The Skinny on the CEO/Founder Who Shaped the Undergarment Industry and Lifted the Potential, Confidence, and Spirits of Women Everywhere
Nearly 20 years ago, SPANX founder and CEO Sara Blakely revolutionized the retail hosiery and shapewear space with her bestselling line of fabulously fun, form-fitting undergarments that magically smooth, sculpt, tuck, lift, and firm ANY figure. In 2012, the busy mother of four, devoted wife, underwear innovator, fierce philanthropist, and painstaking proponent of female empowerment, became the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire by the age of 41. Meet the woman who has transformed the wardrobes of millions of women with the start of one simple solution.
There probably isn’t a single woman on the planet who doesn’t own a SPANX shapewear accessory of some sort. Let’s get real, ladies. Even seemingly perfectly proportioned supermodels, trimmed and toned actresses, fit and firm fitness bloggers, soccer moms, blushing brides – EVERYONE – owns at least one pair of SPANX pantyhose, power panty, or belly bulge-busting piece that they’re gratuitously grateful for. What started out as smoothing and sculpting panties and pin-perfecting pantyhose, has morphed into an entire line of lifting leggings, bras, denim, bodysuits, activewear, tops, tees, and even a men’s hosiery line. Arguably, SPANX has been the single greatest innovation in underwear this century with its iconic, beloved brand of body-boosting must-haves, indefinitely banning painful, uncomfortable corsets to the back of the closet only to be retrieved for that rare, impromptu night of intimate enjoyment. Because, SPANX isn’t exactly as sexy as it is practical and unequivocally essential for anyone with a body – size notwithstanding.
The Pantyhose Pragmatist
“It all started with a pair of pantyhose, some scissors, and a bright idea,” says Blakely. While getting ready for an event back in 1998, Blakely realized she didn’t have the right undergarment to successfully pull off a smooth, sculpted derriere under unforgiving cream-white pants. What she did have? A handy pair of scissors, pantyhose, and sheer ingenuity. So, she cut the “feet” off her control top hose and that was the beginning of the booty-beautifying revolution. Engineered to solve unceremonious wardrobe woes, the SPANX brand has grown to offer so much more than butt-perfecting panties that smooth those unwanted lumps and bumps. With almost daily mentions from CNN to SNL to social media to pop culture, the cheeky, charitable brand has securely (and firmly!) solidified a place in our hearts and on our booties.
In March of 2012, Forbes Magazine named then 41-year-old Blakely the world’s youngest, self-made billionaire, and that same year, one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.” Headquartered in HOT-lanta, Georgia and continuing to open specialty retail shops across the U.S., SPANX can now be found worldwide in more than 50 countries and counting. Where there are women, there’s a demand for SPANX. In addition to keeping derrieres dimple-free and firm from Savannah to Singapore, SPANX is also integral in boosting female empowerment, with their endless mission in helping women feel great about themselves – head-to-toe, inside and out.
With a prodigious personal net worth of $1.1 billion as of 2019, the 49-year-old billionaire businesswoman and intimate apparel innovator went into production in 2000 after finding a mill to manufacture her bright idea from two years prior. The result was footless, body-smoothing shapewear. No scissors are necessary. And, SPANX was born!
Famous Friends Get Wrapped Up in the SPANX Craze
A-lister Gwyneth Paltrow publicly admitted to wearing two simultaneous pairs of the celeb-obsessed slimming shapewear after giving birth, while Oprah told her audience, “I’ve given up panties and only wear SPANX.” In 2004, Blakely joined fellow billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, to travel the world with FOX TV for his “Rebel Billionaire” series, the same year the body-beautifying brand earned The Advertising Age’s “Marketing 50” honor. In 2006, Blakely and Branson threw the “Give a Damn Party” to officially launch The Sara Blakely Foundation and surprised Oprah with a $1 million check for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation in South Africa.
After opening its first-ever SPANX shop inside Bloomingdales’ 59th Street location in NYC, Blakely deservingly graced the cover of Forbes Magazine as the youngest, self-made female billionaire. It was a whirlwind year for the blossoming businesswoman and it was all just beginning. SPANX opened its first stand-alone shop at Tyson’s Corner in Virginia, and in 2013, along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Blakely committed to giving more than half of her wealth to charity with The Giving Pledge.
Making the World a Better Place One Butt at A Time – Butts that Give Back!
Make no butts about it, since the advent of SPANX, Blakely has unwaveringly appropriated portions of proceeds from her signature shapewear line to empower, embolden, and elevate women. “I am committed to the belief that we would all be in a much better place if half the human race (women) were empowered to prosper, invest, be educated, start their own business, run for office – essentially be given the chance to SOAR!” – Sara Blakely
There seems to be no bottom to Blakely’s tireless philanthropic initiatives. For one, The SPANX Foundation teamed up with The Center for Civic Innovation to provide funding to 18 Atlanta-based social enterprises. The grant included a personal stipend, leadership incentive, and exposed businesses to additional investment opportunities. The SPANX Foundation also donated $150,000 to support the Malala Fund to help fund girls’ education. And, was honored to team up with and host the first-ever PowHERful Enrichment Summit in Atlanta – a nonprofit that helps women get to – and through – college by providing much-needed financial services, career guidance, and mentorship. SPANX also made The Akola Project a SPANX Leg Up winner, investing an astounding $100,000 into this burgeoning company committed to helping women break free from the vicious cycle of poverty while transforming their lives. The SPANX Leg Up Program began as a way of helping other women, would-be business owners grow their businesses and/or brands. Winners of the program get exclusive, one-on-one mentoring with Sara herself, as well as free advertising in the SPANX catalog.
The Florida native who flunked the LSAT and settled for selling fax machines is the sole owner of SPANX and has never implemented formal advertising or taken outside investments to fund her company. It wasn’t until Oprah named SPANX one of her “favorite things” in 2000 that Blakely finally quit her day job. Blakely resides between Atlanta and New York with her husband Jesse Itzler, co-founder of Marquis Jet, and their four sons.
Now, that’s something we can really get behind.