What Prison Was Really Like For Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart's impressive career has spanned decades, making a name for herself as one of the first true "DIY-ers." The multi-talented entrepreneur wears several hats, including that of a businesswoman, cook, photographer, and author. Stewart's fame and net worth grew leaps and bounds in 1999, when her company went public, making her the "first self-made female billionaire," according to Harper's Bazaar.

Even though Stewart seems to have it all, the lifestyle guru is known to do chores around her sprawling estate in Bedford, New York. Snowblowing happens to be one of her favorite tasks, despite having several groundskeepers. "I was out there actually for three hours before I realized it was three hours, and I was semi-frozen to death," she told the outlet. "But it was fun."

Between her camera-ready looks and blue-collar work ethic, it's no surprise that Stewart has amassed a cult-like following. However, life has not always been rose bouquets and fresh blueberry scones. Stewart shocked the world in 2004 when she served time behind bars.

Prison was no cakewalk for Martha Stewart

A stock sale cover-up landed Martha Stewart at a minimum security prison in West Virginia. Prior to her stay, CBS News reported that the facility was sometimes referred to as "Camp Cupcake," but insiders revealed that it was anything but. Former inmate Judith Kelly said a strip search greets every inmate upon arrival. As for privacy? There was none. With 125 people crammed into bunk beds in one section of the prison, alone time wasn't a thing. Despite having a hack or solution for nearly every household chore, Stewart struggled to acclimate behind bars. She only spent five months at the facility, but it made a lasting impact on her life — and not for the better.

Following her stint, Today reported that Stewart opened up to Katie Couric on the former anchor's podcast, dishing on the "horrifying experience." She confessed that nobody aside from murderers should have to go through the anguish that she did. Stewart also shared that nothing good came of her stay, and it didn't serve as a "growth experience," either. "That you can make lemons out of lemonade? What hurts you makes you stronger? No. None of those adages fit at all," Stewart said. "It's a horrible experience. Nothing is good about it, nothing." 

Spending time away from her family was another thing that weighed heavy on Stewart. "Being maligned ... especially when one does not feel one deserves such a thing," she said. "I mean, I was not a bad person."

What didn't kill Martha Stewart made her stronger

In true Martha Stewart fashion, the mogul didn't let one setback get the best of her. Her months in house arrest were spent mapping out a comeback. Since then, she's continued at the helm of her wildly successful company. Stewart has also branched off into a few more off-brand endeavors, including a cooking show with iconic rapper Snoop Dogg.

Snoop and Stewart met in 2008 when he was a guest on "The Martha Stuart Show." The two had an instant connection, and in 2016, they teamed up for the popular VH1 series "Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party." The duo also made an appearance on Comedy Central at "The Roast of Justin Bieber" in 2015. Stewart used the roast to make light of her prison stint, per USA Today. She gave the pop star advice on surviving what she jokingly referred to as his "inevitable" stay in the slammer — including a custom DIY tip for the occasion. "The first thing you'll need is a shank. I made mine from a comb and a pack of gum. I'll show you how later," she said. "It's so simple. I found Bubblicious works best and it's so much fun to say."

It's anyone's guess as to what may be next on Stewart's list of accomplishments, but one thing is for sure — we'll all be watching.

Going to prison gave Martha Stewart 'street cred'

Speaking of Snoop Dogg, his friendship with Martha Stewart has been the source of many jokes over the years. Many fans have claimed that Stewart's affiliation with the rapper has given her "street cred" and made her a bit cooler. However, this joke is rooted in fact, as Stewart confirmed as much during an appearance on "CBS This Morning" with Snoop Dogg in 2017. "Yes, that [conviction] helped because people knew how crazy and unfair ... all of that was," said Stewart of how she and Snoop Dogg initially found common ground (via Harper's Bazaar). "And in Snoop's world, it gave me the street cred I was lacking."

Snoop Dog — who was acquitted of a second-degree murder charge in 1996 — has also boasted about Stewart's street cred. During an appearance on Logan Paul's "Impaulsive" podcast, the rapper claimed that Stewart was "way more gangster" than him because she'd spent more time in prison than him. The rapper also lauded Stewart for not "snitching" on anyone related to her fraud conviction. After Paul likened Stewart to a "thug," Snoop Dogg agreed. "Gangster. I wish someone would say something about Martha. What!" said Snoop Dogg. "She did more time than all you suckers."

How Martha Stewart kept her spirits up in prison

Prison was the last place Martha Stewart wanted to be, so it naturally weighed on her emotions. "I did fall in one deep hole, for a period of about 10 months," Stewart shared during a 2014 interview with Giuliana Rancic (via ABC News). "That deep hole was not a pleasant hole. And everybody tells you, 'Oh, whatever happens to you, it will make you stronger,' f**k them." Ultimately, Stewart credited her "healthy constitution" with helping her through. "Luckily, I have an extremely strong, healthy constitution, so my health never suffered." She added, "Health, optimism, and that curiosity to see what shouldn't happen, what you can overcome. So, I overcame a very difficult, nasty situation."

While speaking with David Letterman in 2005 about any lighthearted moments she experienced while incarcerated, Stewart revealed that the other prisoner's attitudes helped her cope with her time behind bars. "You're always trying to laugh, everybody's trying to be lighthearted and get on with the day," said Stewart during the interview. "I was a short termer, so that wasn't so bad, but the people who were in there for a long time, they also tried to keep up a demeanor of lightheartedness; they had to." Although Stewart did experience inmates who made remarks behind her back, most were friendly to her.