A woman who exposed the dirty secrets of America’s upper-middle classes in a memoir based on her time working as a maid will see them brought to light again 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 best-seller and recounted her six years 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 dynamic as a result of her own experiences in the role – admitting that she has only hired a cleaner herself on one occasion and found it so awkward, she couldn’t ‘bring [herself]’ to do it again.
In spite of exchanging few words – sometimes none – with her clients, she amassed intimate knowledge about their lives – including a seemingly perfect couple who slept in separate bedrooms, where the husband casually left his collection of porn out for her to clean around.
Montana-based Stephanie Land, 43, wrote her memoirs Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will To Survive in 2019, when it quickly became a best-seller. The book has been turned into the Netflix series Maid, who dropped on the streaming platform earlier this month
In the show, Margaret Qualley plays Alex, a single mother down on her luck who works as a cleaner to make ends meet while fighting to keep the custody of her daughter
In the show, single mother Alex flees her abusive partner and takes refuge in a women’s shelter before being employed as a cleaner, while fighting to retain custody of her daughter.
Land herself, who comes from a middle-class Alaskan family, found herself homeless in her 20s after falling out with her boyfriend.
She got pregnant unexpectedly and this led to a break down of the relationship when Land’s boyfriend tried to intimidate her into getting an abortion, which she refused, before leaving with her baby.
In order to survive, Land took a job as a cleaner for middle class and upper-class families on the wealthy Camano Island, near Seattle, where she was paid $8.55-an-hour (£6.34).
‘I learned just how invisible that job is,’ she said, adding: ‘It’s mainly unnoticed.’
Alex has no choice but to work for wealthy families, and learns about their daily lives without even speaking to them
Alex with her daughter. In the book, she recounted the clients she worked for, include those who left their lubricant on display for her to find or the cruel ones who made her life difficult
In order to make the boring and ‘lonely’ job more interesting, Land began to imagine made-up stories around her clients’ lives.
She would give each household a nickname, such as ‘Chef’s house’ or ‘Sad House.’
In her memoir, she drew the portrait of one house she called ‘Porn House,’ where a seemingly happy couple were sleeping in separate beds.
She found lubricant and a pile of Hustlers magazines in the husband’s bedroom, and romance novels in the wife’s.
‘Though I’d never fault anyone for looking at porn mags, I would fault them for leaving it out in the open for the cleaning girl to see,’ Land wrote.
‘I imagined them sleeping in different rooms… each fantasising about a different partner, and possibly a different life,’ she added.
Alex is dedicated to keeping her daughter’s custody in the show. I real life, Land’s ex-partner didn’t want a child and pressured her into getting an abortion – which she refused
She also recounted how she was particularly fascinated by a woman she called ‘Cigarette Lady,’ who took great pains in hiding her smoking habit so that her home would look perfect.
Land admitted she tried a cashmere sweater that belonged to the woman – whom she doesn’t name – and imagined what living in her shoes would be like.
Some of the employers she faced were cruel to her, including one couple who lived on a hill and who barred her from parking on their driveway after her car dripped some oil on their tarmac.
She explained she had to lug her heavy load of cleaning products by her self up the steep driveway after the family made her park far from the house.
She added that other clients didn’t trust her around the house and one client left expensive jewelery lying about in her bedroom, which Land took as ‘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 went on to complete a BA in English literature at the University of Montana thanks to a grant, and published her memoirs in 2019
One kind employer name Henry would share some of the fancy food he cooked – like lobster – with her so that she could take it home.
However, Land admitted she looked on her clients’ lives with envy and resented the fact they lived such different lives to hers.
For instance, in the memoir, she recounted how she spotted a bottle of champagne near Henry’s hot tub, and wanted to experience that herself.
‘My body ached for… just one opportunity to drink Champagne in a hot tub,’ she wrote.
The show tells Alex’ fierce custody battle with her abusive partner Sean, pictured, played by Nick Robinson
She especially struggled with that idea if the clients were young or younger than her.
In parallel to he job as a cleaner, Land didn’t give up on her goal of becoming a writer.
She eventually received a grant to complete a BA in English at the University of Montana, which saw her moving on from cleaning.
Land admitted she was envious of the lifestyle of the rich clients she worked for as a made. Pictured: Margaret Qualley as Alex in the show
Now that she no longer works as a cleaner, she is a fierce spokesperson and she campaigned for people who hire cleaners to still pay them during the 2020 pandemic.
When her book was published, many middle to upper-class people reached out to Land, admitting they were ‘unnerved’ by home much their cleaners could know about them.
Almost a decade on, Land, who is now married with three children, found herself hiring her own maid when she injured her back and needed help around the home.
She said her voice broke when she told the cleaner she’d need to clean the toilet, and has avoided hiring any more help since that incident.
She said: ‘I can’t bring myself to do it,’ but explained her husband will undergo major surgery soon and that she might 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 can’t bring herself to do it