40 Startling Facts About Martha Stewart That Cast Her Life In A Whole New Light

Of course, many of us will have heard of the multi-millionaire domestic diva and ex-con Martha Stewart. Her brand of neatly coiffed hair and stylish yet comfortable outfits creates a style that many aspire to. However, you might be surprised by what happened on her journey to get where she is today.

40. She’s how old?

Despite looking perennially youthful, Stewart will actually turn 80 in 2021. Martha Helen Kostyra was born in August 1941 in New Jersey to Polish immigrants, who came to the U.S. just after the turn of the century. Furthermore, she was the second of six children and grew up in the township of Nutley.

39. Martha and ‘Big Martha’

Stewart was close to her late mom, who was nicknamed “Big Martha” by the family. When the businesswoman went to prison in 2004, she requested to not be placed in a facility too far away from her then-90-year-old mother to visit. But Stewart’s wish was rejected and she served her sentence at the remote Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia.

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38. Learning the ropes

According to Stewart’s eponymous website, her parents were “avid do-it-yourselfers” who passed on their skills on. The star’s mom taught her to cook and sew, and Stewart’s dad’s love of gardening was inherited, too. What’s more, her grandparents showed the youngster how to can and preserve food.

37. Sitting for the Yankees

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At the age of ten, the future lifestyle guru started babysitting for several players of the New York Yankees baseball team. Stewart’s clients included Mickey Mantle and his wife Merlyn, who had four sons. As well as sitting for the family, she also organized birthday parties for their kids, according to Jane Leavy’s book The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood.

36. Modeling in her early years

Stewart is 5 foot 9 inches tall, and she started modeling at the age of just 13. Lucrative jobs for brands such as Chanel, Lifebuoy soap, Clairol and Breck helped pay for her studies at college. She explained in the documentary Makers, “I got enough modeling jobs at $50 an hour, which was a lot of money at that time.”

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35. Brains as well as beauty

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Stewart planned to major in chemistry at Barnard College of Columbia University, but she changed this to art and history, before finally settling with architectural history. While at college, the star was introduced to her future husband Andrew Stewart, who studied law at the prestigious Yale Law School.

34. Stewart was a young bride

The star married at the tender age of just 19 before she’d even finished college. And after Stewart’s marriage to Andrew in July 1961, she took a year off her studies before returning to Barnard. It didn’t seem to affect her grades though, and the future TV personality graduated with a double major.

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33. She sacrificed her marriage

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Interestingly, Stewart has admitted in the past that her career came before married life. The couple had their only child – daughter Alexis – in 1965 and the relationship would break down 22 years later. Stewart told CNN in 2017, “I had to sacrifice a marriage because of the lure of the great job, the fabulous workplace. But I don’t regret it at all, because what I’ve done is something bigger and better than just one marriage.”

32. Stewart worked in finance

In 1967 the former model started working as a stockbroker for a firm on Wall Street. Stewart had a natural business head on her shoulders, and she made as much as $135,000 annually – almost $800,000 in today’s money – during her years in the profession. But the 1973 stock market crash would go on to prompt a change of career.

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31. Finding her calling

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Stewart’s transition into a domestic goddess wasn’t all smooth sailing at first, unfortunately. She set up a flourishing catering business with friend and model Norma Collier in 1976 at her converted farmhouse in Connecticut. However, they fell out after the latter alleged that Stewart was surreptitiously taking on clients on her own.

30. She struck gold

The entrepreneur went on to publish several cookery books before launching the magazine Martha Stewart Living in 1990. And this publication would go on to sell more than two million copies per issue just over a decade later. She also started a weekly TV show of the same name in 1993 which would run every day within a few years and carry on until 2004.

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29. Stewart is an Emmy veteran

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The star has won a total of 19 Emmys for her TV shows – including two Daytime Emmys in 1995 for Best Service Show Host and one for Best Service Show. She scooped further Daytime Emmys for Service Show Host in 1997, 2002 and 2003, and she received the Lifestyle or Culinary Host accolade eight years later.

