Martha Stewart opens up about prison: ‘that was a terrible time’

One of the last times that Martha Stewart alluded to her time in prison was back in October when she was a panelist at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit. She was asked about Felicity Huffman’s prison style. The title of the panel was “The Future of Cooking With Martha Stewart and David Zaslav,” so, sure, talking about newly surfaced paparazzi photos of Felicity Huffman in her prison uniform makes absolute sense. The host asked Martha whether she thought Felicity had learned anything while she was in prison. Martha’s answer was perfunctory: She said that Felicity should “style her outfit a little bit more,” and that she looked “schlumpy.” Martha ended on a slightly more grave note and said of Felicity, “She made a horrible mistake, and she’s experiencing what happens.”

Martha only went on the record about her prison experience in 2017, telling Today that it was a “horrifying experience”: “That you can make lemons out of lemonade? What hurts you makes you stronger? No. None of those adages fit at all. It’s a horrible experience. Nothing is good about it, nothing.”

Martha again spoke with Today about her time in prison when she sat down with Jill Martin on the debut episode of “Shop the Stars with Jill Martin.” Jill interviews celebrities with their own businesses. Ciewers are able to buy just about everything they see on the show (as well as Jill’s outfit and the set pieces). Martha talked about creating her empire and shared some information that even her longtime fans might not know.

Martha on how curiosity led to the foundation of her business
“I’m curious about everything… I’m always looking for new things, new ways to do things — that’s my business.

“I was one of six kids and two working parents… We were taught to work, we were encouraged to pay our own way, and we all did.”

Martha on the “ups and downs of her career” and how she “overcame” the low points:
“My biggest break really was starting a fine company with a fine staff and a fine bunch of colleagues. That, to me, really meant the most.”

“Having serious personal problems like my marriage dissolving and the horrible legal problem I had, where I had to go to jail for five months — that was a terrible time.”

“It’s all about what you are and who you are. And I never lost my customers because my customers believed in me. That gave me the wherewithal to just continue along my happy path.”

[From Today]

I’d forgotten this if I already knew it: Martha’s curiosity and work ethic led her to become American’s first female self-made billionaire in 1999. She’s just released her 96th(!) book: Martha Stewart’s Organizing: The Manual for Bringing Order to Your Life, Home & Routine, a collaboration with California Closets.

I respect that Martha is always serious when she talks about her time in prison: She’s honest about it. It wasn’t supposed to be a vacation, and she had a terrible time there. She doesn’t try to play it up for sympathy. I don’t recall a bunch of headlines about her trying to get out of it, though she’d not wanted to go to West Virginia because she’d said that it would make it difficult for her then-90-year-old mother to visit. And now she’s again focusing on her brand and her work and shading people.

Note by Celebitchy: Look what Martha wore to the VF Oscar Party.
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34 Responses to “Martha Stewart opens up about prison: ‘that was a terrible time’”

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  1. Erinn says:

    I remember my great aunt watched a lot of Martha. I remember when it was announced that she was going to jail – my great aunt just liked her more hahaha. She wasn’t the typical Martha watcher, she was tough as nails and the kind of great aunt that would drive you to get a tattoo if you wanted one – she was just the best. So I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Martha, because of all that.

    • Tash says:

      Awww this made me smile:-)
      And yes, I have a soft spot for Martha as well. You have to admire and respect what she accomplished.
      She looked great at the VF party!!

  2. theotherViv says:

    I for one am not gonna shame her. The older I get the more I realize everyone should wear whatever the heck they want. I almost left my partner when he felt the need to complain that my 70 yr old mom was too old to wear a bikini. She looked great. I have had to endure looking at so so many less than mildly attractive older men in all states of undress that I intend to wear bikinis, shorts and minis until I drop dead one day.

    • SomeChick says:

      I’ve always loved Martha. Her food is delicious. Her friendship with Snoop Dogg is such fun!

      My only gripe is that she will dirty every pot in your kitchen. Homegirl does NOT do her own dishes!

      • AnnaKist says:

        Ha! I’m in Australia and watching an episode of Martha Bakes right now! (I’m a hard-core nig ht owl.) You’re right; umpteen prep bowls, mixing bowls, pots, utensils… aarrrgh. I’d chuck her out of my kitchen quick-smart!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I love her and I always have.

