Jean Shafiroff 's Raine Magazine Cover

Jean Shafiroff In Southampton
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 New York’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.

RAINE MAGAZINE -- 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 craft?

 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 me.

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 entrepreneurship?

 SHAFIROFF: Independence—you have to be willing to do things on your own. Perseverance 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 of entrepreneurship.

 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.”

Jean Shafiroff At Home In New York City

RAINE: What wellness tips do you swear by?

 SHAFIROFF: Daily exercise, 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 developing nations.

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 excel?

 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 God.

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 signature “look”?

 SHAFIROFF: My signature look is a ballgown.

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.

Story By Bennet Marcus / Photos By Michael Paniccia