tv

'There were days that I went to bed hungry.' The incredible true story behind Netflix's Maid.

Within less than a week, Maid has become one of the most popular shows on Netflix right now.

The new 10-part series follows Alex (Margaret Qualley), a young mother who finds herself without any resources after leaving her emotionally abusive boyfriend, Sean (Nick Robinson). 

After fleeing in the middle of the night with her young daughter Maddy when Sean punched a hole in the wall, Alex attempts to piece her life back together with just $18 in her pocket.

Watch the trailer for Netflix's Maid below. Post continues after video.


Video via Netflix.

But as expected, it isn't an easy journey.

Within the first 15 minutes of the series, it becomes searingly obvious just how hard it is to leave an abusive relationship.

Sitting opposite a social worker after fleeing her home, Alex learns that there's little support available for her and her two-year-old daughter.

In order to qualify for subsidised housing, Alex needs a job. But without a job in the first place, Alex can't afford daycare for her daughter Maddy. And in order to get subsidised daycare, you guessed it, Alex needs a job.

From that moment onwards, the endless obstacles continue to crop up for Alex as she takes on a low-paying job as a cleaner.

Read more: Should I Watch It? Maid, the new Netflix drama you won't be able to stop thinking about.

Is Maid based on a true story?

Maid was created by Molly Smith Metzler, who previously worked as a writer on Shameless and Orange Is the New Black.

The Netflix series is based on Stephanie Land's memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive. 

However, much of Stephanie's story is fictionalised in the series.

Margaret Qualley as Alex, Rylea Nevaeh Whittet as Maddy, and Nick Robinson as Sean in Maid. Image: Netflix.

ADVERTISEMENT

Although the author has been approached multiple times for film adaptations since her memoir was released in 2019, it was Netflix's decision to add fictional elements to her story that led her to sell the rights to them.

"They offered to fictionalise the story and I really appreciate that because my story is tightly focused on me," the author told The Seattle Times.

"I felt very strongly about the show looking like how the world looks so [adding fictional elements] brought a lot of diversity to the cast. And I really wanted that because it’s not a white person’s story; 90 per cent of domestic workers are people of colour."

So, how much of Maid is actually based on Stephanie Land's experience? Quite a lot, actually.

Stephanie Land was 28 years old when she unexpectedly fell pregnant with her daughter Mia, who now goes by her middle name Story.

Stephanie fell pregnant within just months of meeting her boyfriend Jamie. (Stephanie's ex-partner is referred to as Jamie in her memoir. He was renamed Sean in the Netflix series and played by Nick Robinson).

While Maid is set in the fictional town of Port Hampstead, Stephanie and Jamie actually met in Port Townsend, Washington, where they both worked in cafes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Upon first meeting, Stephanie and Jamie both hoped to leave the small town, with Stephanie determined to study creative writing in Montana.

However, after falling pregnant, Jamie became emotionally abusive.

"His initial tenderness in coaxing me to change the pregnancy abruptly changed when I told him I would not be doing that," Stephanie wrote in her memoir. "I had known Jamie only four months, and his rage, his hatred toward me, was frightening."

While she tried to "make it work" at first, Stephanie later left Jamie when Story was just nine months old.

Afterwards, the 28-year-old briefly lived with her father and step-mother, before heading to a homeless shelter.

While Alex's mother, Paula, played by Andie MacDowell, is a major character in Maid, this aspect of the series is fictionalised. In real life, Stephanie was unable to live with her mother as she found her feet as she was living overseas.

After leaving Jamie, Stephanie spent several years living below the poverty line, relying on welfare programs and her low-paying cleaning job to keep her afloat.

They lived at a homeless shelter for 90 days, before later renting a studio apartment riddled with mould, which made both Stephanie and Story "constantly sick".

On her website, Stephanie shared what her daily life was like at the time.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I relied on government assistance to survive. Child care grants, food stamps, Medicaid, utility assistance, and even gas vouchers were absolutely vital, and made it possible to use my limited income for rent. Because the rent always eats first," she wrote.

"There were days in the month, before the food stamp money was replenished, that I went to bed hungry, or ate very little. After paying bills, I often had no more than $20 left for the month. No matter how hard I worked, it never felt like it was enough. That I was enough."

After six years of cleaning, Stephanie was able to move and use student loans to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Montana in Missoula.

Once she graduated, she began working as a freelance writer, working for publications such as The Huffington Post and Vox.

One article that she wrote for Vox'I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich', went viral, and led to an offer to write her memoir, which later earned a place on President Obama’s Summer Reading List.

Where is Stephanie Land now?

ADVERTISEMENT

As of 2021, Stephanie Land is raising four children with her husband, Tim Faust, who she married in 2019. 

The blended family live in Missoula, Montana.

Stephanie continues to work as a writer, author, and public speaker. 

Her next book, Class, will be released in 2022.

All 10 episodes of Maid are available to watch on Netflix now.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature Image: Netflix/Instagram.

Want to win $50? Take our survey now:
MMSurvey