When Joy Mangano was 16-years-old she watched someone else profit from a product she had also come up with. Although the situation was frustrating, Joy made a promise to herself: “Next time I had a good idea, I would bring it to market.”
Decades later, Joy’s now worth a reported $50 million from her success as an infomercial queen. Her entrepreneurial success was kick-started in by the Miracle Mop, and now she has a huge repertoire of products. It’s hard to see a real person behind the sheen of the infomercial circus, and the glitter of a mountain of success can obscure the grit required to build it. However, a new David O. Russell film starring Jennifer Lawrence seeks to bring the humanity of Joy Mangano into full view. The movie is “loosely” based on Joy’s life, but is inspired enough by her to bear her name. According to Jennifer Lawrence, the film is about half Joy Mangano’s story, and half comes from “David’s imagination and different daring women that have inspired him.”
Although many details in Joy are fictionalized, director David O. Russell worked very closely with Joy Mangano to construct a story authentic to her life. They’ve spent hundreds of hours talking on the phone. “He knows more about me than anybody in the world — I would never need therapy!” she told Detroit News. The entrepreneur served as a producer on the film, but didn’t meet Russell face-to-face, or see the final cut until the December 13, 2015 premiere.
“People will ask, ‘Were you worried to be the inspiration?’” Mangano told TIME “Not a doubt in my mind that he would just do everything right, and he did.” Some of the things that were added to the film was a vengeful half-sister, a soap opera-addicted mom, and a close relationship with a particular QVC employee.
Joy found her life-changing opportunity when she was a single mother of three in Smithtown, NY. During her daily domestic tasks, Joy saw room for improvement with mops. “I found they didn’t last very long. I’d constantly be throwing them out or using sponges or paper towels to get the floors really clean,” she explained. So, she made a better mop. Joy’s new creation had a durable cotton head and special handles that allow it to be wrung it out without getting your hands wet. Determined to turn her idea into an empire started selling her new, improved mop in Long Island to family, friends, and anyone who would lend her an ear for a few minutes. Even when people balked at her hard sell, she didn’t give up because she believed in her mop.
“They said, ‘A mop is a mop is a mop,'” Joy recalled of those who dismissed her. “But I knew that wasn’t the case. There was nothing like this out there. I thought the whole mop industry was being overlooked.” She stopped at nothing, even pouring $100,000 of mostly borrowed money into her invention. Some might view as a gamble, but Joy believed it was a sure bet because her vision was clear and her resolve was unshakable. Her hard work and resolve started to pay off in 1992 when the QVC took a chance on her. They were wary to sell mops, but decided to give her 20 minutes to demonstrate her product. Joy sold 18,000 right away, and by 1995, her mop sales topped $1 million a year. Here’s Joy on the QVC in 1996:
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