  4. HK9 says:

    I love Martha Stewart, and the fact that she’s got great legs AND is brave enough to show them. Really, as you age, you should be able to wear whatever the heckety heck you want and be happy.

  5. Originaltessa says:

    I think you can make lemonade out of lemons for a two week stay, but five months? Yeah, that sucks. That’s a long time. You live there now.

  6. McMom says:

    I respect the heck out of Martha. People forget what an impact she’s had on American style – she made taste accessible to everyone.

    I remember reading right after prison that she was wearing a poncho that had been made by a female inmate. I can’t remember if it was a gift or if she was supporting a cottage industry, but either way, I liked how she was subtly calling attention to the lives of incarcerated women. It was very Martha.

    Her legs look great and her dress is fun. Wear whatever the heck you want, Martha!

    • Esmom says:

      Agreed. In this day and age, where home, style and food shows and blogs and mags are ubiquitous, young people probably have no idea how massively earthshaking her impact was. I got married in the mid 90s and her pale green cookbook was THE book to have and her Living magazine was a bible that ushered in what I think is the modern era of design and style for the masses.

      I like the retro look of her dress and styling, she looks as good now as she did in the 90s.

      • McMom says:

        Esmom – I got married (the first time) in the late 90s and I poured over “Martha Stewart Weddings” magazine. My cake table was directly from her magazine and I took a picture of a dress from one of her layouts to my seamstress as an inspiration for my gown. Her style was simple but elegant – you didn’t have to worry about being tacky if you followed her direction. I’m not a big fan of Halloween, but her Halloween decorating suggestions are perfect – fun and seasonal, but modern and tasteful.

  7. Auntieof3 says:

    I saw her speak last year at NYBG in NY. She was hilarious. So self deprecating and really did a great slideshow on her gardens. She really is so talented & hands on. Also could not believe how good she looks for her age. Good plastic surgeon!

  8. margedebarge says:

    Obviously this is unverifiable but my cousin used to be a personal assistant to someone important in NYC (business, not celebrity, so I don’t remember who) and got to accompany her boss to an Easter brunch at Martha’s place in the Hamptons. She said Martha told an anecdote about losing a Christmas ornament making competition in prison. I have no idea if it’s true or not but its the first thing I think of when Martha Stewart is mentioned.

    I’ve got respect for her. She made a big mistake, took her lumps, and kept on moving.

    • Sass says:

      It’s actually verifiable because I remember reading about it when it was first reported, and you can still find links to the story online. Her team lost.

  9. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    She looks wonderful in her VF dress and them legs tho! I plan on wearing mini skirts and short dresses for as long as I can too.

  10. Jess says:

    I respect and like her more and more. And I love her dress and how she looks at that party!

  11. Trish-a says:

    Yes owning your mistake and moving on. Successfully. She looks great! Those legs! I think that dress is so fun.

  12. Betsy says:

    That she got scapegoated and sent to jail and none of the other bozos equally guilty of the same crime and far, far worse did has always made me incandescent with rage. As it does that the entire Trump administration is committing far worse financial crimes and nothing.

    She looks great in that dress. It’s a little young, but eh. I’m sick of policing sht and if I had legs like that, I’d wear it too.

    • Sankay says:

      This. It was insider trading in which she received less than $1K and it was after she was just named the richest woman in business. A lot of men were angry and jealous and IMO went after her to knock her down a peg.

    • What. . .now? says:

      I remember being pissed as hell that she was the only one who went to jail. And I had no idea about James Comey being involved. Figures. Whenever I even hear/read his name all I can do is think (&*&^(&(^(^%(*)*%$%@@&^()))**& .

      Martha is an amazing woman, and I can see why she’s friends with Snoop. She said Snoop is actually a really good cook — high praise from Martha!

      And she looks fab in that dress–her legs are still rocking so why not?

  13. Blerg says:

    I do not have a soft spot for Martha, because she is deeply unkind, and has left a lifelong wake of destruction behind her. However, I do respect her work ethic, and the excellence in those home interiors.

