Over the last 20 years, Judy Crowell has worked as a host at both QVC and HSN, launched her own fashion collection on ShopNBC, and also married former host and current gem vendor, Paul Deasy. She is most certainly home shopping royalty.
During our recent talk, Queen Bea and Judy ended up discussing everything from why she has a real coffin in the garage to what she really thinks of those new “stripped down” Kirk’s Folly sets ... not to mention how she practically had to burn down her house before finally "marrying smart!"
For those of you who have followed Judy over the years, across the networks, and through all her ups and downs, I think you will find her even more endearing. So pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the read!
QB: As a "military brat," you were raised all around the world--4 countries and 12 states to be exact! Do you think the constant moving and having to meet new people all the time helped prepare you for hosting and being a vendor? How did your multicultural upbringing affect your sense of style?
JC: There's no question that my upbringing helped prepare me for my future in home shopping. I feel able to relate to customers of all lifestyles and all cultures because of my experiences living and traveling all over the world. In watching fashion shows, I always appreciate the designer's extra touches that 'borrow' from other cultures. I also love designers' takes on other eras. (I sometimes feel I was born in the wrong era, as I love the romantic styles of the past.)
QB: What is your current fitness program? How is it different from what you used to do with the "Get Fit with Judy" show? Any plans to do anything in the fitness industry?
JC: Would you believe I have a fitness book already written and just sitting on my computer??!!! I know I need to get it published. I think there's this fear that no one will find it interesting. It's a combination of my own personal road to finding fitness and completely changing my body to suggestions on how to incorporate various workouts into your own life. I also touch on the importance of food; the types of foods that are good for you; why certain diets are dangerous, etc.
My fitness routine is pretty much the same as when I hosted "Get Fit with Judy." I loved that show, and I was honored that QVC granted me a good two year run with it.
QB: You must, must, must tell me all about your engagement ring! Most people don't have a gem expert picking out their ring.
JC: I had been engaged a couple of times in my life and married once before. (It took me a long time to find Paul and to understand what qualities in a person were the most important) So, having had diamond engagement rings before, all very beautiful, I told Paul I'd like to do something completely different this time. I said I'd like to wear color. And, I told him that because of his expertise and knowledge of gemstones, that it would be the perfect reflection of him.
Besides the fact that diamonds are beautiful, women choose them because of their resistance to scratching. Let's face it, you plan to wear it every day for a long time. It had better be strong! Very few other gems are as hard as a diamond, but rubies and sapphires are the next best thing. Perhaps Princess Diana's ring influenced me, but I also thought that deep blue would go with more things than red. So, I asked for a sapphire instead of a ruby. I get more compliments on this ring than I think I've gotten on any other piece of jewelry in my life. From young girls to mature women, I constantly get stopped. I told Paul (and I'm sure this made him happy... he knows he'll be saving a lot of money as a result!) that I'll never get tired of it or need to "trade up." It was the perfect choice. (P.S. So was he!)
Judy looking glamorous at a Nevada gem mine.
QB: During your travels for QVC and HSN, you visited many gem mines and factories (even proclaiming yourself "Indiana Judy!") How did this affect your appreciation for all the jewelry that you sold on television?
JC: I have always loved jewelry. I was raised by women (mother and grandmothers) who were all very stylish, and who appreciated jewelry as their perfect finishing touch. Visiting the Gem Mines through my job only gave me a greater appreciation for it. What fascinated me most is that gemstones and jewelry are both associated with a glamorous life. But, to acquire those gemstones is anything but glamorous. The mining business is very dirty; sometimes dangerous; makes for rough living conditions; and, does not always lead to success. I look at gemstone jewelry very differently now than I used to, and have a whole new appreciation for what could be under that rock!
QB: Which celebrity were you most starstruck by?
JC: Charlton Heston. I don't know why that was so easy to answer. I've certainly met and worked with a lot of them. But, Moses? That was special. The funniest? Tim Conway. The quickest? Joan Rivers. The silliest? Richard Simmons. The tannest (is that a word)? George Hamilton. The prettiest? Loni Anderson. The most genuine? Donny Osmond.
