Martha Stewart defies easy categorization. She can switch gears from “decorously entertaining homemaker/lifestyle guru/TV personality/publisher/shrewd entrepreneur/white-collar criminal/unlikely BFF to Snoop Dogg” with the ease of a juggling.
Ms. Stewart has defied stereotypes and attacks by establishing herself “not as a Superwoman,” as Joan Didion phrased it, “but as an Everywoman.”
Now, at age 81, she appears determined to shed even that title, trading in her ‘domestic goddess’ image for the sexier character of fierce Martha, a bombshell who, it would seem, would shuck her inhibitions as easily as an ear of corn.
Ms. Stewart has been teasing her four million Instagram fans with silly, sexy, demiclad photos of herself for the last several months. She wore a halter-style apron to publicise her collaboration with Green Mountain Coffee, which seemed to be about nothing at all. By pouting seductively at the edge of her pool, she enticed her admirers. She then followed up her shenanigans with a wicked flashback, her cover from Spy magazine in 1996, in which she appeared like a siren on a seashell with her knees clutched to her chest.
This may be the pinnacle of arrogance, yet on May 15, Ms Stewart will be featured on one of four covers of the legendary Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
She isn’t the oldest cover girl by any stretch. Maya Musk, at age 74, proclaimed herself to be the oldest person ever to do so. Sports Illustrated appears to be trying to seek controversy and maintain its relevance, and Ms. Stewart may be the most open and upbeat participant in this effort.
Ms. Stewart, her voice warm and rich over the phone, described her experience as both fresh and challenging. She discussed a variety of topics, including flirting, Madonna, her source of sexual confidence, and more in the interview that follows (with some editing).
This was a significant obstacle, to be sure. I had to get myself all dolled up for a bikini photo shoot. It required pride in one’s appearance as well as self-assurance.
I feel well, look good, and have wonderful hair and skin. You may forget about using filters. I often see Mario Badescu for face treatments. For the last 40 years, I have consistently done it on the first of every month.
Basically, I have two months to make myself satisfied with how I appear. I wouldn’t have risked it if I’d worried about my hefty middle or shaky legs. However, after three weeks of regular Pilates practise, I convinced myself that I could. I also tried a tanning booth for the first time and got a very subtle spray tan.
I went through around nine different swimsuits. It seemed like everyone around me was poking me and discussing “the girls.” My breasts have never been referred to as “the girls” by me. I despise that kind of thing. People were constantly prodding and prodding, “Poke this out, push that in.” For eight hours, I was subjected to it. Even so, I had a fantastic experience while filming in the Dominican Republic.
It has less to do with overt sexiness and more to do with a sense of confidence I’ve had from childhood. When the opportunity presented itself, I told myself, “I’ve got this.” Convention isn’t something I have to bow down to. How else could I have convinced my 81-year-old self that a swimsuit was a good idea?
After spending 4.5 hours at Breads Bakery in Union Square, I’m finally home. I was tasked with making a challah in the form of a crown, which was a whole new experience for me. After I was done, it looked like professional bakery bread. But I’m a professor and an amateur creative.
I certainly don’t think of myself in the same league as Madonna. She has unparalleled ability. However, as an actress, she must constantly try new things. She also has a lot harder time making changes to herself that don’t include her looks. I’d rather not act in that way.
But there’s one more major difference between Madonna and me: I don’t wear odd outfits or pointed bras. I’m instructing you in the art of dough rolling.