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Warren Buffett bares his belly for the Spanx founder's charity project

Spanx's baby business bump

Warren Buffett may not be pregnant, but that didn't stop one of the world's richest men from volunteering the use of his stomach as a canvas to help bring attention to safe maternal health.

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO appears with his tummy painted (like a yo-yo)—along with more than 100 pregnant women who had their bumps transformed for "The Belly Art Project," a coffee table book put together for charity by billionaire Spanx founder, Sara Blakely.

The Oracle of Omaha "has a great sense of humor," Blakely told CNBC in a recent interview.

When the 86-year-old billionaire learned about the book, he said he wanted to take part, she recalled, adding he was undeterred when she told him he wasn't pregnant. "[Buffett] grabbed his belly," and asked, "don't you have enough here to work with?"

Blakely—who decided to reinvent women's shapewear because she couldn't figure out what to wear under white pants, also credits the inspiration for "The Belly Art Project" to her own life experiences.

"The idea came to me at three in the morning, three days before I was delivering my first child," Blakely told CNBC. She described compiling a list of round objects—from watermelons to beach balls to basketballs—to paint on her pregnant belly for a series of novelty photos to present to her husband as a gift.

With a stomach painted like the outside of a watermelon, she and a friend walked into a Kroger grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia, "[and] bellied up to the watermelon display" in the produce department.

"The pictures just turned out so fun and amazing," that Blakely said she wanted to do "something more with this concept."

So Blakely began recruiting other mothers-to-be to turn their baby bumps into what the entrepreneur called "canvases of hope."

Participants included actress Kate Winslet (who appeared with her yoga teacher as eyes), models Molly Sims and Milla Jovovich, as well from a vast network that started with Blakely's friends and colleagues.

All proceeds from the book go to Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit started by supermodel Christy Turlington Burns to provide funds for maternal health causes in developing countries.

Blakely famously started Spanx with $5,000 of her own savings in the late 1990s, while holding down a day job selling fax machines. She remains the sole owner, with no outside investors, of the shapewear, underwear, and athletic powerhouse.

In 2012, she became the youngest self-made female billionaire.

Earlier this year when Spanx CEO Jan Singer, a former Nike executive, left to run Victoria's Secret, Blakely returned to run the day-to-day operations of her company.

"I operate very much from gut and intuition," said Blakely. "When I first invented Spanx, I'd never taken a business class," and had no experience in fashion design or retailing, and no idea how to raise capital.

Sara Blakely
Earl Kibby | CNBC

Blakely described a party she attended in early days of Spanx when she struck up a conversation with three men who had heard she was an inventor. "They asked me what my exit strategy was," said Blakely. "I didn't even know what they were talking about." Ever the entrepreneur, she recovered, improvising by saying, "I want to leave a room and look good while I'm doing it. That's my exit strategy."

A mother of four an inventor, and now an author, Blakely views herself as an advocate for women consumers. "Spanx was born from my own rear end," she said. "Don't underestimate a woman who doesn't like the way she looks in white pants."

As part of her interview with Blakely about "The Belly Art Project," CNBC's Becky Quick got her belly painted. Watch the video below that was posted on Facebook.