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Joy Mangano interview (MJCCA Book Festival 11/13): 'The book is more than the movie'

Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Joy Mangano's one-two combination of personal authenticity and intuitive ability to invent products consumers will buy turned her into the home shopping queen. If you don't know her name, you may know her products such as the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers.

She funnels her trademark energy into a new book "Inventing Joy," a mix of memoir and inspiring advice for any would-be inventor. She is also going on a whirlwind book tour, hitting 10 cities in six days, including Atlanta November 13 for the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta's annual book festival.

Mangano's profile went up significantly after Jennifer Lawrence played her in the 2015 film "Joy," which also starred Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper.  The film ultimately led to the book.

"I've spent so much time talking about products, I didn't realize until the movie came out that people wanted to know more about me, he story behind the journey. " Mangano said in a recent phone interview. "Finally, I realized the best product I could create at this point was my story."

In the early 1990s, she was a single mom and divorcee trying to raise three children on a tight budget, juggling hours at an airline customer service desk. She came up with the idea of the Miracle Mop and wound her way to QVC to promote it. The bulk of the film "Joy" recounts her challenges with the manufacturer and her family over creating 60,000 mops in six months, plus her battle of control over her own product.

"The book is more than the movie," Mangano said. "It gives an amazing blueprint. It's really the secrets, the failings, the successes that came my way to where I am today. It's not just for inventors or entrepreneurs. It's for anybody who needs to pull their family together, for somebody coming out of college. Everyone has a touch point, a door into this book."

Writing "Inventing Joy" enabled Mangano to think back on her failures and what she learned from them, including her physical collapse in her 20s that was soon followed by her divorce. "I did the audio book, too," she said. "You can listen and hear my voice cracking at some points. Some parts are really heavy hitting in my heart."

The one trait she had that lifted her out of her dark hole was the courage to go out on her own, to forge her own path. "When I say courage, I don't mean it in an aggressive way," Mangano said. "Just tamp down that fear, that voice that says, you can't do it. Keep taking little steps or big steps forward when you can. Just keep moving forward."

Mangano, 61, nearly three decades after the Miracle Mop, is still seeking that Next Big Thing. She just has a bigger support team and financial wherewithal to make it happen. Her idealism has not dimmed. "I am the definition of the American Dream, she said. "It's in our DNA as Americans. We all have a little bit of frontiersman in us."

Mangano, who still regularly pops up on HSN, does have one product that bombed that she still thinks could work: organic, disposable place mats. "I put them on TV and they didn't resonate," she said. "They were gorgeous. They were cool. They were environmentally friendly. I'll come back with a replacement."

As for the film, Mangano was thrilled with the final product, courtesy of director and producer David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle").

"It was spot on," she said. "He absorbed everything I told him. He's brilliant. He added his cinematic vision and creativity. And I now do philanthropic work with Jennifer Lawrence. I'll be in Louisville where her hometown is and help her build a children's wing in a hospital. This book gives back. I believe it's time to give back at all levels of life."


Joy Mangano

7:30 p.m., Monday, November 13

$18 member, $25 community

Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta

5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody




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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.