Jealous types may despise Joy Mangano, 54, HSN's famously self-made "retail personality." She's attractive, trim, smart and successful - the total rags-to- riches story.
But bottom line (sorry, haters), she's darn likable and "oh-my-gosh" (her favorite phrase) earnest. She speaks with a distinct Long Island accent, which makes her all the more approachable.
This year, Mangano celebrates her 10th anniversary on the shopping network, where skinny hangers covered in a velvety material (you probably know them as Huggable Hangers) helped make her a household name.
And there's a lot to celebrate. A born and bred LIer, Mangano currently lives on 11 acres in St. James, where she pledges that her Comfort & Joy linens can be found in each of the 14 bedrooms. Her company, Ingenious Designs (now wholly owned by HSN) is headquartered in an 83,000-square-foot space in Ronkonkoma. She has invented some 100 products, the ideas for which sometimes come to her as she sleeps. "There are those 'aha' moments in the night. I sleep with a recorder and pad by my bed," she says.
She's a natural. "I've always been a gadgety inventor, and I'm a numbers-science person," she says. "Oh my gosh, when I was a little girl, I blew up my parents' toaster working on it." (Today, she sells the Joy Mangano Elevations Custom Deluxe toaster oven for $89.95). She also partners with a bunch of high-profile types, helping them create their own brands - Serena Williams, Iman and chef Todd English among them. And there's the newish chic eatery in Huntington called Porto Vivo - a bit of a hot spot - that's received very good reviews.
Oh yeah, and if this weren't enough, she has three gorgeous grown kids - Christy, 27, who works in the biz with her; Bobby, 26, an attorney; and Jackie Miranne, 24, who was a "Project Runway" model.
Her story goes like this. At 33, she was a struggling divorced mother of three, waitressing to help pay the bills. She creates a self-wringing mop (the Miracle Mop), gets QVC to take it on, and it doesn't sell until she demos that thing herself on-air. It goes off the charts, selling 18,000 units in 20 minutes. A pitchwoman is born.
Today, many inventions and a new network later, her TV pitch is expert. With perfectly (French) manicured hands (more blinged out as time goes on), she gesticulates feverishly. "If you tied my hands behind my back, I couldn't talk," she says. Oddly, during college, she hated public speaking. "It was the only class I cut," she says. She knows what you need and will cajole, compliment ("You're soooo smart to buy this") and demonstrate until you buy it. In a minute, she steams a half-dozen garments with her $19.99 mini-steamer. "I spent more than that on coffee today," she tells viewers.
Her true expertise? "She solves simple problems," says HSN's executive vice president, Bill Brand. "It's amazing what you go through life accepting as OK," she says. Her hangers that prevent clothes from slipping onto the floor are "arguably the top-selling product in electronic retail history. She's sold 260 million," says Brand. Cha-ching.
In other words, she's "huuuuge," to steal a phrase from Donald Trump. "She's one of the top retailers in all of electronic retailing," says Brand, who adds that people stop her in airports and hug her. "At HSN, we say you have to have a great product, a great story and a great storyteller. Joy nails all three. . . . She intuitively knows what women want and how they shop."
They may relate, in part, because clever inventions and salesmanship aside, Magano is all about being a mom and lets you know it. "My three children, that is my biggest accomplishment," she says. "Oh my gosh, I am so blessed, truly, truly."
And you believe her.