I want to thank the genius producer who put this segment together: it’s Ellen and Drew Barrymore cooking with Martha Stewart, who is there to promote her 85th book (!!!!!), Appetizers. Drew has done a cooking segment with Ellen before and continues to expand her lifestyle profile with a makeup line, wine, and sunglasses.
The segment starts out friendly enough – Martha is wearing ED by Ellen, and congratulates both women on their new books. But then Martha – who has strong opinions on the proliferation of actresses in the lifestyle business (as in: she hates it) – decides to put Drew in a corner. She actively ignores her for most of the segment, to the point where Drew raises her hands to answer questions and speak. There’s a lot of talk about pablano peppers, and Drew wants so badly to help, to talk about how she likes her peppers, to stand next to Martha and peel them. But no. Martha ignores Drew’s questions and angles her body away from her in a way that is subtle but clear: stay out of my lane.
Throughout the awkwardness, Drew is a good sport; she’s deferential, but enthusiastic. She’s not ME ME ME’ing everything, but she tries to engage. Martha doesn’t pay her any mind for the most part, and treats her like a friend’s pesky kid sister. You have to earn your way into Martha’s good graces and for the most part, she is not having it.
Many people come down on Martha for being cold, cutting, a bitch – the usual words for businesswomen. You know why I can tolerate this kind of shade from Martha? Because she’s about her business. Any criticism she has towards her competitors seems to come from a guttural instinct. She doesn’t want people encroaching on her empire, and she fights for herself. This is what I really saw on Ellen. She’s there to promote her book, under her name, and doesn’t give a f-ck if there’s an actress who wants to participate. This is her time to work.
Martha has never been the head-patter. She’s the Tiger Mom of lifestyle. If you make one of Martha’s crafts and f-ck it up, she’s not going to tell you that it’s good enough for the centerpiece. Because it’s not. Try harder. That’s what she made Drew do – try so very hard. She tries to impress Martha with her avocado skills and fails. She tries to charm her with her Julia Childs impression and doesn’t.
And I don’t know if Martha was wrong to box Drew out: there’s a short amount of time allotted to the segment, and Drew is natural performer, having been trained to be “on” since she was a child. Given the chance, she could completely dominate and turn it into the “Drew is so charmingly not perfect” show. And where would that leave Martha? With a wasted opportunity to promote her book. What kind of businessperson – man or woman – would want that?
Drew finally gets Martha’s brief attention by concentrating on her autumnal roll (a fancy marketing name for a salad roll), and Martha compliments her in the third person, saying, “She’s doing a beautiful job.” Drew looked legitimately flattered, because she applied herself and she earned that little bit of praise. The relief is palpable.
All of this shade over appetizers? Yup. The secret of lifestyle is that behind the steaming vagina treatments and juice cleanses and French beauty regimens is a punishingly competitive market, filled with “the next Martha Stewart.” Martha would like to remind you that she is still the one and only, and she’s not even close to giving up her scepter. If someone wants it, it will be a fight. She believes her brand – her name – is worth fighting for and is vocal about it. Why is this a bad thing? Everyone wants to praise the “boss bitch” but does that only count if you’re under 30 or something?