You know Martha Stewart as the crafts-and-cooking guru who has dominated print and broadcast media. You know her as the stockowner who ran into a bit of trouble with the Feds. Today—on the occasion of her 74th birthday—let's look at six things you might not know about the domestic diva.
1. SHE WAS ONE OF AMERICA'S "BEST DRESSED COLLEGE GIRLS."
From the time she was in high school through her days at Barnard College, Stewart had a relatively successful modeling career. She did some in-store work for Bonwit Teller, and later did TV spots for Clairol and Tareyton Cigarettes. Her biggest exposure came in 1961, when Glamour magazine named her one of America's 10 "Best Dressed College Girls.” The modeling career ended when she married Yale law student Andrew Stewart in 1963.
2. SHE WORKED AS A STOCKBROKER.
In 1967 Stewart went back to work, this time trading in the runway for Wall Street. According to a 2001 Vanity Fair feature, Stewart used her modeling experience to her advantage once she became a stockbroker, even going so far as to wear hot pants to meetings. She eventually became one of the only female brokers at Perlberg, Monness, Williams and Sidel, but she left in 1973 to spend more time with her daughter.
Another odd fact about Stewart's time as a broker: one of her fellow brokers was an up-and-coming actor named Brian Dennehy.
3. SHE WASN'T GREAT AT BEING UNDER HOUSE ARREST.
Your probably remember Stewart's prison hitch after being embroiled in an insider-trading scandal. What you might not remember is that she actually ended up spending more time under house arrest in 2005 than she had planned.
According to the terms of Stewart's house arrest, the domestic wizard was allowed out of her home in suburban New York for 48 hours a week for work, food shopping, medical appointments, and religious services. She was originally slated to spend five months in home confinement complete with an ankle bracelet that tracked her movements.
Stewart apparently decided these rules were not good things, though. She allegedly left home to attend a yoga class, and also spent some time tooling around her estate in a Kawasaki Mule off-road vehicle. In August 2005 her lawyer announced that she had agreed to spend an extra three weeks under home confinement as a result of these transgressions.
4. SHE TRIED TO TRADEMARK A TOWN'S NAME.
In 2007 Stewart created a controversy when she attempted to trademark the word "Katonah" for a line of her home furnishings and paints. What made people so angry? Katonah, New York is actually an unincorporated hamlet in Westchester County, and folks weren't too pleased about having their hometown's name trademarked. On top of that, local stores that sold furniture and hardware worried that they couldn't keep the word "Katonah" in their stores' names if Stewart were successful in obtaining the trademark.
Stewart also ran into heavy opposition from the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation. Katonah was named after one of the nation's chiefs, and the nation's representative said, "If it's being done for profit, then of course it's offensive."
Eventually, the two sides reached a compromise: Stewart could use the name for her line of furniture, mirrors, and pillows, but not for hardware, paint, lighting, and/or home textiles.
5. SHE'S NOT A FAN OF RACHAEL RAY'S APPROACH TO COOKING.
In 2009, Stewart ignited yet another controversy when she slammed fellow cooking personality Rachael Ray on Nightline. When asked about Ray's cooking skills and approach in the kitchen, Stewart replied that, “Well, to me, she professed that she could not bake. She just did a new cookbook which is just a re-edit of a lot of her old recipes, and that's not good enough for me. I mean, I really want to write a book that is a unique and lasting thing. Something that will really fulfill a need in someone's library.”
Stewart didn’t end there: “She's more of an entertainer, with a bubbly personality, than she is a teacher, which is me. She's a totally different kind of cook than I am. I don't know if she has a garden; I don't think so.” No garden? Ouch! To make things worse, Stewart's burn came after she and Ray had appeared on each other's shows.
Stewart quickly jumped into damage control mode and publicly made amends with Ray. On the next episode of her show, Stewart stood next to guest Emeril Lagasse and said, “I truly believe that Rachael has done a terrific job bringing people—many people who would never have even stepped into the kitchen or made a dish—to cook.”
When Nightline reached out to Ray for a reaction, she pretty much agreed with Stewart, asking: “Why would it make me mad? Her skill set is far beyond mine. That's simply the reality of it. That doesn't mean that what I do isn't important, too … I don't consider it needling. I really just think she's being honest. She does have a better skill set than I do when it comes to producing a beautiful, perfect, high-quality meal. I'd rather eat Martha's than mine, too.”
6. SHE BANNED BLACK RUBBER-SOLED SHOES FROM HER OFFICE.
According to a list of fun facts compiled by Stewart’s television producers, she sent out an email forbidding employees from wearing black rubber-soled shoes to the office because of the black streaks they sometimes LEFT behind. Except the uber-perfectionist made a typo, and instead noted that they left “black steaks” behind. The same list claims the Stewart drinks buttermilk straight from the carton, prefers hot dogs to bananas, and loves Eminem.
An earlier version of this post appeared in 2010.