Martha Stewart Returns to Westport for Positive Directions

Martha Stewart returns to Westport for Positive Directions, and discusses her much-buzzed-about Sports Illustrated Cover, the anniversary of Entertaining and Successful Living.

Here, she catches up with Westport editor-in-chief Samantha Yanks.

Photo by Victor Demarchelier

Samantha Yanks: It is wonderful to reunite with you in Westport. Why was coming back to Turkey Hill to support Positive Direction important to you?

Martha Stewart: My career basically started at Turkey Hill. That farm became very famous. My first book was written there. It’s kind of fun to revisit to see what the Bird Family has done with my beautiful, beloved property. To be able to raise money for a very worthwhile cause, (Positive Directions is a non profit behavioral health organization providing prevention, counseling and medication management) at the same time is lovely. So I’m doing good while I’m doing something good for myself, and it’s nice for me to see that property again. I drive by it every so often while I’m going to Terrain or to someplace in Westport, but to see it firsthand behind the stone wall is very exciting and nice. Many of my friends are going to come because they’re very excited to see the evolution of that property also.


SY: In recent news (and it is all over the news), what inspired the Sports Illustrated cover?

MS: Sports Illustrated just told me that they have had 60 billion impressions, SIX-O billion impressions on that issue, and mostly my cover story! And they might even have to go back to print more copies. On the first day my cover sold more than all covers last year on the first day alone. So that’s good.

I mean, for Sports Illustrated, first, to ask me to do this was bold and they are also very creative. And they realized they had a very good sense about putting me on the cover. When they asked me, it was suggested to them by a friend of mine who’s a very well-known dermatologist. I’m working with him on a skincare line. So he suggested, oh, you know, Martha looks really great. And he said to use her in the issue; I don’t think he even said cover. I think he said use her in the issue.

So the editor called, and I thought it was a good idea. I thought, this is something different for me, and who would’ve thunk it, but go for it. So that’s how it happened. It was not terribly complicated, but it was exciting. Whoever dreamed you’d be on the cover of Sports Illustrated? It never occurred to me in a million years. But guess what? How nice. It’s a nice thing. My Sports Illustrated cover shows other women that there are possibilities. There are possibilities all around us for whatever we want to do.


SY: One of the things you have touched on is being positive about the possibilities at any age. What would you say is your message is on that?

MS: I don’t use the word anti-aging because that’s sort of a silly word. There is no such thing as anti-aging. I use the phrase successful living. I think that’s a much more important phrase to use. Live well while you’re alive. And that’s my whole message really to everybody. Live well, make a beautiful home, have a fabulous garden if you can and a happy life. It takes a lot of education to live well. And that’s what my whole career has been about, is about educating the public how to live well.


SY: In terms of education and access, talk about what you have developed with Mount Sinai and what inspired that work?

MS: My mom lived in Weston, big Martha. Big Martha lived until she was about 94 years old. And she was the prime example of living well. She was vibrant, she was flexible, she was an educated woman who read many newspapers a day, she knew what was going on, and she drove her friends everywhere. She drove her Audi until probably a week before she died.

She was an active, successful woman who lived her life, compared to so many people who give up or just flounder or just don’t know how to age gracefully. She had it all. She did a really great job of it and never lost her marbles as they say. She kept a very, very vibrant brain, which is what I’m hoping for everybody who visits my hospital at Mount Sinai. It was built because of my mom and it was dedicated to her. We had the dedication ceremony 15 years ago. We now have two centers for living. Both locations provide primary care for older adults as well as caregiver support.


SY: What are some current projects you are working on?

MS: I’m working on my 100th book, which is 100 of my favorite recipes in celebration of my hundredth book. So, I worked on that all day. This morning we were photographing it, and I still have two more days this week of photography.

We’re working very hard on that. We’re doing a huge news series for Roku Television on gardening, cooking, and entertaining. And that too is really devoted to educating the public in many different occupations for the homemaker.

Martha in one of the greenhouses on her farm in Bedford, New York. Photo by Celeste Sloman

SY: You are so well known for creating products that give consumers access to you. Tell us a bit about what you are currently creating?

MS: We have created thousands of different kinds of products over the years. Currently I’m working on a whole line of footwear with Skechers. They’re fun and they’re useful. These are affordable, in keeping with my whole philosophy of designing affordable, excellent, useful, beautiful, luxurious products. This is what I’ve been doing for a long, long time.

I also am making a wine now that I really like doing, Martha’s Chard and Martha’s Lighter Chard, and hopefully a third wine will be coming to stores in the near future. That’s with Treasury Wine Estates and 19 Crimes. It’s an excellent wine for the price. I worked really hard on making it the kind of wine that I would want to drink.

We’re also working on all kinds of home products, wonderful housewares as usual, and we’ve been doing that for a long time. But we have great sheets, towels, kitchen utensils, pots of pans, and gardening tools in the pipeline.

SY: Tell us about your podcast and how you pick the guests who are on. Who have you loved talking to? What do you love about that platform?

MS: Well first of all, you don’t have to have hair and makeup, and that’s really great. But in fact, I always try to look nice because we film it. So, we have a lot of videos and we film each interview. But I’m lucky because I have met so many fantastic people over the years, many of whom have great stories to tell. And I can even just call them up and say, you want to do the podcast? And most of them, I don’t think we’ve had anybody say no yet, realizing, of course, that my podcasts are very well listened to.

There are hundreds of thousands of different podcasts available. But mine is striking a chord, I think, because it is personal. I’m approaching it from as personal a viewpoint as possible. These are friends, these are acquaintances, these are people I’ve worked with or had dealings with in one way or another. And it is just fun to be with them for about an hour to ask questions, to get some insight into new subject matter for my listeners.

We’ve been doing it for almost a year now, and it’s very exciting. We’ve talked to people from different walks of life. Like Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist who was fantastic. We had Andy Cohen last week, who was so much fun. We’ve had a lot of interior designers, including Steven Sills and Michael Smith, and so many more. 


SY: You’re so well-known for giving people access to you, to your evolution and how you stay constantly relevant. Tell us how you made that possible?

MS: Social media made it easy, actually. It all started with my first book, Entertaining, which was written at Turkey Hill in Westport. Then I wrote probably 15 more books in that particular location. And that opened up my world to a very vast audience. In combination with that, I had a TV show.

My TV career first started off on PBS with specials, then CBS, then NBC, and then to Lifetime. We had an awful lot of different television shows, with thousands and thousands of hours of educational how-to, evergreen television. And that, again, introduced people to the world of good living. And then I started my magazine Martha Stewart Living, which was printed for 32 years.


SY: Let’s hear about the connection between you and Snoop Dogg.

MS: You know, he was on my show and we hit it off, and he made good brownies, and then we did the Justin Bieber roast, and then we had a show for three years, a really funny, funny, cooking talk show. He’s winning a big award in a couple of weeks. He’s getting the songwriter’s Hall of Fame induction, in New York City, and I’m going with Clive Davis to celebrate.


SY: And finally, of course, you’re coming back to Westport for Positive Directions. What are you most excited about during this visit?

MS: I love to come back to Westport. The Consign Mart I go to all the time with Jim Klinko, he and I also worked together for my TV special The Great American Tag Sale, and I always go to Oliver’s nursery, Terrain, and down Main Street and, of course, I have friends that I visit. So coming back to Turkey Hill is just like coming home.


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