Explaining Martha Stewart to Millennials

Here's the deets you should know about the lifestyle queen.

by Brenden Gallagher

What a difference a generation makes. In the ’90s, if you were asked to name a powerful women, you probably thought of three candidates: Hillary Clinton, Oprah, and Martha Stewart. Twenty years ago, Stewart was a ubiquitous media presence. If you turned on the television during daytime TV, you probably wouldn’t go more than a couple minutes without seeing her. If you went to any mainstream department store, her products lined the shelves. She wasn’t just in Barnes and Noble, she had a whole shelf in Barnes and Noble. For an entire generation, Stewart was the homegoods guru. Though Stewart has only continued to grow her business empire in recent years, many people only know Martha as a TV personality who tweets bad food pics and makes occasional surprise cameos at cool events. For those out there young enough to not remember that Martha makes a mean quiche and built a media empire long before we were keeping up with the Kardashians, here’s some essential deets you need to know about the queen of lifestyle.

  • Started from the Bottom

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    To understand Martha Stewart’s unique place in culture, you first have to understand where she came from. Stewart had a unique set of skills that combined to make her the perfect candidate to start a home decor empire. The daughter of a stockbroker, she had an affinity for numbers and briefly flirted with following in her father’s footsteps. In college, she switched from a financial focus to studying art. While putting herself through school she made money by modeling for high-end clients like Chanel.

  • The Come Up

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    While married to publisher Andrew Stewart, she channeled her gifts for cooking and interior design into a catering business. By catering parties in the publishing word, she connected with publishers who helped her launch her book career. Though she eventually divorced Stewart, she maintained her foothold in the publishing world.

  • She Was Pen Griffey AF

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    Throughout the 80s, Stewart published an array of books with titles like Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook (1983) and Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus (1988). The books were given as inconsiderate Christmas and birthday presents to moms across the country. Her popularity from the success of the books spawned TV appearances like this one with David Letterman.

  • Living Her Best Life

    After a decade of writing, it was only natural that Stewart would launch Martha Stewart Living, a magazine which proved to be massive success. After launching with a readership of a quarter million, the magazine reached a peak readership of more than two million in 2002, an almost unthinkable number today. That’s like two million people paying to follow Kim Kardashian on Instagram.

  • She Was Cheffing That Work

    Stewart’s numerous television appearances and her earlier career in modeling made her a natural fit to host a TV show. In 1993, that’s exactly what she did. Also called Martha Stewart Living, this show ran for a decade. Now she could show off her kitchen and interior decor skills in real time. The show’s vast viewership combined made Stewart one of America’s most recognizable media presences. When you also consider Stewart’s second series, Martha, which ran from 2005 to 2012, Stewart dominated her corner of television for almost twenty years.

  • She Was Keepin’ Up With the Kardashians All By Herself

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    In 1997, the most profitable branch of Martha Stewart’s endeavors was launched. Though Stewart had a consulting partnership with K-Mart dating back to 1987, Stewart and K-Mart collaborated to release Martha branded merchandise in 1997 under the Martha Stewart Everyday label. By 1999, this line was making K-Mart $1.5 billion annually. She was legit a one-woman Kardashian clan.

  • Mogul Talk

    Stewart consolidated her various businesses in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Stewart put her holdings under one roof was the majority shareholder and watched as the stock opened at $18 a share and closed at $38. This meant that Stewart was officially a self-made billionaire. It’s the kind of thing that would inspire an epic DJ Khaled SnapChat story.

  • She Had Street Cred

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    Martha Stewart was living hip-hop squad goals way before your fave celeb was hanging with rappers on Instagram. She partied with the likes of Puff Daddy, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and was named-dropped in raps by Jay Z. Yes, Martha was popping out here. Those familiar with Stewart’s career marked by dogged determination and a tireless work ethic are not surprised by her impact on pop culture. Her K-Mart line was ground-breaking, she hosted an Apprentice spin off, she launched a line of wines, she authored best-selling books, and is a regular contributor to the Today Show. Recently her company even launched a line of houses branded with the Martha Stewart name. So, next time Martha makes news for being Martha know that you are in the presence of a queen.