Why Martha Stewart Is Out Here Living Her Best Life at 80

Having built her namesake brand at 50 and achieved billionaire status at 60, Martha Stewart has carved out some new goals for her ninth decade. Like finding her next thirst trap.

By Sarah Grossbart Aug 03, 2021 4:00 PMTags
Watch: How Martha Stewart's Living a Hot Girl Summer in Quarantine

Remember when Martha Stewart had us all wondering if she was so parched she might just need another Martha-rita? 

The accidental thirst trap she posted last July ("My camera came on backwards, you know, selfie mode, and I looked so nice," she explained to Entertainment Tonight of capturing the moment) was just the jumping-off point for Martha's hot girl summer—a stretch that saw her making cracks about "pounding" someone, agreeing to smoke a joint with Chelsea Handler and sipping enough of her "perfect Martha martinis" to make some pretty hilarious comments about baby chicks. 

She also found time to dive deep into the art of doing it for the 'gram, sharing her ingredients for the perfect selfie with Insider: "Just look good and pose with a provocative look on your face."

Hard to argue with the strategy that earned her more than a dozen marriage proposals. (She ignored them all, though, she admitted to guest host Howie Mandel during an April appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, explaining. "I'm a very busy person.")

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Dare we say, Martha Stewart at 80 is a whole vibe. Is that still something the cool kids are saying? Would Martha care if it isn't?

Not particularly. Having invented and reinvented herself so many times across her eight decades—teen fashion model, Wall Street stockbroker, stay-at-home-mom, entrepreneur, full-on domestic doyenne, icon of the rap community—Martha is pretty secure in who she is.

The fact that her knowledge of all things home and penchant for social media hilarity (her posts fall somewhere in the space of unintentionally side-splitting and entirely self-aware) have collected a fan base that includes Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Tiffany Haddish and, of course, BFF Snoop Dogg is just the cherry on top of her blueberry peach crumble. 

Martha Stewart/Instagram

As she put it to People, reflecting on her long and storied career, "I have survived the rigors of time, of marriage, of childbearing, of building a business from scratch. I have survived very nicely, and I think I make the most of it."

Tune into Discovery+, HGTV or the Food Network on any given night and you can likely find Martha dispensing her wisdom on everything from pruning a boxwood shrub, to how to remove oil stains from clothes, to the importance of a bespoke cocktail at the end of the day. But it's her wealth of life knowledge that just might be the most valuable. 

"I love me some Martha!" Haddish raved. "Like, I know visually she's a white woman, but she's just a woman who has a lot of life experience. And she's not stingy with her knowledge."

Ask her, and Martha will attribute her path to becoming America's first self-made female billionaire—a title she achieved nearly two decades before Kylie Jenner when Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public in 1999—to a thirst for knowledge and a refusal to accept there were any limitations to her potential success. 

"I've said it so many times, but take your life into your own hands," she explained when doling out lessons to Harper's Bazaar this past February. "Don't let other people direct you. Know what you want. I really believe in that."

Her own path was hardly conventional. She was pocketing 50 cents an hour for babysitting gigs in her hometown of Nutley, N.J., when she realized her neighbor was booking modeling jobs that earned her "not extra money," she spelled out to Harper's, "MO-NEY." So Martha went out and got her own contract with Ford Models "and was immediately signed up for TV commercials," she told People. "I was the all-American girl."

By the time she graduated from Barnard, she'd wed a Yale law student named Andy Stewart and landed a job as a stockbroker, the only woman at her NYC firm. "We were the real thing," she told Harper's. "You saw the movie Wall Street? I lived it. I mean, every man on Wall Street was trying to get you. Every man was trying to touch you in the cab. We had martinis for lunch."

AP Photo/Anthony Camerano

Eight years in, though, she and Andy had bought a house in the suburbs of Westport, Conn., and welcomed daughter Alexis. "I was living two very distinctly different lives," she explained. "And the life of the homemaker was more interesting to me than the life on Wall Street."

So she gave her notice and began her next act as a stay-at-home mom with a side hustle. Launching a catering business was "the most difficult job ever," she told Harper's, but naturally she rose to the occasion better than that sourdough starter you had during quarantine. 

