Sara Blakely, <EM>American Inventor</EM> 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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! 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. 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! 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. 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. Maybe you can produce Seinfeld's "manssiere"?
Blakely: I should call it "Manx"! 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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