QB: Who was your favorite vendor to work with? Did you try to emulate this person when you became a vendor yourself? Did all your hosting experience prepare you for the craziness of putting together your first Our Top Value (OTV)?
JC: I think the enthusiasm and playfulness of a Jeanne Bice (QVC); the design genius of a Bob Mackie (QVC) and an Antthony Mark Hankins (HSN); and the thoroughness and attention-to-detail of a Diane Gilman (HSN) and a Susan Graver (QVC) were all influences on my style as a vendor. I liked hearing what inspired them, what their goals were for their brand.
Now, it's fun to be the expert myself, and I'm having a ball! I'm involved in the whole process from choosing the season's color palette to selecting the styles, lengths, collars, button details, etc. I only hope I can do my fashions and accessories the same kind of justice that my "mentors" do!
QB: What was your most memorable moment as a host?
JC: Difficult question. It's tough to pick just one. I was a host for 18 years! You can only imagine some of the moments that are popping into my head. I must say I was given some incredible opportunities, mainly at QVC. On their behalf, either to do product research or to produce stories for future shows, I traveled ... Boy, did I travel... China, Brazil, England, Ireland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Bolivia, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hawaii, Alaska, and then some.
Then, of course, there was the LIVE remote we did from Loni and Burt Reynolds' house on Mulholland Drive in Beverly Hills; the "Cure By the Shore" broadcast LIVE from Monte Carlo right on the Mediterranean Sea; the numerous remotes with Makeup Artist to the Stars, Victoria Jackson, LIVE from LA.
But, then there was that one time I was selling a porcelain baby doll that sucked its' thumb. And, when I demonstrated the importance of being careful when you pulled the thumb out of the porcelain mouth, well, you guessed it, the whole jaw, in an extreme close-up, broke off in my hand.
There's that moment.
QB: Since you spent so much time dressed up as a magical fairy, what do you think of the new "stripped down" Kirks Folly sets?
JC: Jenniefer and I were introduced a few days before our very first Kirks Folly show back in 1991, and we hit it off immediately. She is, to this day, still a dear friend. (I texted her, very worried about her and Seaview during all the terrible floods last month in Warwick, RI!) Anyway, she misses all the fun and craziness we used to have on the sets at QVC. We really did have some doozies of theatrics at one point! hahaha It was so much fun. We were like little kids getting all dolled up and having tea parties together!
I think it’s difficult these days to do the same. Everything's expensive; the bar is set very high; sets need to be changed out immediately for the next show. Time is money, and there can't be any wasted time. We had the luxury of experimentation in the early days of TV shopping where everything was being tried for the first time. Now, it's a whole different ballgame.
QB: What drives you to be such an advocate for women's issues?
JC: My Nana was a real women's advocate. One of very few women who went to college in the early 1900's, she got a good education and knew she had choices. So, she fought on a number of fronts for women's rights. I guess I'm a lot like her. I've volunteered ever since I was 16, and learned then that there were a lot of people with a lot of needs. Whether it was a badge I earned in Girl Scouts that taught me about "giving back;" joining a Sorority in college whose platform was raising money for young women who otherwise wouldn't get the chance of an education; or painting bedrooms at a local Women's Shelter... I've just always felt better when I'm helping.
Throughout my life, I've also had plenty of women mentors... Harriet Passarelli, Marlene Verny, Jerilyn Goodman, Marcia Bradley, Marion Branick... women who took the time to help me, and as a result helped shape my career. I try to do the same for other young women today.
QB: Please tell me about your Scary Charity for animals. I love animals, so I have to ask about this!
JC: Paul loves, adores, lives for Halloween! (He's so funny. We actually have a real wooden coffin in our garage for parties!) Anyway, he spends days in October decorating our house, and when he's finished, it really looks haunted. (Gone are my cute little pumpkins and pretty witches! haha They no longer fit. We have Bates Motel monogrammed black towels instead!!)
