Stewart spent five months as an inmate at Alderson Federal Prison Camp, located in West Virginia, after she was convicted of lying to federal investigators about a stock sale. When she emerged from the minimum-security facility, on March 4, 2005, fans were there to cheer her on, chanting “Save Martha!”
“'I’ll be back. I will be back,” Stewart told them, according to the New York Times. “I’m used to all kinds of hard work, as you know, and I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid whatsoever.”
By the time Stewart was sent to prison, she was already a well-established brand. Her empire included books, a radio show, TV appearances and specials, merchandise, and the magazine Martha Stewart Living.
But there were questions about what would happen to her after she served time. Even after Stewart’s release, she was mandated to five months of house arrest at her 153-acre estate in Bedford, N.Y. The stock price of her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia had more than doubled after she was sentenced, but they fell after her release. Everyone wondered: Had people spent their last dollar on the Martha Stewart brand?
The short answer, of course, was no.
Stewart has staged a considerable comeback in the 15 years she’s been a free woman.
The very year she was released, she starred in The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, her own version of Donald Trump’s competition reality show, although it was one of NBC’s lowest-rated shows. Still, she wrote several more books and her flagship show, Martha Stewart Living, and continued to be nominated for Daytime Emmy Awards, just as it had been before she went away. She expanded her products into Macy’s, appeared as herself on the show Ugly Betty, and sold her own brands of wine and frozen foods. She had shows on the Hallmark Channel and PBS.
In 2016, she did something surprising, when she teamed up with rapper Snoop Dogg for Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Party Challenge for three seasons on VH1. The two had become friends after Snoop was a guest on The Martha Stewart Show in 2008.
“I love Martha, like, I love her for real,” he gushed on Today in April 2019. “Like, when I see her away from me, I get jealous when I see other people with her. But then I have to understand, she’s Martha Stewart, so she has to give the world what they want.”
Stewart even created her own meal delivery service, Martha and Marley Spoon.
She fully embraced her life on the outside, but she didn’t forget her time behind bars.
Last month, during a new sit-down on Today, Stewart named her “horrible legal problem” as one of the biggest hurdles she had overcome in her life.
Aside from her specialty as a hostess with the mostest, Stewart’s name pops up in the headlines these days for her comments on, of all things, the college admission scandal. She was asked repeatedly about the plight of actress Felicity Huffman, after the Desperate Housewives star went to prison in October 2019, for scheming to have her daughter admitted to a prestigious university.
When Huffman was photographed wearing her prison uniform for the first time, Stewart responded to one such question about Huffman’s incarceration style during a Vanity Fair event in Los Angeles: “She should style her outfit a little bit more. She looked pretty schlumpy.”
Stewart was asked if she thought Huffman would make a comeback.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I hope so.”
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