I am attending a conference for bloggers called Alt Summit, and the organizers just announced that Martha Stewart will give the keynote address. Is there anyone more fascinating than M Diddy, The Queen of Clean, or Pumpkin, as Jennifer Garner dubbed her? Here are a few reasons why I plan to sit in the front row of that auditorium.
Martha Has Street Cred
Last month, she did an AMA, or an "Ask Me Anything" interview on Reddit. Not Barbara Walters, which is the safe interview choice for celebrities. Reddit, the domain of 18-24 year-olds. The Reddit crowd asked her some inappropriate shizzle about the food in prison and whether to freeze cottage cheese and did she have any good sex tips. Martha's response: "Take a bath before sex. And after." And if someone gets in the tub with you? "That's good too... And don't forget to brush your teeth."
During the Reddit interview, she mentioned baking brownies for Snoop Dogg. They're pals. Look how adorable they are cooking together. In this clip, he is baffled and bothered by the recipe's use of white pepper. Martha sees the deeper implication and calls for black pepper. Later, she asks Snoop about his well-known vocabulary. I think she feels an affinity for this man who, like her, built an image based on taking everyday things, in his case, words, and using them in new ways.
Martha is a Survivor
She has been struck by lightning three times. In three different places.
She was on the road hawking her first book when her husband left her for her assistant, a woman twenty years his junior.
She went to federal prison. In West Virginia. Years before it was trendy for waspy blondes to go to federal prison. Her prison mates knit her a poncho. And when she came out, she did not slink into the shadows. She reclaimed her company and then some.
Martha Has Interesting Foibles
She struggles with fashion and operates under the belief that brown is suitable for everything. That's endearing in a woman who inspired millions to paint their walls a lovely robin's egg blue.
She procrastinated on a half-finished mural in her dining room. For fifteen years.
She speaks her mind, dissing on Gwyneth Paltrow, Lilly Pulitzer prints, and bloggers.
Sometimes when she does speak her mind, it comes out as yelling, which gets her into hot water. I totally relate to this story from "Just Desserts", by Jerry Oppenheimer. Apparently Martha and a film crew were shooting in a smokehouse when a fire broke out. The film crew looked on while Martha ran for a hose. The hose was too short, and the crew continued to look on while Martha ran for another hose to connect to the first. After she extinguished the fire, she hollered at the head of the crew. He hollered back and she fired him on the spot. Personally, as the mother of four boys who regularly ignore my legitimate concerns for safety, I can replay the scene in my head. In it, I'm screaming throughout and everyone is fired.
Martha Really Isn't Very Complicated
She had a happy childhood, albeit one with plenty of chores in a big family where money was tight. She read voraciously, climbing trees with her books. She loved Nancy Drew, was inspired by Jane Austen, and had a lifelong wish to meet Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.
Her father taught her to garden, her mother to sew, and she learned baking from neighbors with a bakery. Everyone worked really hard, including Martha, who may have worked the hardest.
When she began catering, she read Julia Child's 7-page recipe for baguettes and practiced over and over. Not because she was a perfectionist, but because she wanted to serve good bread and she couldn't afford to buy it.
Martha is an Unsung Hero
She built a billion dollar empire on the domestic arts. When other women were donning mansuits to invade corporate America, Martha donned an apron and leveraged her talent for hospitality into an international brand that has flourished for nearly forty years. She did so by being the first great sharer. She didn't hoard her secrets, she broke them into bitesize morsels and distributed them to all. She deconstructed the process of house and home and helped us to see the potential for beauty in everyday things. Her childhood taught her that the home is a sanctuary and the purity of that belief informed every product, every photo shoot, every show, and still does.
Through it all, my generation was rough on her. Was it the apron that bothered us? Ironic if that turns out to be the case. Was it the implied message that we were not perfect? I think that perception is on us, not on Martha.
As I look around, I see her influence everywhere. Without Martha, would we have Etsy, HGTV, The Food Network, etc? She deserves more than begrudging respect. Someone get that woman a Congressional Medal of Honor!