Tory Johnson is one of the coolest people I know: She’s a regular contributor to Good Morning America with her weekly “ Deals & Steals” segment (so we get to spend a lot of time together), the curator behind The View’s “View Your Deal,” and the New York Times’s bestselling author of several books (including her latest Shift for Good: How I Figured It Out and Feel Better Than Ever) that have inspired millions of women take charge of their lives professionally and personally. She can hang, too, which she proved last year when we watched the Super Bowl together with friends at Strayland. She’s also got a knack for finding some of the most unique products on the market—and for knowing exactly what the thing is that you didn’t know you really, really needed (see: this Goverre adult sippy cup I couldn’t get enough when she brought it on GMA Day. It’s at the top of my Christmas list this year.) I also love Tory because she’s all about putting in the hard work it takes to get ahead and creating optimism in her life. In other words, she’s my kind of gal.
Her story: “As a kid in Miami Beach, Instead of a lemonade stand, I would set up a table in front of our house to sell grapefruits and bananas from the trees in our backyard. I’d wave my colorful handmade signs to get cars to stop. When they’d agree to buy two pieces of fruit, I’d convince them that four was a better deal. At the same time, I’d snoop through my mom’s ‘goodies’ closet where shelves were packed with gifts she’d stockpile so she was always ready with treats for guests. Now, almost 40 years later, I have a ‘goodie’ office and I spend every day looking for new stuff.”
Her career: “Ten years ago, I could not have predicted that I’d be doing what I’m doing today. My first jobs were in public relations, which I didn’t like. I launched a business in 1999 and have been my own boss ever since. Then I planned and hosted career fairs for women, pairing prospective employees with employers in a range of industries. Loved that; I wrote books and gave speeches about career advancement. That’s how I came to GMA, as the workplace contributor, where I’d offer job advice ranging from how to work from home to how to get a raise to how to change careers.
Her GMA gig: “While at GMA, a new boss decided that my time and talent would be better suited to lining up deals on cool products for viewers. That changed the course of my career: Goodbye jobs lady, hello deals lady! It’s not a reinvention; it’s a career evolution—building on past experience to venture in a new direction.”
Her Michael story: “I met Michael during his first week at GMA. He was assigned to lead one of my ‘Deals & Steals’ segments—and I couldn’t have been more excited! Now I love working with him because he is genuinely curious about every product I feature. Whether it’s a car charger, headphones, a pool float, or socks, Michael makes it interesting and fun. Off-air, he’s the first person to say, ‘good morning,’ he always asks about my family, and he never shows up in a bad mood.”
Her favorite “Deals & Steals”: “I love shining the light on small business owners—small business is the backbone of our economy and the heart of our communities. I thrive on the thrill of the hunt, the process of finding new products to put on TV. Nebraska-based, woman-owned Sholdit makes an infinity scarf with a secret pocket to stash your stuff in style. It’s a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that invention that now has been purchased by tens of thousands of GMA viewers. I’m also obsessed with ‘green’ products that lessen our reliance on one-time-use plastic, and convinced a family-owned soap company in Huntington Beach, CA, to create its own line of shampoo and conditioner bars to replace bottles that wind up in landfills. That deal generated record sales and launched a new category for the company.”
Her parenting anti-advice: “When my twins were born, my husband Peter and I broke every parenting rule: The babies slept in our bed, against the repeated advice of our pediatrician—and they stayed in our bed for four years. Looking back, that sounds ridiculous, but at the time it was the easiest way to get everyone to sleep through the night. Family and friends chastised us, saying our lack of discipline would prevent them from becoming independent and confident. Under my breath, I’d say, ‘Well at least they won’t be tired.’ They’re now 21, and Jake and Emma are still the kindest, coolest, smartest, sweetest, greatest people I know. And I’m not just saying it as a proud mom. Anyone who knows them would back me on it.”
Her family work ethic: “My kids are college seniors—Jake at Tufts University, Emma at Boston University—and both say our family bond is the foundation of their confidence, independence, and curiosity. They also say my work ethic as a ‘no-guilt parent’ has rubbed off on them. They’ve traveled the world, held impressive internships, excelled in school, and contributed to great causes. Bottom line: I didn’t ruin them with my sanity saving routines in the early years. My philosophy has always been to go with my gut and do what works best for my family.”
Her motto: “Nobody’s coming—it’s up to me. While I have a solid support system of family, friends, and staff who have my back, I know that my happiness and success are ultimately up to me. Nobody can do the hard work for me. If I want something to happen, I have to make it happen for myself.”
What’s next: “Christmas in Japan! 2018 was a big year for family travel: Jake spent a semester at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa, so we had a phenomenal trip to visit him. (Incidentally, we benefited from lots of recommendations from Michael, who had taken his family to South Africa before us and he introduced me to the greatest travel planner in Johannesburg.) My twins will graduate from college in May, so they lobbied for a family adventure for the holidays exploring Tokyo and Kyoto. There’s no greater joy than being anywhere in the world with my babies.”