One of these days, Spanx will probably get its own Oscar.
It would only be fitting. No other brand in the world has leant so much unseen … umm … technical support to the annual parade of A-listers on red carpets during Hollywood’s awards season. And no other brand reaps as much free publicity from the world’s most famous faces than the 15-year-old shapewear pioneer.
It’s the kind of irony that drives other fashion houses nuts. Celebrities frequently get paid to wear the latest Prada or Marchesa or Dior gown to the big events, but you rarely hear them thanking those designers on stage. That seems to be a privilege enjoyed by Spanx alone.
Crediting Spanx for your red-carpet figure has become one of those peculiar Hollywood rites of passage, one that turns the most celestial goddess in a couture gown into just another girl trying to hold it all together.
Oprah, Tyra, Tina and Julia have all done it. Hell, even Tom Hanks sings the praises of Manx, Spanx‘s men’s line. Tiny Miley Cyrus called Spanx “a gift from God” while bootylicious Kim Kardashian declared “Spanx are my best friend” (pre-Kanye, of course).
More recently, Spanx has been the unwitting beneficiary of some unscripted endorsements that made news headlines (and more free publicity). In 2012, high-flying Adele told Matt Lauer that she was wearing “three or four” pairs of Spanx under her Armani gown on Grammy night, and Oscar winner Octavia (The Help) Spencer told Ellen she was squished into three pairs for one of her many award-show appearances.
This year, Spanx might finally make its move from the red carpet to the Oscar stage — though probably only as a punchline. That’s because Spanx made a memorable on-screen cameo in one of the funniest gags from the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy comedy The Heat.
The nightclub bathroom scene, in which Bullock rips up her no-nonsense pantsuit to reveal a pair of Spanx thigh slimmers underneath, was a smart, timely nod to fashion culture that played right into the hands of Spanx marketing. The joke? Slender Sandra routinely wears Spanx to “hold everything in place” while a horrified Melissa — whose beanbag figure is perhaps more typically associated with the shapewear boom — swears she’s never heard of the brand.
Spanx‘s ascension into the cultural conversation hasn’t gone unnoticed by the company itself, which has finally found a way to monetize all those priceless celebrity shout-outs. Last month, Spanx debuted the new Star Power line, a premium collection of slimming garments designed to help women channel their inner celeb while wearing evening gowns.
The Star Power line includes more than two dozen technical solutions like open-bust tanks, thigh slimmers, power slips and high-waisted control-top pieces. Spanx announced the new line in August, three months after The Heat hit theaters and (coincidentally?) Sandra Bullock told Ellen that “after this film there might be sort of a push” on the sale of Spanx.
The prize for best Spanx shout-out, though, goes to Bullock’s co-star. Back in 2011, Melissa McCarthy told a three-minute anecdote on the Ellen show about a hilarious Spanx wardrobe malfunction (see above). Not exactly an endorsement, but it hit on the central truth behind the brand’s legend: everybody wears this stuff, everybody feels a bit ridiculous for doing so, and everyone loves it.
VIEWING NOTE: Spanx returns to the QVC home shopping network with some pre-Oscar specials today (Feb. 25) from 7-8 p.m. Eastern time and next Tuesday, March 4 from 2-3 a.m.