28. She was declared one of the world’s most beautiful women in her 50s

The lifestyle magnate was called “the definitive American woman of our time” by New York Magazine in 1995. And People magazine also named Stewart as one of their “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” the following year. Aptly, she was in her mid-50s at the time.

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27. Stewart made an empire

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The television personality wanted to consolidate and control her business ventures under one umbrella. So, she got financial assistance to buy all the Martha Stewart TV, magazine and newspaper holdings, as well as her merchandising endeavors. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) was born in 1997, and two years later it went public on the stock market, where shares increased $20 by the end of trading on that first day.

26. She became the first female self-made billionaire

Stewart’s initial public offering made her a billionaire on paper and the first female self-made billionaire in America. And the term “self-made” is an important one here. While many women come into their fortunes through inheriting their money or divorcing a spouse, it is less common for women to become billionaires in their own right.

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25. The downfall of an icon

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Things were soon to fall apart, though. On December 27, 2001, Stewart sold all her nearly 4,000 shares in ImClone Systems. The company – which manufactured oncology medicines – failed to get the expected Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a new remedy called Erbitux. And that decision was announced on December 28.

24. A false economy like no other

By selling her shares the day before, Stewart avoided a loss of $45,673 when the value of the stock fell 16 percent. But this small saving was to come at an enormous cost for the billionaire. You see, Stewart had been illegally forewarned by her broker that the stocks were due to plummet.

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23. Avoiding the issue

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Stewart came heavily under fire in the media following the share sale scandal. Asked about it during a cookery segment she was appearing in on CBS, Stewart carried on slicing into a cabbage and said, “I want to focus on my salad.”

22. Falling from grace

Stewart quit her role on the New York Stock Exchange’s prestigious board in October 2002 – a job the disgraced lifestyle queen had only held for a mere four months. Then, the following June she was hit with the serious charges of securities fraud and obstruction of justice.

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21. M.Diddy in da house

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Stewart was sentenced to serve five months in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy, making false statements to federal investigators and obstruction of an agency proceeding. She was also forced to observe a two-year period of supervised release afterwards, spend five months being electronically tagged and pay a $30,000 fine. And in jail, the world-famous homemaking guru claimed that she was known as M.Diddy.

20. Stewart’s life was altered forever

The repercussions of Stewart’s criminal sentence were far-reaching. In 2008 she was denied entry to the U.K. because of her time in jail. In addition, Stewart was ordered to pay an almost $200,000 penalty to the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission as part of a related civil case against her which concluded in August 2006.

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19. An early bird to the end

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Even in her jail term, Stewart was nothing if not fastidious. She wasn’t required to report to prison before 2:00 p.m. on October 8, 2004, but the TV star showed up at 6:15 a.m. Although she put in a few extra hours than she’d been required, she was able to leave for good at 12:30 a.m. on the day of her release.

18. Back to work

Amazingly, Stewart began two TV shows within a few weeks of her home arrest finishing. She appeared on her daily talk show Martha within 14 days, and Celebrity Apprentice: Martha Stewart started just over a week later. However, the latter show failed to attract enough viewers and was subsequently cancelled.

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17. She knows which side her bread is buttered on

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Stewart raked in $10 million in 2009 – despite her company losing $15 million over the same period, Factinate reported. The TV star has reportedly used Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia money to pay for – among other things – non-business vacations she’s taken and costs incurred to stay in shape.

16. Stewart’s recovered pretty much unscathed

Amazingly, even after serving time in jail, the TV stalwart’s business empire has seemingly bounced back. Martha Stewart is now as much a household name as it ever was. However, in the eight years leading up to 2011, Martha Stewart Living was only in profit for one, according to New York Magazine.

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15. How many houses?

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Stewart has owned eight homes all at the same time, and she is definitely an East Coast kinda gal. According to her website, the entrepreneur has two apartments in Manhattan, two in the Hamptons, as well as homes in Connecticut and Bedford, New York. Visitors at Skylands – her current Maine dwelling – are subjected to compulsory hikes at 5:00 a.m.

