Aspirationally elegant home cooking, obsessively edged rose gardens, easy breezy entertaining, unchangingly shoulder-length blonde hair—I can confidently say only one person is an expert in all four areas: Martha Stewart. Over her decades-long career, she has firmly ensconced herself in culinary icon territory. Should we discuss her eponymous magazine? Perhaps her TV show The Martha Stewart Show, which ran for seven seasons? Maybe we should begin with her ninety-nine cookbooks. Or her infamous jail time. Or her frequent collaborations with Snoop Dogg. Or the peacock massacre that took place on her enormous estate.
If you’ve had the strange feeling that Martha has been even more everywhere recently, you’re not wrong. Over the past year alone, at the age of 81, she has been seen in brand deals with Liquid Death, confoundingly but enthusiastically hawking cat litter in TV spots, and starring in three (three!) new series about gardening, cooking, and holiday entertaining on Roku TV. She’s somewhat stiltedly selling lighters for BIC, she’s collaborating with hypebeast clothing brands, she’s hosting a podcast, she’s making wine that retails for $11.99, and she’s topless in a commercial for coffee. Just this past month, she appeared in a commercial for the vodka brand Tito’s, and in my process of writing this piece, she has debuted yet another brand deal, this time with Oreos. Are you prepared to step into the Marthaverse? Too late—you’re already here.
Martha has, in 2023, achieved what every brand and tweenage TikTok-er dreams of—she’s mastered the art of staying relevant on the internet. Although not everyone’s a fan, somehow, nearly everything she does feels newsworthy because audiences never know what to expect. If there’s one thing Martha is going to do, it’s zig when you think she’ll zag.
You may think she would be focused on selling, say, a specialty napkin iron, but Martha is instead starring in a Tito’s ad. Why is this woman, who seems committed to Chardonnay, selling vodka? Who knows. How does she somehow pull off the bit? That’s the Martha magic; whether you want to be sucked in or not, her on-screen persona balances humor, approachability, and a calibrated amount of silliness. Her combination of absurd partnerships and relentless charm is the perfect storm for internet notoriety. No one can predict what she’ll do next, and every collaboration seems tailor-made for a clicky blog headline. And honestly, in an age when it feels like we’ve seen everything, it’s nice to know that Martha can keep surprising us.
Of course, context for Martha’s wild success is an important part of understanding it. She built a brand and a lifestyle off of a specific segment of aspirational-Connecticut-homemaker-dom that is generally not available to everyone. It’s a quaint, precious lifestyle space. Part of Martha’s success as the ultimate entertainer is that she fits the bill—a non-threatening white woman who is ready at any moment to spatchcock a chicken with chilling ease. Yes, Martha was the butt of many a joke during her time in prison in 2004, but the successful rehabilitation of her image and her businesses can almost certainly be traced to her privilege. Not everyone can go on late night shows to share silly anecdotes about her parole officer.