Almost exactly a year ago Friday, Martha Stewart was convicted on charges of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a stock sale. Because I'm pro-Martha, I dubbed that day, which happened to be my birthday, "Black Friday."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
I'm sure Ms. Stewart enjoyed Black Friday even less than I did, and has a much worse name for it. But I knew, as did fan and foe alike, that if life gave Stewart a prison sentence, she would somehow turn it into cash flow or a highly rated television series. She is already doing both.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (of which she is no longer CEO), can boast stock that has risen more than 100 percent since October, when Stewart went to prison, bringing her net worth up at least $500 million. She has signed up for a syndicated daily show and a reality series with Mark Burnett, a producer not known for prime time that flops.
Americans love watching the mighty falling, especially those presumed to be mighty and arrogant - pride goeth before the fall. Or, in Stewart's case, homemade pie crust goeth before the prison walls. Seeing certain folk chastened can be satisfying. But Americans are also forgiving, mindful that anyone can stumble. Who does not love a comeback, particularly if the person reemerging has been humbled? After five months at a federal facility in West Virginia ("Camp Cupcake"), and a year after Black Friday, Stewart is set to make great vats of lemonade out of a seriously huge lemon crop. Stewart's decision to become a Cupcake camper was savvy. Had she stayed out and fought her conviction, it's unlikely another trial would have been granted. Ultimately, she'd have had to don the Cupcake jumpsuit and down the unpalatable prison grub. This way, she looks tough, which she is; unafraid, which she may not be, but the impression is all she needs; and like someone willing to take her punishment, however unjust she may feel it is.
Still, her lawyers apparently are going back to appeal. Should she win, Stewart will be, in a way, a martyr - even better than being a comeback kid. Somehow, though, I can't imagine Stewart enjoying the martyr role. She is, first and foremost, a hard worker. Her life story - girl from a large, Polish family in New Jersey tackles all she can professionally and personally and always, always, achieves - is not one of inherited ease.
When she is released from prison (possibly as early as Friday), she will be under house arrest for another five months, but we know she won't be idle. We can safely bet she will make use of every last minute of the 48 hours a week she will be permitted to work outside her home. Prior to her release from prison she ordered seeds for planting, her magazine "Martha Stewart Living" reports.
Which isn't to say all she plants will come up roses. Her brand has weakened, losing $7 million in the last quarter due to declines in ad revenue. And even as she was earning mere pennies in the Big House, the "blondenfreude" continued. The fact that she lost a prison Christmas decorating contest was not lost on late-night comics. (I say she threw the competition.) She also faces civil charges from the SEC for insider trading.
Some people fall and never rise again. Some fall, rise up, and fall again. But I am banking on Stewart's enduring success. How can I be sure? I heard she invited hairstylist Frederic Fekkai to Cupcake to discuss postinternment reblondification. The woman has her priorities right.
• Rondi Adamson is a Canadian writer.