The Entrepreneur Who Inspired 'Joy' Talks Movie-Making and Retail At one point, she shares, megastar Robert De Niro leaned in to ask her advice about his idea for an invention.

By Joan Oleck

Joy Mangano, the HSN celebrity and inventor of the Miracle Mop, Huggable Hangers and much more, was the inspiration for the new movie Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

In a recent email interview with Entrepreneur, Mangano talked about hanging out with the stars -- and director David O. Russell -- as well as the Jan. 9 launch of her "JOY" retail line. Starting this Saturday night, on HSN, she'll also relaunch a new, improved (now available in five colors) and still modestly-priced ($19.95) Miracle Mop.

Related: New Movie 'Joy' Celebrates Something We Already Appreciate: Entrepreneurs

What's going on now that entrepreneurs -- who, yourself included, have been around for years -- are suddenly sexy enough to have one of their stories told by three of the biggest stars on the planet?

To be honest, I always thought, "Doesn't everybody else have a similar story?" And I never really felt like anything [about me] was particularly sexy (as you say) or unique. That's why I was so surprised and honored when David O. Russell created this film inspired by my life. From this, David has created a cinematic story that is amazing and beautiful and powerful.

I think anyone who sees this film is going to leave the theater feeling inspired, saying, "I feel like I can climb a mountain!" That's because this film tells the story of a woman with courage and fortitude to go after her dreams and turn them into reality. At the base of it, this is something that all entrepreneurs will be able to relate to, because it's what drives all of us forward and what eventually makes us successful. If that's sexy, so be it!

My understanding is that this film started as "your" story exclusively, as written by Annie Mumolo, then morphed into something semi-fictitious. Which parts are your real story? And who are the other women entrepreneurs whose stories David O. Russell supposedly brought into the mix?

When someone is creative like David, they take what appears to be the ordinary and make it extraordinary through their artistic ability. There are elements of my life threaded throughout the story, and elements of his creativity beautifully meshed with that.

Please allow me a People magazine "gee-whiz" moment here. What was your input during filming? Were you on set? A lot? A little? What were Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro like? Were there dinners out? Beer blasts? Did David O. Russell seek your input? Any movie star gossip would be most appreciated.

I can tell you that I spent hundreds of hours upon hours on the phone, as David crafted his story and pulled pieces and experiences from my own personal journey. I keep saying that I don't need therapy now because of all of the hours I spent on the phone with him!

I met with David, Jennifer, Bradley and Bob in New York City before they began filming. It was an amazing experience to be able to sit down with these incredibly talented actors, all of whom are just larger than life, but so warm and down to earth at the same time. We talked and talked for hours, and at the end, I felt so close and connected to them.

One funny thing that happened is that Bob De Niro leaned over to me at one point and said, "Joy, I want to talk to you because I have an idea for an invention that I want to bounce off you." And Jennifer said, "Bob, you can't do that to Joy! Don't you know how many people tell her they have a great idea?!" I just laughed. He's a very brilliant man, and I'll leave it at that (wink wink).

Related: 10 Movies Every Entrepreneur Needs to Watch

If you read Entrepreneur, you know we're big on "lists." What three to five lessons for entrepreneurs does the film have to teach? What advice do you have for people trying to bring their inventions to market in today's (vastly different) world?

There are so many lessons and stories in the film. I think there's really something that anyone on the course of their own journey can relate to. Here are the big lessons and tips I'd share from my own experiences:

  • Trust your instincts: If your instincts have always served you well, trust them and follow them.
  • Find the strength within yourself: It's great to have external cheerleaders and supporters, but at the end of the day, the strength to accomplish great things comes from deep inside you.
  • Overcome obstacles one at a time: Sometimes the end goal becomes too daunting, so take things one step at a time and overcome each obstacle as you get to it.
  • Find a way and make it happen: I've always been the type of person who couldn't rest until I found a way to make something happen. If I couldn't go around the rock, I'd find a way to go over it or under it or through it.

Was the characterization of your early days at QVC true to life? What did and didn't you like about the film?

I can really only speak to my own personal experiences. Early on, QVC was the most appealing medium for me because it allowed me to share the stories behind my products and directly communicate the features and benefits. I think you definitely see this in the film.

I have continued to do that for the past 25 years, and now I'm on air about once a month on HSN and have been for the last 15 years. This ability to connect directly to my consumers has allowed me to grow my brands to heights I never imagined.

What are you up to now? I read that you're debuting an eponymous line at various retail outlets.

There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon. I've reinvented the Miracle Mop, and I'm so excited to introduce it to the world on HSN on Jan. 2 to 3 [starting at 11 p.m. Jan. 2]. I now realize that the only thing harder than inventing is reinventing, and I can't wait to share this amazing mop with my customers. It's easier, more absorbent and better than ever. We even have gorgeous colors that will brighten every home!

I'm launching the JOY brand at Macy's, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and The Container Store locations nationwide all on the same day -- Jan. 9. When I design each product, I dream about how it will help somebody's life be a little easier in some way. Now, these partnerships will allow us to reach even more consumers all across the country, which is very exciting.

And we're formalizing the work that my family and I have been doing for years with the Joy Mangano Foundation. The organization was created to help empower American Dreamers. We're thrilled to partner with Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit organization that, for the past 10 years, has been working to empower many first-time entrepreneurs and single mothers to use their creativity and talents so they too can build businesses that transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

Related: HSN Teams With Daymond John to Find Emerging Entrepreneurs and Put Them On TV

Wavy Line
Joan Oleck

Entrepreneur Staff

Associate Editor

Joan Oleck is an associate contributors editor at Entrepreneur. She has previously worked for Business Week, Newsday and the trade magazine Restaurant Business, where a cover story she wrote won the Jesse Neal Award.

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