You can’t refer to the Oscar-winning movie Precious without mentioning the writer Sappho just like you can’t mention the footless, body-shaping pantyhose Spanx® without its creator Sara Blakely®. (Seriously, both are registered trademarks.) In March 2012, Sara was named the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential people. The story goes that Sara was selling fax machines door-to-door when she realized she didn’t have the right undergarment to wear under a pair of white pants. (She was living in Florida at the time.) So she cut the feet off her control top pantyhose and voila. She had a prototype made, called the buyer at Neiman Marcus and asked her follow her into the ladies’ room where Sara showed her the before/after effect of Spanx®. “Three weeks later Spanx was on the shelves of Neiman Marcus.” Oprah named Spanx a “favorite thing” in 2000, and seven years later, Sara returned the favor with a check for $1 million for The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation in South Africa.
Further proving that once your ass is under control, great things keep happening, in walks (er, soars) Sir Richard Branson in his hot-air balloon. Blakely hit the Virgin guru’s Fox TV show “Rebel Billionaire – Branson’s Quest for the Best” in 2004. She got to share an afternoon with Nelson Mandela in his South African home. Branson gave Blakely $75k to start her own foundation to help female entrepreneurs – Leg Up®. In 2008, Sara married rapper Jesse Itzler of “Shake It Like A White Girl” fame. Olivia Newton-John, who knows a thing or two about Spanx-like leotards (Oh, Sandy!) gave a surprise performance.