From model to mogul: Martha Stewart’s 1956 Unilever ad resurfaces as domestic diva remembers kick-starting her career in vogue

By Jennifer Madison, Daily Mail
June 28, 2011

She may be a domestic diva today, but Martha Stewart was pitching products in America’s living rooms long before she built a billion dollar empire.

The 69-year-old was still a teen when she started her career as a model for TV adverts and fashion magazines.

That was over 50 years ago - so Stewart was understandably stunned when her 1956 commercial for Unilever soap resurfaced on Wednesday during a corporate conference.

Global marketing communications company Interpublic held its Group of Companies’ event in Cannes this week, when CEO Michael Roth played the clip.

Stewart, then 15, flashed on the screen, playing a married woman on-the-go in the ad for Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap.

The black-and-white clip begins with the young model cheerfully smiling as she’s lifted up at the waist by a male co-star.

A narrator pitches the ‘spice-fragrant’ soap, for ‘busy, active people’.

Stewart and her co-star are pictured nuzzling after a hard day’s work; a caption appears: ‘Odor-proofs for over 24 hours.’

A beauty shot of the television star shows her brightly smiling, brushing her hands through her cropped blonde hair - a chipper young version of the cooking host and business mogul we know today.

Stewart was light-hearted about watching the old clips.

Laughing, she told AdAge, ‘I loved seeing that commercial because who smelled? Did he smell or did I smell?’

Even then, she explained, she was juggling a full plate - and had to take a break from her studies to shoot the ad.

'It was done on Shelter Island… I took off two days from school, I had a chaperone,' she said.

The commercial was the beginning of Stewart’s modelling career, which saw her on the pages of Glamour magazine, and in television commercials including one of Tareyton cigarette brand’s talked-about ‘Smokers would rather fight than switch!’ advert.

It was, in fact, Stewart’s modelling career that allowed her to pay her way through university.

While modelling, she managed to maintain an A average, and later attended Barnard College in New York.

The hard work has clearly paid off. Martha Stewart Living - her platform for a mix of magazines, television shows and lifestyle products is valued at close to $280million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The company at its peak was valued at $1.9 billion in February 2005, just before Stewart was released from prison after her highly-publicised conviction for securities fraud.

  
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