It was while catering a 1,200-guest affair thrown by her book publisher husband that she landed on the recipe for her future success, pitching her idea for a new spin on the more traditional cookbook. 

Entertaining, the first of her 97 titles, launched in 1982 chock full of glossy color photos, stories and inspiring tips. And just like that Martha had begun baking her empire. 

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The first issue of Martha Stewart Living was released in 1990, followed by her Emmy-winning TV show and that first Martha Stewart Home Collection drop in 1997—a line of towels and sheets sold at Kmart that got the single mom (she and Andy split in 1987) disinvited from a Connecticut country club "because I was too downmarket," she remarked to Harper's.  

Not that she was all that bothered, knowing she was walking so every celebrity with a lifestyle blog and a few family recipes could eventually run. 

"I had opposition, and that kind of opposition to a woman-built business was really outrageous," she told People of the work she put in before taking her company public in 1999. "Even my own lawyers were negative about the possibility of success. I remember one lawyer sending me an orchid, saying, 'Oh, you did it. Wow. What a surprise.' What a piece of garbage that guy is. I think I helped so many other women believe in their own ideas and their own business plans and their own paths to glory."

Having accomplished all that, there was really nowhere else to go but back to the beginning. 

Of course she has no intention on letting up on her quest to help fans get in touch with their inner Martha. "I think my secret is that I'm always learning and trying to absorb more information," she explained to Artful Living last June. "My curiosity has never stopped, and it keeps me going in my life and in my business."

But she's also "looking for the next thirst trap," she joked to People about her future as an Instagram model. "I love doing those promiscuous, provocative things, because it's just fun."

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Because, guys, not sure if you noticed, but Martha is funny AF.

The most random participant at Comedy Central's 2015 roast of Justin Bieber, she nonetheless delivered the most savage dunks. "Let's get to the reason I'm here tonight, which is to give Justin Bieber some tips for when he inevitably ends up in prison," she joked referencing the five-month sentence she received after being convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and making false statements during an investigation of alleged insider trading in 2004. "I've been in lock-up, and you wouldn't last a week, so pay attention."

(For the record, not only did Martha last, she picked up a new talent, exiting that West Virginia federal prison in a handmade poncho that immediately went viral and gaining a whole new appreciative audience. Snoop is the first to remind everyone, "Martha Stewart snitched on NOT ONE soul during her trial. Baby girl kept it 10 toes down and ate that prison sentence by herself, like the true baddie she is.") 

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But, seriously, someone who can slay and poke fun at herself? No wonder Snoop has labeled his cooking show cohort "the funniest motherf--ker." One of the more entertaining follows on social media, the lifestyle guru is out here, comin' up with funky ass s--t like every single day.

She spent the bulk of a recent hot dog-themed episode of Discovery+'s Martha Gets Down and Dirty making culinary director Thomas Joseph, gardener Ryan McCallister and longtime creative director Kevin Sharkey squirm over her penis puns ("Men, stop touching your wieners on the grill constantly—you don't have to touch them all the time," she cracked). And while even she can't make a ruptured Achilles—"Caused by a surprise step into a hole in the dark getting out of the car," she explained—seem fun, she's at least having fun with it, asking pal Ellen Pompeo, "So doctor, what do you recommend?" 

Because, yes, of course she's friends with the Grey's Anatomy lead. Ditto Drew Barrymore, who reassured the lifestyle guru she still looked "so so so sexy." 

She's also someone who's admitted to sexting and paying a visit to a nude beach, and she's a savvy enough businesswoman to parlay a friendship with Snoop into a line of CBD products in flavors like quince, rhubarb, and calamondin.

We would ask if there's anything Martha can't do, but apparently there's one thing. 

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Speaking about her prison stay to Harper's Bazaar, she reiterated how the experience shaped her. "I was strong going in and I was certainly stronger going out." But she did leave with one big regret.   

"Saturday Night Live asked me to host. My probation officer wouldn't give me the time," she revealed. "That really pissed me off, because I would have loved to have hosted Saturday Night Live. I'd like that on my résumé."

Lorne Michaels, you up?