Can I Get an Amen For The Ahh Bra And The Woman Who Invented It?

Ahh Bra creator Rhonda Shear has two pieces of advice: One will help your confidence. The other will ensure you never get stuck in a sports bra again.

Gather in closely ladies, we’re going to talk about bras. Specifically, a little piece of life-changing seamless fabric called the Ahh Bra. (I could hear your “I know!” shriek all the way from here.)

The woman who created and manufactured this wildly popular undergarment is a former beauty queen, actress, and stand-up comedian by the name of Rhonda Shear. You might have seen the curvaceous blonde while flipping through HSN one night. Actually, the one-time Dallas resident would still fit in perfectly if only she adopted a drawl.

Shear designed her intimate apparel line “after years in Hollywood of being stuffed into all kinds of really uncomfortable garments,” she tells me during an interview for my podcast.

I gabbed with the Florida resident for nearly an hour about bras, Hollywood sexism and something called “Jiggle TV” that even I had to look up. (It was an ABC strategy used on Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and Three’s Company to ensure every episode featured its young female stars in a bikini, négligée or naked under a towel. So, they … jiggle. This is getting uncomfortable to describe. Here’s a link: Jiggle television on Wikipedia.)

As the host of USA Up All Night, Shear spent nearly every Friday and Saturday night from 1991 to 1998 dressed in attire that you’d likely find at Frederick’s of Hollywood or Electrique Boutique, the lingerie shop that sat awkwardly on Upper Greenville for years until it moved to be with others of its kind on Northwest Highway.

If you don’t remember watching USA Up All Night, just think of a lingerie-clad Elvira doing a cheeky skit while going to commercial break for Porky’s or some other flick with adolescent summer hi-jinks. That was Rhonda Shear. (If you’re too young to remember ANY of these references, I’m sorry. I’ll give you some more Wikipedia links to peruse at your leisure.)

She went on to guest star on Happy Days, Married with Children, Dallas, and dozens other shows, and pose nude for Playboy a few years shy of age 40. Now she’s the founder and CEO of Rhonda Shear Enterprises, a full-scale intimate apparel brand based in St. Petersburg, where she and her team of 25 occupy more than 12,000 square feet of corporate and warehouse office space. Ahh Bra has sold over $35 million worldwide.

She’s full of colorful stories about her time in Hollywood, including the time she nearly hit Bob Hope in the head with her stiletto or the Fonze fired her from the set of Happy Days. But this buxom, New Orleans beauty queen actress has the perfect advice for confidence that you wouldn’t expect. In her book Up All Night: From Hollywood Bombshell to Lingerie Mogul, Life Lessons from an Accidental Feminist, Shear says something that stopped me in my tracks and put me down this column’s path.

Writing about her time in the Louisiana pageant circuit, Shear shares what it was like competing against other women just as blond, curvaceous and sexy. “I gave them something unique. I sparkled. You don’t do that with teeth whitening strips, but with deep confidence. Compete only with yourself.”

I’d written plenty of online articles and interviewed some of the foremost experts on the topic of confidence, but I’d never heard this before. The part about deep confidence, not teeth whitening strips.

Like a high school English paper, I’m going to break this one down for you. Well, really for me because I’ve always struggled with confidence, and I’m thinking you’ll find it helpful, too.

What does deep confidence mean? Obviously, it’s not the “fake it till you make it” coat of armor that we all don sometimes. That type of confidence is more like a quick fix, sort of like a shot of liquid courage or a Harry Potter vial of “Liquid Luck.”

Deep confidence implies that it’s embedded deep within, but it’s not necessarily something you’re born with. Many clinical psychologists have posited that confidence is a skill that can be built, just like a muscle. But deep confidence is the type of confidence that doesn’t fade away easily like the sheen on a metal suit of armor. Instead it exists inside, where it’s protected from sharp objects or prickly people who eager to burst your bubble. Deep confidence builds slowly inside with every small win you have.

What does it mean to compete with yourself? For one, you should stop looking left and right to the people around you. “When I looked around me, these girls were more talented, more beautiful, more everything, and I’d get caught up in jealousy,” Shear says. “So I learned to look straight forward, like I had blinders on.”

Blinders. That’s an interesting point. When you stop comparing yourself to others, you can begin working on yourself in a real, self-discovery kind of way and not a jealous, I-have-to-keep-up-with-the-Joneses kind of way.

What’s the lesson here? Compete with yourself, but be kind to yourself too. There’s plenty of competition out there ready to tear you up if you give them the chance or an awkward side-eye. No sense in tearing yourself up in the process.

One last thing. Shear has this piece of invaluable advice I have to share: Step into your Ahh Bra like a skirt, instead of putting it over your head like a tank top. If you’ve ever tangled yourself up getting in or out of a sports bra, then you know the unflattering contortion you find yourself in and the embarrassing sense of failure you feel when you have to ask your spouse for help. CandysDirt.com readers, tell me I’m not the only one.