by Bennett Marcus
Photographed By Michael Paniccia Hair By Henry de la Paz for Warren Tricomi Makeup by Kimara Ahnert and JP Ramirez
Style Icon and philanthropist Jean Shafiroff has taken on a new role, this time as producer and host of a dynamic television show highlighting the work of actors, artists, heads of charities and even a US presidential candidate.
The weekly show, “Successful Philanthropy,” airs on LTV in East Hampton and is available on both their YouTube channel as well as on Jean Shafiroff’s. It’s an exciting venture for Jean. When asked why she created the show she replies, “I’ve always loved the idea of hosting a TV show and when the pandemic came along, the timing especially seemed right for a show about philanthropy. The people I have met and the work they do is fascinating. My show is designed to motivate others – and also to create a little buzz and news!”
Fascinating personalities; a budding Kelly Ripa
Like a budding Kelly Ripa, Jean strives to bring a wide variety of intriguing personalities to viewers, reflecting her personality, her interest in people and hearing their stories, and her love of helping others.
Independent-party presidential candidate Brock Pierce, an entrepreneur, cryptocurrency pioneer, and philanthropist, has been a guest, supermodel Carol Alt has taped an episode that will run in the future, and Dan Gasby, widower of the beloved restaurateur B. Smith, stirred up a flurry of press attention when he revealed on the show that he had broken off his relationship with ex-girlfriend Alex Lerner.
Mitch Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods, discussed how difficult it has been with the company filing for bankruptcy due to the pandemic. High end fashion-world caterer Olivier Cheng revealed that his business has been hit hard by the pandemic, yet he still managed to donate 8,000 free meals in all the turmoil.
Emmy-nominated “ER” star Gloria Reuben, Brenda Simmons, founder of the yet-to-open Southampton African American Museum, and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy are set to appear on the show. Kennedy will appear post-election to talk about this year’s Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope awards, which takes place in December and whose honorees will include Dr. Anthony Fauci and Colin Kaepernick, among others.
Leaders of many nonprofits from New York City and beyond have made the journey out east to appear on “Successful Philanthropy,” including Jason Busch and Dr. Valerie Rousseau, American Folk Art Museum CEO and senior curator, respectively.
The first episode of “Successful Philanthropy” will air in Manhattan on Friday November 13th, 2020. The airing time will be every Friday at 8:30 PM. Manhattan Channel 31, FiOS 32, RCN 82, Live Stream: https://www.mnn.org/watch/channels/community-channel
“The television series is giving me a new platform for sure,” says Jean, known as the first lady of philanthropy, “but it also gives those I bring on the show a whole platform that maybe they don’t have. It’s meant to be uplifting.”
National TV appearances; book tour
Prior to hosting her own show, Jean had already appeared often as a guest on television programs around the country, talking about philanthropy and how people can get involved. At the start of the pandemic, Jean made numerous television and radio appearances to advocate on behalf of food pantries, racial justice and animal welfare on national TV networks including Fox, NBC, CBS, WGN in Chicago and NY1 in New York.
In the early days of the coronavirus, she also went on the air to quell rumors that animals can transmit Covid to humans – there has not been one case in the U.S. – and addressed one happy result of the pandemic, the fact that pet adoptions are up as people nationwide shelter at home.
Jean promoted her 2016 book, “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give,” with a two-part national tour with local TV news appearances in almost every market in the United States, hitting multiple cities in each state from California to Utah to Illinois to Texas to Florida.
Writing, social media
Television is only the newest platform that Jean has embraced to bring attention to the philanthropic causes that she champions. She also writes about the topic for various publications, and serves on the boards of many charitable organizations, including the New York City Mission Society, the French Heritage Society, the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT, the Southampton Hospital Association, the Honorary Board of the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and Global Strays, an animal welfare nonprofit founded by her daughter.
A Catholic, Jean served as a trustee for the Jewish Board for 28 years and is now one of a few honorary trustees. She is also a past board member of the New York Women’s Foundation and remains very active in the organization.
For her philanthropy, Jean has been honored numerous times, including by the Stonybrook Southampton Hospital, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, New York City Mission Society, Southampton Animal Shelter, Surgeons of Hope, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the Jewish Board and the Hadassah.
Social media is another way that Jean communicates, promoting not only charities, but sending positive messages, trying to lift the spirits of her 600,000+ Instagram followers, and also encouraging safety during the pandemic. “I try to remind people to keep wearing their masks, to keep social distancing, and to keep washing their hands. It’s not over.”
Virtual galas and more
“I love doing the TV show, but of course I continue with my philanthropic work,” says Jean, which includes plenty of Zoom meetings and hosting fundraisers.
This fall, she chaired or co-chaired virtual galas for the Dominican Women’s Development Center, the New York Women’s Foundation, the French Heritage Society, and Surgeons of Hope.
Jean has also recently hosted numerous intimate outdoor fundraising gatherings, with social distancing and no more than 50 people, for organizations including the Southampton Animal Shelter, the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, and the American Humane Society, as well as dinners in the backyard of her Southampton home, all in conformance with New York State guidelines for entertaining during the pandemic.
“It’s different. Fundraising events are all much smaller, or virtual. We continue to raise money, it’s just in a whole new way,” she says. And priorities have shifted in some cases. For the New York City Mission Society, which serves New York’s most underserved people, they’ve created utility bags that include food, cleaning supplies for the home and essentials like Pampers for those with babies. “During this terrible pandemic, when people are out of work, we’re supplying goods to them.”
Jean has also refocused some of her donations to the Covid-19 funds of several charities in light of the critical needs stemming from the pandemic, including hunger and animal welfare, as Americans suffer widespread illness and unemployment due to the coronavirus. She and her husband, Martin, funded 10,000 meals for the Heart of the Hamptons food pantry.
“This is a year of tremendous transition for everyone,” says Jean. “I’m very impressed by how supportive people are during the pandemic, because the needs are enormous. We have to win the battle against this pandemic.”
Humane Society Feed the Hungry spokesperson
A longtime animal welfare advocate, Jean was recently appointed National Spokesperson for the American Humane Society’s Feed the Hungry Covid-19 program, which gives grants earmarked for food to animal shelters across the United States as funding has plummeted amidst the coronavirus. “Animals in shelters are not getting enough food, and these shelters are in trouble financially with the pandemic. People don’t have jobs, or their income has dropped dramatically, they’re not giving as much, or people change their focus and start giving to different things, like hospitals,” Jean explains.
They have so far raised $600,000 and hope to reach $1,000,000 by the end of the year.
A fashion lover known for her iconic sense of style, Jean has built a museum-worthy collection of ballgowns, her trademark look, and often appears on best-dressed lists. In September she was invited as guest of honor and emcee for Times Square Fashion Week, one of the only live events during New York Fashion Week. Times Square was shut down for the event where models showed the looks from seven designers for the press, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer spoke to a crowd of fewer than 50.
Outlook for the future
Jean states that the global health crisis has only deepened her commitment to philanthropy. “My life has changed drastically and so have the lives of almost all individuals. We must continue to work hard to help one another. Looking forward, I am optimistic and believe New York will come back. Even though life has changed, I am grateful to be able to continue to work towards building a more equitable world.”
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