From folding fitted sheets to throwing the perfect party, there's no homemaking problem Martha Stewart can't solve. She's cooked, cleaned and crafted her way to becoming the queen of fine living—and inspired women everywhere to embrace their inner domestic divas.
Martha's appetite for the finer things started developing at age 3, making cookies with her mother. From there, Martha grew up to be a triple threat—beautiful, smart and talented. She earned a scholarship to Barnard College, pursued modeling and had a career on Wall Street.
Still, it was her passion for gourmet cooking, gardening and entertaining that led her to become a successful caterer. In 1982, Martha's first book, Entertaining, became an overnight sensation. By 1999, Martha was running her own multibillion-dollar company.
In 2004, however, Martha's world came crashing down. After a highly publicized trial, Martha was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators about a stock sale. She spent five months in federal prison and another six months under house arrest.
Five years later—with more than 600 employees standing behind her—Martha stands stronger than ever. She's added 7,000 new products to her name, published her 71st book, runs four magazines and now has four new television shows on the Hallmark Channel.
Now, Oprah and Martha are reuniting for one final discussion about life in prison, picking up the pieces and why no one should feel intimidated to have Martha over for dinner.
Though her trial and prison sentence were difficult, Martha says they never broke her."It would be hurtful for anyone to go through that kind of scrutiny," she says. "When I look back on it, it all seems so surreal."
Martha went from running her own company to waxing floors in prison. "I knew how to wax. That was easy. The hard part was learning how to clean the waxer," she says. "I had the best time because if you have a job you, do it well. That's been my obligation my entire life—to do the job well."
Martha says she also discovered a new cleaning tool—the rug cleaner. "I had the best time," she says. "That place was sparkling when I left."
Still, there was one place Martha says she kept cleaner than any other—the shower. "I was up before anybody and in the shower before the bell rang," she says.
Martha says she did her best to make the most of her time in prison. "I woke up thinking: 'I have my job to do. I can read all the newspapers I want. I can read books,'" she says. "I thought a lot. I used the time extremely well. And I had visitors all the time."
Martha also had the chance to pursue some of her passions, like ceramics. "They said you could do one ceramic every three months or something, but I sort of persuaded them that the entire nativity crèche was one project," she says. "I had from baby Jesus all the way to the wise men. And they were large figures, and I did them all in drabware."
While in prison, Martha says she learned she could live without any luxury whatsoever. "I think many of us have an inner strength that you do not know until you are tested," she says. "This was a test. I kept my head up. I kept my friends intact, most of them. I kept my spirit high, and I moved on."
Through her ordeal, Martha says she never felt like she had let herself—or anyone else—down. "Because I hadn't," she says.
Martha estimates she lost nearly $1 billion during her trial and prison sentence. "In market value of my stock, yes, because it took its toll on all of us," she says. "Our partners never left us, and our beloved consumers never left us. They are the readers of the magazine, the users of our recipes, the wonderful people who buy our products, who look for the good in the brand. And the brand is strong."
Today, Martha says her company is stronger than ever. "I am so grateful that I survived as well as I did. That my company survived," she says. "That the rebuilding process that had to take place, not only for me but for all my devoted employees and colleagues, has all taken place and we are recovered."
She's recovered financially, but the trial cost Martha something irreplaceable—her best friend. Martha's friend for more than 20 years testified against her in the trial and later wrote an unflattering book about Martha.
Oprah: What was that like?
Martha: Disheartening, to say in the mildest possible terms.
Oprah: Was she always a best friend? Because I always think a best friend couldn't do that.
Martha: Well, I thought so. Best friends are sometimes not, and it's too bad.
Oprah: And [she] wrote an unflattering book.
Martha: Yeah, it's a sad thing. I did not read the book, and I have nothing to do with her and I'm sorry about that.
Oprah: You're sorry about that.
Martha: Yeah, of course. You would be. You would be horrified. Well, you can't let it be the end of your world, because people change. People are odd. People do strange things for different reasons. Sometimes you don't know the reasons. You don't know what kind of pressure they're under. You know, all kinds of things go on in that kind of episode.
Despite her reputation for perfection, Martha says she never inspects other people's homes for cleanliness. "I look for ideas, actually," she says. "I am a curious person, and I am not that critical a person."
When over at a friend's house for dinner, Martha says she only wants to have a good time. "A lot of people say, 'I can't have Martha over because I can't cook well enough,'" she says. "That's wrong because I am absolutely happy with a grilled cheese sandwich."
Martha says she grew up wanting to be a teacher—and that's what Oprah says she's become to so many women. "One of the reasons why we wanted to have you on and celebrate what you've meant to the culture is because watching you, so many women saw that the talents they had they could use in such a way to share with other people—either in their family or community or actually turn it into a business," Oprah says.
Martha says Steven Spielberg, her neighbor in the Hamptons, once described what she's accomplished in a way she never forgot. "He said, 'I think that you, more than anybody, have turned the chore of homemaking into an art form, and it's to be celebrated,'" she says. "I love that kind of recognition—the teaching, the doing, the high quality, the trustworthiness of the products. All of that is the most important to me."
Looking back her accomplishments, what would Martha tell her younger self? "I would tell that young girl to continue to be curious. Continue to always look to the future. To try to be very passionate in life," she says. "Passionate not just in love affairs, but passionate in work with a great idea. We wouldn't have some of the greatest companies in America if they had not been passionate about what they thought about."