Cause of Choice: Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mount Sinai
Early Catering Gigs: Events at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, Cooper Hewitt Museum and Sotheby's
One Talent She Lacks: Her contribution to the school orchestra amounted to "scratch, squawk, screech."
Advice for Pursuing Dreams: "Go with your gut. If you feel good about an idea, work on it until it works...or it doesn't work."
Personal reinvention and astounding business success? Definitely “a good thing.” The former Martha Helen Kostyra had married and worked as a model to support her husband’s law studies by the time she finished her own 1962 Barnard degree in History and Architectural History. Stewart’s stockbroker father-in-law piqued her interest in Wall Street, where she spent a few years as an institutional broker for the likes of the Rockefellers, Ford Foundation, and Fidelity Fund. But ultimately it was her visionary savvy in the home, garden, and kitchen that carried her back to the boardroom. The renovation of the Stewarts’ 1805 farmhouse and start of a successful catering business consolidated her identity as an exemplar of tasteful self-improvement so familiar today.
Martha spent the 1980s working on a series of successful cookbooks, and drew the spotlight of both the Larry King and Oprah Winfrey shows. The Martha Stewart Living magazine (1990) and Martha’s own television show (1993, now called “Martha”) helped make her a household name in every sense: her eponymous lines of home-improvement products and furnishings are featured at Macy’s, Home Depot, Staples, PetSmart and, soon, at JCPenney. Stewart’s talents and unflappability have provided a superlative model for women in the home, as well as in the corporate sphere, where she retains no less than 96% of voting power in the vast and publicly-held MarthaStewartOmnimedia.