    • SamC says:

      This! Met her years ago, when she first partnered with KMart and I was working a new store opening where she was on hand to set up and be a special opening day guest. She was horrible to work for and deal with. Dismissive, mean, berated everyone and anyone, one of the most unpleasant people I’ve met. Respect her work ethic and her Martha Stewart towels were amazing, but no soft spot for her, at all.

  14. Kristen says:

    She looks so beautiful in that black dress with the gold pearls, love it!
    She is an absolute legend. I really admire her business acumen and perseverance, she is a female powerhouse.

  15. Texas says:

    Her cookbooks are excellent. The recipes always work and taste great.

  16. Sass says:

    Weirdly Martha was always mocked where I grew up…in Charleston, SC. Where one would think she’d be embraced. When she went to jail I remember people mocking her and I was rather young so stayed quiet but felt bad for her. You see, I had a “shameful” secret crush on Martha for being so exceptional at everything she did. In my adult years I said fck it and embraced it. She’s a total boss.


  17. Marigold says:

    I met Martha once–only once, and very briefly–when I was a bookseller at an independent bookstore in Clayton, MO (It’s been sold to a chain now, I believe). She was on a book signing tour, and she was a mixture of things.

    She was a total diva, and she was rude to several of our staff. I didn’t work directly on the signing at all. She refused to sign any books except the one she was there to promote. I no longer remember the title, but I’d know the cover if I saw it–mid-1990’s. Anyway, she was super professional and courteous to the customers, but she was flat-out unkind to everyone else. I was very young and was totally deflated to find a personal hero of mine was so imperfect.

    Still, I was angry when they focused on her so hard and sent her to prison. It was so obviously something others had done far worse and gotten away with totally. They went after her because she was a woman and she was famous and self-made. Anyway, after she got out, she seemed SO different from the woman I met in the ’90’s. She hasn’t shown even a hint of the hubris and elitism I saw in her from before.

    She’s a senior woman who has lived an incredible life and achieved incredible things. She is beautiful, and she can wear whatever she pleases. Women who’ve earned their grey hair deserve a modicum of respect, and if she wants to show off her knees, it ain’t nobody’s business but her own.

    Martha seems to have grown and evolved and learned things about the world and herself and other people. That is extremely rare for people who have been rich and powerful as long as she has. That combo of money and power is generally pure poison, and she has come out the other side of her terrible times a brighter and more interesting…and kinder human being. Mad respect from me.

  18. holly hobby says:

    I really admire her for owning up to her mistakes and serving her time without complaint (hear that Aunt Becky). Her magazines are fabulous and I pretty much own every tool from her Michael’s craft line.

    Yes she can be hard to work for. That is well documented but she’s a hard worker and she is a survivor. Plus she didn’t need anus mouth to “pardon” her. Unlike the dum dums who accepted his pardons (Eddie DeBartolo, Rob B. – shame on you).

  19. Wowowow says:

    I know she’s unethical in terms of doing illegal stuff (sorry, insider trading does have victims; it’s not a victim-less crime) but I sort of admire her grit and moxy. I like how this women is kind of this “American success story” with all these sharp edges to her. Is that wrong? Is it one dimensional and vulgar to admire someone so blatantly self-interested? What does it say about me?

  20. paddingtonjr says:

    Martha Stewart was my introduction to “aspirational lifestyle”; I had just graduated from college, was engaged and devoured her magazines and catalogs for the ideas on building the “perfect” life. I still follow her and respect her grit and determination to succeed. She not only built an empire once, but came back after her prison sentence and rebuilt the business when many said she was done and would fade away as a cautionary tale. She has embraced new technology and media to build on her success. She is able to laugh at herself and her image and stay relevant in pop culture. And yes, I love her friendship with Snoop Dog and shade towards people such as Goopy.

    I remember her interview with Barbara Walters before she went to prison: she was honest, humbled and scared and took full responsibility for her actions. I admired her for that then and respect her for continuing to be honest about her experiences when asked but not dwelling on them.

  21. smee says:

    I stone-cold stan Martha.

    It pisses me off every time I think of her doing time for what is business-as-usual for rich white men.

    I love her cookbooks, she influenced my kitchen style and she loves weed too. She dresses in an age-appropriate/age-friendly style too….. What’s not to love?!

  22. Nev says:

    she’s amazing.