14. She doesn’t shy away from controversy

Stewart got into trouble again in 2011 when Macy’s took her to court. Although the home-styling magnate had a contract with the retail giant, she started a partnership with rival department store chain JCPenney. However, things were smoothed over and the case was settled by 2014.

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13. Dating Hannibal the Cannibal

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Stewart once dated actor Anthony Hopkins, but the TV icon was put off him when she couldn’t get his psychopathic character Hannibal Lecter out of her head. This, of course, was the infamous serial-killing cannibal from The Silence of the Lambs – voted the greatest villain in American cinema by the American Film Institute. Apparently, Stewart ended the relationship.

12. An out-of-this-world romance

Stewart reportedly had an on-off 15-year relationship with the billionaire Charles Simonyi – a leading software expert who had worked for Microsoft. In 2007 he was a passenger onboard the spacecraft Soyuz, and Stewart showed a video of his journey on her TV show.

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11. She doesn’t sleep much

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Stewart is a workaholic and insomniac, and she only sleeps four hours a night. Even though the star frequently stays up late watching late-night TV, nonetheless she’ll get up ready for work a few hours later. She told WebMD, “It’s an exhausting lifestyle and I always say sleep can go. It’s not important to me right now.”

10. Stewart is a culinary maverick

The TV personality has an interesting taste in food; as a child, one of her favorite snacks was white onion sandwiches, according to Factinate. These days, she reportedly stands in front of the refrigerator and drinks buttermilk from the carton and eats pickles from the jar. Oh, and she apparently loves liverwurst.

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9. Some things are just too good to cook

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Stewart may be one of the most famous chefs in the world, but she doesn’t actually cook her favourite food. The star explained on her show Martha, “Japanese is my food of choice when I’m not cooking. I don’t cook it at home, because I feel it’s a special treat for me to go out, sit down and just enjoy the most elegant cuisine in the world.”

8. Stewart has hundreds of pets

The icon told Today, “I have hundreds and hundreds of pets – including flocks of chickens, geese… I have 13 peacocks, six horses, I have three donkeys, I have 45 canaries, I have three cats and four dogs at present. And those are the pets I know about.” Apparently, Stewart even has different languages that she talks to them in.

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7. Food on the brain

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The celebrity is a stickler for tidiness, and she reportedly once sent an email to her employees banning them from wearing black rubber-soled shoes to the office. The reason was that they left black streaks on the floor. However, she misspelled “streaks” and wrote “steaks.” A Freudian slipper, perhaps?

6. Unlikely musical tastes

You might not have put the two together, but Stewart is a fan of rapper Eminem, according to her website. She also recorded TV shows with her friend and rapper Snoop Dogg. Other TV appearances throughout the years include a cameo on Ugly Betty, where she showed the character of Wilhelmina Slater – portrayed by Vanessa Williams – how to prepare for the holidays.

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5. Stewart is a real bookworm

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As a child, Stewart would apparently go to the library with the aim of trying to read every book on the shelf. These days, she explained on the Martha show that it’s hard for her to pick a favourite book. However, two of Stewart’s most-loved tomes are Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

4. Color coordinating crazy

The mogul is also a stickler for matching decor. She’s obsessed with post-its, which she color-coordinates with the rest of her home furnishings. It’s also rumored that Stewart will only have black animals on her farm, as the tones in her country house have to be in black or grey.

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3. Trademarking her town

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Stewart lives in Katonah, in Bedford, New York. But she got into hot water with locals when she tried to trademark the name “Katonah” for a home furnishing and paint line, according to Factinate. Apparently, it was said local stores were worried they’d have to take “Katonah” out of their names until the matter was settled.

2. She’s leaving a legacy

In 1997 Stewart was honored with an Edison Achievement Award for her commitment to innovation throughout her career. And in 2018 she was given a place in the New Jersey Hall of Fame for her services to enterprise.

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1. Living the high life

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As well as having a line of wines, Stewart has joined the Canadian marijuana company Canopy Growth. Since February 2019 her role has been as an adviser to the firm, and she can obviously see a good business opportunity. Indeed, as of April that year the outfit was the largest cannabis company in the world.

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