One year, I thought it would be fun to make it a charity night, and donate all the money to a good cause. (Thus the name Scary Charity)
I'd read about a wonderful couple out in Montana who bought thousands of acres of land to start a shelter for abandoned, abused or other-wise neglected animals ... horses, dogs and cats. It's called The Rolling Dog Ranch. I asked if they'd send me a newsletter and a video about their "Sanctuary" because we wanted to hold a charity event on their behalf. (I, too, love animals and would like to rescue every single one that's not treated well)
Well, the party was a big success; everyone was decked out; each person gave $50; and, we showed the video midway through the night so everyone could see where their money was going. (Not a dry eye in the room)
We raised $2500; Paul and I then matched that; and our company even matched that. We gave The Rolling Dog Ranch $10,000. I was so proud! I said to our kids, "Okay guys, let's share in the choice of a charity for these parties. We'll give to different charities each time. So, put your thinking caps on, and also think about how you're going to market the reason for that particular choice. You can give a presentation to the family, and we'll all vote on which one to do that year." We haven't had another one just yet, but it's now a family affair. (I've read that it's great to talk about charities with your children and let them participate. It makes them appreciate what they have, and want to help those who don't.)
Judy and Paul
QB: You mentioned that it took a long time to find the happiness that you now have with Paul and his kids. What is it about Paul that brings so much joy to your life? What would you say to other ladies who are "of a certain age" who haven't found their prince charming yet?
JC: A dear friend of mine said to me, after another disappointing break-up, "You know, Judy, Gloria Steinem didn't find love until she was in her 50's. She had decided that perhaps a lasting partnership just wasn't in the cards for her, but that she had had a remarkable life just the same. Then BOOM! She met this guy, fell in love and got married. So, you see, love can happen at any age." She was right, of course, and I hung onto that thought.
I also gave myself another type of pep talk, "You have absolutely everything else in life that one could want: a loving family, a great job, your own money to do with what you want, a beautiful home, wonderful friends and the sweetest doggie ever. So, let go of that one little aspect that's missing, and enjoy your life!"
That worked for a while, :) and then I went out and bought this book called "Marrying Smart." I read the whole thing in one day. It was fun and lighthearted. There was this little ritual the author had you do, reciting this message on a piece of paper ... after which you burned the paper and left things up to the universe. (I practically burned down my house!!!) Ironically, what I had written on that piece of paper came true, and I was married a year and a half later. (That author definitely owes me royalties after you print this!)
Judy and her true love!
QB: What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
JC: Wine. (Everyone knows about my love of wine... our kids joke about it, and I get wine-related gifts every year) Lots of salad dressings. (I love salads, too) The usual milk, eggs, cheese, orange juice, apples and some left-over homemade lasagna. (It's my specialty. Otherwise, Paul's the cook!)
QB: What band or star were you obsessed with as a teenager?
JC: Elvis. and The Carpenters. I loved them, and would dance around the living room to their music like I was a rock star. (and of course, in my living room, I was!)
QB: Besides yourself, who are your favorite clothing and handbag designers?
JC: I'm not really loyal to just one or two designers. It's more about the fit, the style and the quality for me. If I feel good in it, then that's my favorite designer that day! :) There's so much talent out there that it's a fun time to be wearing clothes!! And, just like young fashion students on the verge of a burgeoning career, if I can bring a great design with a creative twist to the market, then I've done a good job.
QB: You have worked in home shopping long enough to see many changes. What do you miss most about the "good old days" and what do you think is the best thing to happen in home shopping?
JC: I miss the relaxed atmosphere of the good ole days. The high expectations weren't there back then. Everything was an experiment, and there was this attitude of "anything goes." The change I do appreciate, though, is the new-found respect for the shopping channels. We were called hawkers back in the day, and reporters frequently wrote unflattering articles about the business. I'm glad that negative reputation has changed.
Judy on the ShopNBC set presenting her first OTV.
QB: What's coming down the pike in your new collection? Will you be expanding into new areas?
JC: Yes. And, its so exciting. I have handbags coming in for Fall... (just saw one of the samples come through, and its gorgeous!); I have more darling coats and jackets for Fall, too... (we just did a big presentation on them last week, and ShopNBC is really excited); AND, I'm working on a line of jewelry! (shhhh... its a secret) (Big, big meeting happening next week!)
Where to find Judy:
Judy Crowell Website
Judy Crowell Collection at ShopNBC
Judy Crowell Facebook Fan Page
Judy Crowell Collection Facebook Fan Page
Judy Crowell Twitter