk show Bethenny that “the best thing to do is think of your partner as a piece of you-know-what….it’s over and get on with your life.”
Martha Stewart has evolved as a mother, but she's still an imperfect one
As America’s homemaker, Martha Stewart might seem like a natural-born nurturer, but balancing motherhood with a growing empire is no easy feat — even for the ultimate Jill of all trades. As her business expanded, her daughter, Alexis Stewart — here’s what Martha Stewart’s daughter looks like today — would sometimes get the short end of the stick.
A bombshell book by Alexis, entitled Whateverland: Learning to Live Here, detailed the ups-and-downs of their dynamic mother-daughter relationship. As detailed by ABC News, Alexis refers to her mother as having a “very hands-off approach to child rearing,” and talks about having to wrap her own Christmas presents.
Martha certainly has a reputation for not being the warmest, and she admits to not coddling her daughter. When asked by Parents about her philosophy on raising kids, she said that you should “treat your child as you would any adult. With, you know, good conversion, with good instruction, with good encouragement.” She added that children are both smarter and just as civil as adults, so you don’t need to treat them like babies. Instead, give them encouragement and nurture their thought process.
Martha Stewart survived prison and emerged from scandal stronger than ever
In 2004, Martha Stewart spent five months in a minimum-security prison. This was after she was charged with impeding a federal investigation into her sale of stock just before the price plunged (via NBC News). It certainly wasn’t Stewart’s proudest moment; nevertheless, she soldiered on. Upon her release from incarceration, she spent a few months under house arrest where she continued to dream up big plans for her corporate comeback.
Stewart opened about the ordeal on Katie Couric’s podcast, as reported by Today. “It was horrifying, and no one — no one — should have to go through that kind of indignity, really, except for murderers,” she shared. “That you can make lemons out of lemonade? What hurts you makes you stronger? No. None of those adages fit at all.”
Despite the experience, Stewart refuses to be defined by that low point. “I don’t want that to be the major thing of my life,” she continued. “I was a strong person to start with and thank heavens I was.” That’s why Stewart continues to hold her head high.
Martha Stewart isn't afraid to take risks in business and life
Martha Stewart knows a thing or two about taking risks in the pursuit of greatness. When she left a super lucrative job as a stockbroker to launch her own catering business, she was most definitely taking a big chance. But Stewart is clear that it was one fueled by passion and executed with savvy planning.
According to her website, in Stewart’s 2006 book The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Build, or Manage a Business, she shared her philosophy for making growth decisions. “Business is all about risk: assessing risk, managing risk,” she wrote. “Prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, and intellectually, and you will be able to differentiate a long shot from a good, well-calculated risk.”
Stewart also encourages her readers to take a deep breath before jumping headfirst into whatever endeavor they’re pursuing, as well as to trust their instincts, even when others may doubt them.
Martha Stewart accepts that balance is a myth, but has embraced this truth
Indeed it’s true that Martha Stewart sometimes had to choose which facet of her life thrived: her marriage, her relationship with her daughter, or her growing media business. More often than not, her company would take the lead in that scenario. “My life is my job, and my job is my life,” she wrote in her book The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Build, or Manage a Business.
While authoring books, publishing magazines, hosting television programs, and designing merchandise was and remains hard work, Stewart has always enjoyed the grind. “This passion for one’s work is just like an all-consuming love affair — something that all of us crave to experience but encounter only once or twice in a lifetime,” she wrote.
Stewart also said that she’s never been able to separate her work from the rest of her life, as she believes them to be intrinsically linked. “If you’ve found your passion in what you do, you’re very lucky,” she added.
Not all of Martha Stewart's endeavors have been a success, and she's okay with that
Martha Stewart has had massive success in her business, but she’s also had a few failures, too. Her post-prison 2005 spin-off of The Apprentice (AKA The Apprentice: Martha Stewart) was not the huge hit she (and NBC) hoped it would be, according to The Los Angeles Times. And while her daytime talk show was on air for several years, it lost traction when it moved to the Hallmark channel, and was eventually canceled for its low ratings. What’s more, Stewart has also had some legal troubles with her businesses. For example, in 2013, her company was involved in a lawsuit with Macy’s. Fortunately, the parties eventually reached a settlement (via Biography).
