Rhonda Shear is still up all night. The iconic actress, best known for her stint as host of USA Up All Night, has now become a legend in the lingerie industry. Famous for creating comfortable yet chic looks, Shear is still as fabulous (and funny!) as ever. We spoke to Shear about her career, coming full-circle, and why she feels now, more than ever, she’s just getting started.
How did the Rhonda Shear collection come to be?
Dick Zimmerman shot our most recent catalog. He was iconic in the 80s; he shot the Michael Jackson album cover. When you think of the 80s and posters from that time, it was him. He shot me as a model in the 80s and I found him at an art show, and I asked him to do our catalog. He’s now coming on board at our company as a creative art director. It’s really full circle. Everything in my life is full circle now.
I hit 40 and I realized that I needed to focus on the second phase of my life. I loved dating; I dated for great dinners! I did have a long-term boyfriend and he was great. I knew he wasn’t the one, so I started dating for a purpose. And around that time, Van, my junior high school sweetheart (we met when we were 12 or 13), got in touch with me. I knew he was the one to marry. I wound up calling him and 15 days later, we eloped.
He was a businessman and I wanted to do something, and I liked lingerie. He told me he would build my website. I wasn’t acting; I was auditioning for local plays — it was kind of a mess. We got a tip that HSN was looking to fill a shapewear spot. I got in touch with them and sent them some of the product that we had. I went on the air, and we sold out on our first show. They asked when we could be on again and I said, “Next week!” and my husband was kicking me because we needed product. From that point on, everything was developed in-house, designed by me. It expanded so quickly.
It’s such a cool story.
It is. He wanted me to be happy, but we wanted to make up for lost time that we weren’t together, which was 26 years. We have 28 employees and we’re very family oriented. We eat together in the office; we created an Up All Night Café where we eat and gossip. But our focus is on the line with its beautiful quality and a great fit.
Let’s describe your collection.
After years of being in front of the camera myself, I knew I liked wearing sexy things. Up All Night was because I liked to wear lingerie, but I changed it up five times a night into all types of crazy costumes. I always had an eye for it, and I knew how to make the illusion of making people look more slender, but I didn’t want to do anything old-fashioned like with hooks and eyes and girdles. It was all about being comfortable, so we started sourcing really great fabrics and I was really into seamless.
Everything that I do is function, flirt, and has a great fit. It always accentuates your assets. The number one selling item is the Ahh Bra, which is the top selling bra worldwide. My husband said we should do the bra as an infomercial, and I didn’t get it. But we did it and it has my crazy humor in it; it’s beautifully shot. But the bra is amazing; it keeps everything in place, it’s knitted and has four-way stretch. You don’t have to order it by cup size; it’s XS – 5X and it’s all true to size. My girls of all sizes want to look great without things digging into their skin.
I love that you’re designing for every woman, every shape, every size, and every stage of life.
When we fit, we fit on all shapes and sizes and ages. A 40-year-old body is not the same as a 20-year-old body, even if you’re both a size 4. We also knew that women like color; it just makes you feel good. It has stretch and is comfortable, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing something medical.
And then we have our leggings. Leggings are here to stay, thank goodness. They never went out for me but apparently, they went out for the rest of the world. Now they’re back so we do them in every color of the rainbow. This goes all the way up to under your bust, so it has good tummy control but it’s still baby soft like the other fabrication.
Our best-selling panty is called Pin-Up because it’s very retro inspired. It does hold the tummy in and it’s light everyday shaping. It has the illusion of a French cut, but the function is amazing because like in athletic wear, it has a quick dry effect and a wider gusset. And it’s just really sexy on.
Also, we work hard on every piece. We put a lot of thought and love into it. It’s created by a woman. I get that you don’t want to be squeezed and then have something popping out from underneath.
What is it like being a stepmom?
I’m so proud of my stepson because he went from being this rambunctious teenager to now being in business, 24 years old, and in the lingerie business. Can you imagine how happy he is? I have a blast with him; he’s such a great kid. I also have a 26-year-old stepdaughter and I have two step grandkids and they’re just precious. I’m called Honey as Grandma, because my middle name is Honey.
Now, you have this amazing new career in the lingerie business. Do you miss acting?
No! I feel like this is theater. I do get to go on the air on HSN and be funny and crazy and sell at the same time. I get the instant testimonials of what they think. If they don’t like something they’ll let you know, and if they do love something, they’ll let you know. It’s a good busy right now, and I’m absolutely loving it. My brother said to me, “Why don’t you guys just retire?” and I said, “Are you kidding? I’m just starting.”