Inventor of SPANX Makes Billionaire’s List

SPANX mogul Sarah BlakelyIt widely known that celebs rely on the body smoothing undergarments called SPANX, especially when walking the red carpet. Kim Kardashian calls them "her best friend" and Oprah Winfrey (who boosted the brand on her show) enthuses she's "given up panties. I wear SPANX!" Screen goddesses (and mere mortals) love them so much in fact, that the company's founder, 41-year-old Sarah Blakely was just named the youngest ever self-made woman to grace Forbes annual list of the world's billionaires.

Blakely was working in copy machine sales and moonlighting as a stand-up comic when she cut off some pantyhose to make her first piece of "shapewear"-a pair of elongated briefs that resembled bike shorts. In 2008, she told TIME, "It was because of my own butt. I did not like the way my rear end looked in white pants, and like so many women, I couldn't figure out what to wear under them." Her empire now includes more than two hundred items, a cheaper line for Target called Assets, and even Manx, body shapers for men.

Launching her business with only five thousand dollars, Forbes notes that today, "Spanx is to slimming undergarments what Kleenex is to tissues." She's part of a tiny sorority of women who have earned 10 figures off their own backs (or, this case, backsides) that also includes Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, and Meg Whitman.

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