Jean Shafiroff is a
leading philanthropist, who puts her boundless energy and
knowhow behind worthy charitable organizations, working to
raise funds and improve the lives of underserved people both
locally and internationally.
Today, she is at the center of New York’s philanthropic
circles—sitting on the boards of multiple foundations,
chairing numerous events, and donating to various causes.
Shafiroff earned an MBA from Columbia University.
She worked in public finance as well as private partnerships
on Wall Street, and her business acumen is in high demand
among charitable organizations. She also holds a BS in
Physical Therapy from Columbia. As a humanitarian and the
author of Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By
What You Give (2016), Shafiroff is often hailed as NewYork’s
“First Lady of Philanthropy.”
A fixture at charity galas in Manhattan and the Hamptons.
Shafiroff loves fashion and is known for her on-point sense
of style, which often lands her on Best-Dressed lists. Last
year, Look Online recognized Shafiroff on its international
list alongside Anna Wintour and Meghan Markle. “I was in
good company!” she says with a laugh. Dress- Victor dE Souza
92 RAINE MAGAZINE - VOLUME 35 RAINE: From an early age your love for
people flourished allowing you to give back. Can you
describe your experiences and how they helped fine-tune your
SHAFIROFF: I was taught that it is very important to give
back and to have compassion for underserved people. My
parents brought me up to consider others. My father, a
schoolteacher, was always concerned about his students and
talked about their progress. The civil rights movement was
very important to my parents; they greatly admired Dr.
Martin Luther King, as do I. All of this left its mark on
RAINE: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have
given yourself five years ago?
SHAFIROFF: I would have gotten involved with social media
earlier. I think five years ago I was more reticent about
sharing—about acceptance. But I’ve gotten past that; it’s a
huge platform to reach an audience, to try to promote
philanthropy and motivate people to become involved.
RAINE: If someone asked you about how they could stimulate
their creativity, what advice would you give?
SHAFIROFF: Take a good look at yourself, [think about] what
really interests you, and follow those passions.
RAINE: What three traits do you feel are most needed to pursue
SHAFIROFF: Independence—you have to be willing to do things
on your own. Perseverence and confidence—you may not always
be successful, but you have to keep pushing ahead and
believing in what you’re doing.
RAINE: Name your top three hacks for battling the loneliness
SHAFIROFF: Taking the time for family and friends. I enjoy
social media and the friendships/connections it affords. In
my case—because philanthropy helps people, the environment,
and animals—there isn’t much loneliness since I’m always
reaching out. One of my favorite quotes is by Harvard and
Stanford theologian David E. Trueblood: “It takes a noble
man to plant a seed for a tree that will someday give shade
to people he may never meet.”
RAINE: What wellness tips do you swear by?
SHAFIROFF: Daily excercise, no smoking, and a healthy diet
with moderate portion size.
RAINE: What is your best advice for battling boredom in
creative pursuits or creative entrepreneurship?
SHAFIROFF: Take more time for reading. Don’t be afraid to
try new things. There are so many things I want to do. Every
time I visit an art museum, I want to paint.
RAINE: What did you want to be when you grew up? Has this
stayed the same or changed throughout the years?
SHAFIROFF: It completely evolved. As our lives change, the
things we want change. I was a student, then a working
person, then a full-time mother, and then I got involved
with philanthropy. I write during the summer, and now I’m
thinking about doing something with art. I keep changing.
RAINE: Who have been the most memorable people you have
worked alongside and why?
SHAFIROFF: Ana Oliveira, the president of the New York
Women’s Foundation. She really made this organization
powerful by motivating women. Although I have not worked
directly with Cherie Blair, I support and admire the work
she does to empower women through her namesake foundation. I
also admire my daughters who work with animal welfare, and
recently my youngest daughter founded Global Strays, an
organization that works with animal rescue groups in
RAINE: Word to the wise: What advice would you lend to a
budding talent on the rise in your chosen field?
SHAFIROFF: Follow the law, work hard, learn about human
relations, and always treat others with dignity and respect.
And, be humble—that is key.
RAINE: Describe yourself in five words or less.
SHAFIROFF: Hardworking, considerate, law-abiding,
independent, and respectful.
RAINE: We love transformation. If you experienced a personal
or professional evolution, what was the inspiration behind
it and how have people reacted?
SHAFIROFF: I’m in a position where I am able to do the
philanthropic work that I do. My education helped
enormously; and I have some financial resources available to
me that others may not have. I believe that anyone who has
these resources available, has an obligation to give back to
society. When we share our resources, personal wealth, time,
or knowledge, we ultimately come closer to understanding the
meaning of life.
RAINE: What are your superpowers? How have they helped you
SHAFIROFF: I have no superpowers. But, I have strength
because of my belief in God. And God, I believe, has been
very good to me—and I have to be, in turn, good to people
and try to be helpful. The only one that has superpowers is
RAINE: How does being an independent brand or artist allow
you to have more creative freedom?
SHAFIROFF: It allows tremendous freedom. I have a lot of
responsibility, but I have a little more flexibility with my
time, say, to write a book. But, I use time productively; I
often get up in the middle of the night and work for an hour
or two, and then go back to sleep.
RAINE: Regarding fashion, what would you describe as your
SHAFIROFF: My signature look is a bal gown.
RAINE: Who inspired your current style?
SHAFIROFF: I’m enjoying what the royal family is wearing:
Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and Queen Elizabeth. Also
Queen Rania of Jordan, Queen Letizia of Spain, Anna Wintour,
and Iman. Lady Gaga has great style, as do the Kardashian
women. And Katy Perry, who steps out of the box; she wore a
chandelier to the Met gala. It inspires me to take chances.
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