Judge Judy on Playing Hardball to Earn Your Worth — and Why She'd Rather Be Respected Than Liked

Judy Sheindlin, who just launched a new show on IMDb TV, is one of the highest-paid people on television

Judy Sheindlin has always been known for unapologetically speaking her mind — and needless to say, it has paid off.

It's been more than 25 years since the premiere of Judge Judy, the small-claims court series that made her a pop-culture phenomenon and eventually one of the highest-paid people on TV, with annual earnings that grew to a reported $47 million.

As the syndicated show's ratings skyrocketed over the years, Sheindlin, 79, demanded paydays to match. The Brooklyn native tells PEOPLE in this week's issue that she would slip her bosses dollar figures in sealed envelopes across the table during salary negotiations.

For more on PEOPLE's cover story with Judge Judy and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

"We should be partners," she says she told CBS executives after a decade on-air. "I can do this program without you. Good luck, you can't do it without me."

judge judy

For more from Judge Judy Sheindlin, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Her advice for anyone negotiating for better pay is simple: "You have to make yourself indispensable — and that is irrespective of what you do," she explains. "Once you've done that and have leverage, make a reasonable demand and know what the commodity is worth."

As for the gender wage gap, Sheindlin says: "Women have trouble negotiating for themselves, and it's primarily because they are nurturers. I've never thought you couldn't have both likability and respect, but if I had to pick one, I'd rather have your respect. 'Oh, she's such a nice girl.' What an idiot. Who wants that?"

judge judy
Jeffery Salter/Redux

Judge Judy concluded in May, but Sheindlin has brought the same no-nonsense attitude, sharp wit and brutal honesty to her new show, Judy Justice, on IMDb TV, Amazon's free premium streaming service.

"Amazon had the confidence in me to say, 'Let's do it in streaming. Let's let you do your thing in a fresh version with new people,'" Sheindlin says. "And I'm excited!"

"Life goes by fast, and it goes by even faster as you get older," she adds. "I've certainly had fun on the journey, and I'm going to continue to. I'm having a ball."

Judy Justice premiered Monday with four episodes on IMDb TV. New episodes arrive every weekday.

Related Articles