Sara Blakely, American Inventor
Sitting alongside overbearing alpha males George Foreman
, Pat Croce
and Peter Jones
, fellow judge Sara Blakely
has more than held her own on ABC's American Inventor
(Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET). Having reshaped the ironically male-dominated hosiery industry with her popular Spanx and Assets lines of slimming undergarments for women, that should come as no surprise. We spoke with the charming go-getter about critiquing Inventor
's aspiring Edisons.
TVGuide.com: Why'd you agree to be a judge?
Sara Blakely: Well, I am an American inventor, and I'm living the American dream. I thought that helping someone else achieve [that] would be fantastic.
TVGuide.com: Does being an inventor make you harsher or more compassionate toward the contestants?
Blakely: That's a great question — a little bit of both. Because I didn't have the money when I first started, I have a real sense of what it's going to take. That makes me a little bit harsher. But I find myself being lenient and wanting to say yes.
TVGuide.com: Because it's hard to squash their dreams?
Blakely: I was told no for two years and I was sitting on a multimillion-dollar idea, so it's hard for me to say no to something because it's ridiculous. That's what everyone thought my idea was.
TVGuide.com: What's the most ridiculous idea you've seen?
Blakely: The guy who invented the wheel and wouldn't believe us that the wheel's been around for a while. He had to be escorted out.
TVGuide.com: He was clearly crazy. Did you fear for your safety when he wouldn't leave?
Blakely: I was sitting next to George Foreman so, no, I was never nervous!
TVGuide.com: Your on-camera reactions are priceless.
Blakely: Do you know that I don't realize the facial expressions I'm making until I watch the show? It's hard for me not to laugh at contestants, but George would start laughing and he wheezes when he laughs. [That] made me start laughing until I cried.
TVGuide.com: What one person would you like to see in their underwear?
Blakely: Gene Wilder. I watched all [his] movies when I was a little girl. When all my friends had crushes on Andy Gibb, I had a crush on Gene Wilder!
TVGuide.com: Your products, like Bra-llelujah, have unique and fun names. But how did you come up with Spanx?
Blakely: Kodak and Coca-Cola are [two of the] most recognized names in the world, and I thought, what do they have in common? The "K" sound. I have friends who do stand-up comedy and they said it's a trade secret that the "K" sound will make your audience laugh. So I wanted that in my product's name. I changed the "k-s" to an "x" because made-up words do better for products than real words and they're easier to trademark. And it's all about the butt! It kind of makes your mind wander.
TVGuide.com: Ever consider a men's line?
Blakely: Yes. I get e-mails all the time from men wanting [us] to address the beer belly. But men do wear our trouser socks! They don't leave a [mark] on your calf.
TVGuide.com: Maybe you can produce Seinfeld's "manssiere"?
Blakely: I should call it "Manx"!
TVGuide.com: Are you threatened by the finalist on the show who invented the backless bra?
Blakely: You mean threatened because she's a double-D and I'm a B? [Laughs] No, I love it when women do great things. I think she's on to something great.
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