You'd think the most interesting thing about Bryn Mawr mother Beth Shak is that she's a world-class poker champ who once won $328,683 in a tournament, one of the biggest jackpots ever won by a woman.
But her poker-playing skills aren't what landed her in a recent documentary next to Fergie and ex-Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland, or on NBC's Today and in the pages of Women's Wear Daily.
It was her shoes, all 1,200 pairs of them, the biggest private collection in the country according to Thierry Daher, whose film, God Save My Shoes, examines women's relationships to their footwear.
If that's not enough to knock you off your six-inch stilettos, consider that 700 of Shak's shoes are Christian Louboutins. He's the man behind one of her favorite pairs, $4,000-plus rose-gold heels with spiky straps and Swarovski crystals that only she, Victoria Beckham, and 10 other people own.
"Every time I wear them, I have people who try to take them off my feet," she said with an impish smile.
And though the petite, girlish Shak looks nothing like Beyoncé, ankles down she could pass for the superstar's twin when they wear their matching pairs of French black-lace Louboutins with gold Swarovski crystals.
Shak, 43, is standing in her sitting room-turned-shoe closet, which houses the cream of the crop: the Louboutins, the Steigers, the Blahniks, the YSLs. There are three other closets stuffed with older models or those of a lesser provenance.
Today, she is wearing scarlet suede strappy Louboutins to match a simple red dress, which serves to highlight the fabulous footwear. She spent the day with a film crew from Today in her house and even dashed off to Saks Fifth Avenue so they could shoot her buying - what else? - a pair of shoes.
Despite the attention that comes with being a poker pro and shoe hoarder, not to mention a one-time contestant on Bravo's The Millionaire Matchmaker, Shak considers herself "just a mom of three kids who lives in Bryn Mawr," even if the kids tell her, rightly, that she's not the average Main Line soccer mom.
Though Shak has loved shoes since she was a little girl, she began seriously collecting in her 20s and concedes that her shoe-buying binge was an easy, if expensive, pick-me-up during some rocky times.
"I was filling a void in my life. It turned into love/obsession," said Shak, who grew up in Elkins Park and is divorced from an oil-futures trader who is a world-class poker player himself. "Now I'm in a better place, I buy less."
But she still scores new shoes every time she competes in a poker tournament - next up is Cannes in October, if you are listening, Christian - which may explain why she recently gave away about 200 pairs and is looking to donate a few hundred more to charity. Raise your hand if you're a size seven.
"You can only have so much of anything," said Shak, who also has an apartment conveniently located on Fifth Avenue in New York, a mecca for retail therapy.
She won't reveal her favorite designer - you can probably guess - but says YSLs are the most comfortable. She can't remember her first designer purchase and loses track of what she owns.
"Oh, I forgot about these," she said of a pair of black-and-green Jimmy Choos as she looked through a third-floor closet of to-die-for shoes that she rarely visits anymore.
And while Shak never used to leave the house without balancing on heels, she now permits herself the occasional foray in Lanvin ballet flats and even flip-flops.
Daher, a French businessman who produced the shoe movie - his second one about footwear - called Shak "The Queen of Spades," referring to her pink patent six-inch heels with the black spade on the side, custom-made by the legendary shoe designer Walter Steiger.
The movie's director, Julie Benasra, said Shak was the most passionate collector she interviewed.
She "truly feels love for shoes, genuine love. Her eyes sparkle when she sees a pair she hasn't worn in a while, or when she talks about how far she went to get that specific pair," Benasra e-mailed from France, where she lives.
The film, which is expected to premiere this fall during New York's Fashion Week, concludes that women's love of shoes is rooted in sexuality. It even gets neurologists and psychologists to say as much on camera.
"Pretty much every single theory has to do with seduction and sex," Daher said. "Some will go so far as to say there's an analogy between the foot and the penis. But that's a Freudian thing. They see penises everywhere."
Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8123