Thursday night, The Journalism School hosted a lecture of its Delacorte Lecture Series featuring Martha Stewart, BC ’63, and her work in the Journalism field with her magazine publications. Martha Maven Courtney Couillard went out to see what the original queen bee had to say.
The moment I read that Martha Stewart would be speaking at Columbia in the Bucket List, I fangirled as any Barnard girl should for an alum like this lady. Further, the lecture would be held on the same night as Midnight Breakfast, so how could I refuse receiving advice from Martha (we’re just going to call her Martha from here on out because I feel we’ve established that level of friendship) and a waffle from DSpar all in one night? It would be simply against Barnard social code.
The event began as you would expect—middle aged women, who probably never attended Columbia, clawed at each other for the front row seats and fought over who was the biggest Martha fan in the room. One women with her husband in tow whispered with concern, “this just seems so small time for Martha.” Such concern from only a true fan. However, once the hot flashes cooled off, Martha graced the stage. The moderator proceeded to ask Martha about her work with her multiple magazines, particularly her biggest hit magazine called “Living.” Martha flaunted the 2.2 million subscriber base the magazine has as well as explained how this magazine was the first lifestyle magazine to be published, which would inspire Oprah and Rachel Ray to mosey down the same path. She also spoke about her other publications, including her wedding magazine, and how it hasn’t been such a hit with less people getting traditionally married. Martha cried, “to those of you who aren’t married, shame on you!” I felt a great deal of pressure after that.
Martha also spoke about the publications transition of sorts into new media and applications. Living is now available as a digital subscription for tablets, and Martha explained this move made sense considering more people want to have access to their media and magazines in electronic form. Another trailblazing moment, the digital publication was the first lifestyle magazine to go online and in the form of an app. When asked if she believes people will stray away from reading magazines and the content in her own publications, Martha said she still has “great faith in the human world.” Let’s not disappoint Martha; keep reading print.
After a the formal publication questions, the lecture shifted to a Q&A session between Martha and the audience. I grew some balls (or tits?), and asked Martha if she had any advice for young women interested in becoming a part of the Journalism industry. Martha bluntly informed me I would not initially make it into the newsroom, but encourages young women to find their niche in the field and work towards being involved. Other questions surrounded around her time spent in jail, which was horribly awkward for everyone in the room. However, the graceful Martha answered them and moved right along as if they were questions about which plants are best to grow this spring. Other topics included Martha feeling that mothers have forgotten to teach their daughters how to be domestic, but admits she is your mother and will happily teach you the way through the kitchen and sewing machine.
Perhaps the best aspect of Martha’s session was her blunt and sharp responses to any question sent her way. One audience member asked how she felt about Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In Movement. Martha responded by saying she thinks Sandberg is “amazing,” and she should become involved with politics. She also made sure not to gloss her life over with fabulousness and admitted to having the same flaws us common women share. Martha admitted she “does not have friends, just colleagues.” She also responded to a question about how balance being a mother and having a job by saying “well, I failed; I got a divorce.” She simply kept it real just as Martha always does.
Martha made note to say she loved her years at Barnard and the education she received while here. The mediator even invited her to become a professor at the school, which she responded to with a delicate “wouldn’t that be great” response. Nonetheless, Martha is a prime example of what us Bears can go out into the world and be: a classy lady with power and humor.