Perhaps the key to understanding Stewart’s true perspective on failure can be gleaned from an interview in Us Weekly. When asked if she had ever had a “food fail,” Stewart replied that she had. But the key to rising above a faux pas, according to the media maven, is to “cover it up.”
Nevertheless, as an ambitious perfectionist, Stewart will perpetually reinvent herself in the pursuit of opportunity; no setback could stop her.
Martha Stewart surrounds herself with interesting, unique, and inspiring people
Throughout her multi-decade career, Martha Stewart has collaborated and schmoozed with countless A-list celebrities and movers and shakers.
Of course, her most befuddling (and amusing) relationship is the friendship Martha Stewart has with Snoop Dogg. The perplexing pair met in 2008 when he appeared on The Martha Stewart Show. They had great chemistry and kept in touch. When they sat next to each other at Comedy Central’s roast of Justin Bieber, Stewart was full of humor and supposedly high on Snoop’s secondhand marijuana smoke. Their status as besties was solidified, and in 2016, they teamed up to create: Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party on VH1 (via O, The Oprah Magazine).
Stewart may have friends in high places, but one celebrity she’s perhaps not so keen on is Gwyneth Paltrow. Sources claim that the women have been in a feud since Paltrow launched her own lifestyle company. In 2019, Stewart told Alex Rodriguez on his podcast The Corp that she doesn’t “follow” Goop. She continued with some seemingly backhanded regards, saying, “I wish every young entrepreneur well… if they’re movie stars or hardworking women like I am, who are not movie stars.”
Martha Stewart is self-made, rich, and proud of it
In 2019, Martha Stewart’s net worth was approximately $628 million. What’s even more amazing is that she became the first self-made female billionaire in 1999, when she took Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia public. Of course, her business has certainly had its ups and downs along the way. But despite any difficulties that Stewart has encountered, her impact on the worlds of publishing, merchandising, and television cannot be denied (via Investopedia).
From a New Jersey girl who made her own clothing to the celebrated mogul she is today, Stewart is proud of her success, and she’ll never stop reinventing herself. As reported by Entrepreneur, in 2013 at the National Association of Professional Women’s networking conference, Stewart knocked the idea of laying low. “You should never retire; you shouldn’t even use the word,” she proclaimed. “It implies going off into the sunset, and who wants to do that?” Our girl has some crazy ambition!
Stewart added that there’s always another opportunity around the corner, and something else to be learned and understood.
Martha Stewart continues to expand her empire
Martha Stewart keeps busy no matter what life throws at her, and is always growing her brand and expanding her empire. No, she’s not one to soak up the quiet — even during a pandemic.
You might think that Stewart would’ve thrived during the 2020 shelter-in-place order, doing projects and baking things. Instead, she got ready to launch a new show: Martha Knows Best on HGTV. “I am thrilled to be… sharing everything I have been working on at my home during quarantine,” she said in a statement cited by Today. “The show focuses on many aspects of everyday living and home keeping, with the goal to teach and inspire viewers to incorporate what works for them into their own homes.”
A gardening show is on brand for Stewart, but signing on to advise a cannabis company is a riskier choice. In 2019, Stewart joined forces with Canopy Growth, to help them develop CBD-infused products, as reported by Reuters. Around the same time, she also launched a collection of home goods inspired by four of her homes — so that fans can truly live like Martha (via her website).
Martha Stewart isn't ashamed to be a sexy older woman
She’s still got it! In July of 2020, Martha Stewart shared an Instagram post that had everyone talking. Peeking out of her pool at her house in East Hampton, the social media snap got a lot of attention, scoring hundreds of thousands of likes. The photo was even referred to by Glamour and other publications as a “thirst trap” — meaning that the domestic diva knew she looked hot as hell.
Stewart pretty much admitted as much in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “[I] just thought I looked great coming out of the pool,” she revealed. “My camera came on backwards, you know, selfie mode, and I looked so nice.” Once she saw the way that the sun was hitting her face, she realized how pretty she looked, and she promptly took a picture. Furthermore, she told E! News that the photo resulted in her receiving no less than 14 proposals. “I don’t know what for, but they’re proposals,” she explained to the outlet.
Sexy, confident, and still as sharp as a tack — don’t ever change, Martha.
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