A woman who uncovered the dirty secrets of America’s upper middle class in a memoir based on her time as a maid, will see them re-emerged in a new Netflix series inspired by her book.
Montana-based Stephanie Land, 43, wrote her memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will To Survive in 2019. The book quickly became a bestseller, recounting her six years of cleaning for wealthy families in Camano Island, Washington State, where most of her clients never bothered to learn her name.
The book has now been turned into a Netflix series starring Margaret Qualley, with her real-life mother, Andie MacDowell, playing her on-screen mother.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Land, who is now a successful married mother of three, revealed that she still struggles with the maid client dynamics as a result of her own experiences in the role – admitting she has only hired a cleaner herself at an occasion and found it so inconvenient that she could not ‘bring’ [herself]’ to do it again.
Despite exchanging few words – sometimes none – with her clients, she gained intimate knowledge about their lives – including a seemingly perfect couple sleeping in separate bedrooms, where the man casually left his collection of porn for her to clean up.
Montana-based Stephanie Land, 43, wrote her memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will To Survive in 2019, when it quickly became a bestseller. The book was made into the Netflix series Maid, which appeared on the streaming platform earlier this month
In the show, Margaret Qualley plays Alex, a single mother who is unlucky and works as a maid to make ends meet as she fights to retain custody of her daughter.
In the Netflix show, Land’s memories of her time as a maid are told through the central character, a single mother named Alex who flees her abusive partner and takes refuge in a women’s shelter.
Struggling to make ends meet, Alex takes a job as a maid to support herself and her daughter, while battling her former partner to retain custody of their child.
The experiences are closely related to the events in Land’s own life; the author comes from a middle-class family in Alaska, but she became homeless in her 20s after arguing with her boyfriend.
She unexpectedly became pregnant, which led to the breakdown of her relationship when Land’s boyfriend tried to intimidate her into having an abortion, which she refused, before finally leaving him and taking their baby with her.
To survive, Land took a job as a cleaner for middle-class and upper-class families on wealthy Camano Island, near Seattle, where she was paid $8.55 an hour.
“I’ve learned how invisible that job is,” she said, adding, “It’s mostly unnoticed.”
Alex has no choice but to work for rich families and learn about their daily lives without even talking to them
Alex with her daughter. In the book, she shared the clients she worked for, including those who displayed their lube to find or the cruel people who made life difficult for her.
To make the boring and “lonely” work more interesting, Land started imagining made-up stories about her clients’ lives, based on things she would see while cleaning their houses.
She would give each household a nickname, such as “Chef’s house” or “Sad House.”
In her memoir, she drew a portrait of a house she called “Porn House,” where an apparently happy couple slept in separate beds.
She found lube and a stack of Hustlers magazines in the man’s bedroom, and novels in the woman’s.
“While I would never blame anyone for looking at porn magazines, I would blame them for leaving it out in the open for the cleaning girl to see,” Land wrote.
“I imagined they were sleeping in different rooms…each fantasizing about a different partner, and possibly a different life,” she added.
Alex is committed to maintaining custody of her daughter on the show. In real life, Land’s ex-partner didn’t want a child and pressured her to have an abortion – which she refused
She also shared how she was particularly fascinated by a woman she called “Cigarette Lady,” who went to great lengths to hide her smoking habit so that her home would look perfect.
Land admitted to trying on a cashmere sweater that belonged to the woman — whom she doesn’t name by name — and imagined what it would be like to be in her shoes.
Some of the employers she dealt with were cruel to her, including a couple who lived on a hill and prevented her from parking in their driveway after her car dripped some oil on their asphalt.
She explained that she had to lug her heavy load of cleaning supplies up the steep driveway herself after the family parked her far from the house.
She added that other customers did not trust her in the house and that one customer left expensive jewelry lying around in her bedroom, which Land considered “bait.”
Anika Noni Rose plays Regina, one of Alex’s clients who is bossy at first but develops a soft spot for the cleaner
Land, pictured, eventually completed a BA in English Literature at the University of Montana thanks to a scholarship, and published her memoir in 2019
A friendly employer named Henry shared some of the fancy food he cooked—like lobster—with her so she could take it home.
Land admitted, however, that she looked at her clients’ lives with envy and resented them for leading such a different life from her own.
In the memoir, for example, she told how she saw a bottle of champagne at Henry’s hot tub, and that she wanted to experience it for herself.
“My body was dying for … just one chance to drink champagne in a bubble bath,” she wrote.
She especially struggled with that idea if the clients were young or younger than her.
In addition to his job as a cleaner, Land did not give up on her goal of becoming a writer.
The show chronicles Alex’s fierce custody battle with her abusive partner Sean, pictured, played by Nick Robinson
Land admitted that she was jealous of the lifestyle of the wealthy clients she worked for as maggot. Pictured: Margaret Qualley as Alex on the show
She eventually received a scholarship to complete a BA in English at the University of Montana, which took her further into cleaning.
Now that she no longer works as a cleaner, she is a fierce spokesperson and campaigned for people to hire cleaners to pay them during the 2020 pandemic.
When her book was published, many middle- to upper-class people contacted Land, admitting that they were “nervous” at the fact that their cleaners could know a lot about them.
Nearly ten years later, Land, who is now married with three children, employed her own maid when she injured her back and needed help around the house.
She said her voice broke when she told the cleaner to clean the toilet, and has avoided hiring more help since that incident.
She said, “I can’t bear it,” but explained that her husband will have major surgery soon and she may need to hire someone again.
The author, pictured, is now successful and financially stable and admitted she struggled with the idea of hiring her own maid, saying she couldn’t bring herself to do it