A renowned humanitarian, TV host, writer, and author, Jean Shafiroff has been honored many times for her generosity and hard work as a philanthropic leader. She serves on the boards of many charitable organizations which involve women’s rights, rights of underserved populations, health care, and animal welfare. In addition, Jean is also the author of a book about philanthropic works.
On September 22, 2022, she received a Proclamation naming her the “First Lady of Philanthropy of New York” from The New York State Assembly. The 117th US Congress recognized her on November 17, 2022, with the recognition being given by US Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York.
Harper’s Bazaar had a chance to talk to Jean Shafiroff about her philosophy and her passion for style and fashion.
Harper’s Bazaar: Dear Jean, you are a well-known philanthropic leader and author of the book Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of writing it?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: In 2014, I was approached by a publisher, Hatherleigh Press, to write a book on philanthropy. Writing a book requires a great deal of research, concentration, and time. I spent months researching philanthropy. My experience in the world of charity was also extremely helpful.
I wrote Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give because I wanted to encourage others to get involved in the philanthropic process. The premise of my book is that anyone can be a philanthropist. We all have great value and can be of great help to society. If you don’t have large sums of money to donate, you can give your time and your knowledge. The key to this is to believe in yourself and how you might be able to help. I want others to believe this and get involved.
Harper’s Bazaar: You wrote, “Giving back to those in need is among the most rewarding and self-fulfilling parts of being human.” Can you explain this philosophy?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: It is a great privilege to be in a position to give. With that privilege comes responsibility. Giving is highly rewarding. It is through giving and caring for others that we reach fulfillment. A person feels good when they know they have been of help to society. If you look back on how you have felt when you’ve helped someone else, you will most likely remember how fulfilled you felt at that time.
Harper’s Bazaar: How was your childhood? What made you the person you are now?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: I grew up in a middle-class family on Long Island, New York. I attended 12 years of Catholic school where the nuns taught us the importance of giving back. My father was a music teacher. When he came home from work, he would speak about how important the education of the students was to him. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who was very involved with the family and in helping out at the schools that my brothers and I attended. I was fortunate to have good role models, and kind and loving parents.
Harper’s Bazaar: You have been awarded several times for your philanthropic works, even were named “First Lady of Philanthropy of New York” in September 2022. For a philanthropist, what kind of awards would be considered the most honorable?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: I’ve been fortunate enough to have been honored a number of times. I am most grateful for the acknowledgment. However, as someone involved in philanthropy, I never thought about being honored as part of the process. The best honor is to be rewarded with the fulfillment that helping others gives.
Harper’s Bazaar: You are the producer and host of the television show “Successful Philanthropy”. Which episode was the most memorable for you and why?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: During the pandemic, I was asked if I would like to host a public television show based on my philanthropic work and my book. I was excited about the prospect of having my own TV show and wanted to give it a try. I enjoy interviewing celebrities, politicians, other philanthropists, and executive directors of different charities.
Regarding a favorite episode — it is impossible to choose. However, I must say that I truly enjoyed interviewing Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela. I also loved interviewing Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. I am grateful to all those who have allowed me to interview them.
Harper’s Bazaar: You have a large collection of couture. How do you select a design?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: I love fashion. Fashion is art and it’s a passion of mine. One of the charity boards that I serve on is the Couture Council of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. We raise funds for the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. My involvement has only heightened my love of fashion.
I love to wear the works of many different designers, including some of the younger, lesser-known designers. Buying and wearing their clothing gives them the opportunity to make sales and gain exposure. Since I believe that fashion is art, I choose couture pieces that are creative and that I believe will look good on me. I enjoy working with different designers and love their creativity.
Harper’s Bazaar: Your favorite fashion brands?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: There are so many great fashion brands and fashion designers. I honestly have to say that I don’t have just one favorite. For evenings, I tend to wear clothing designed by Oscar de la Renta, Caroline Herrera, Malan Breton, B Michael, Zang Toi, and then Victor de Souza, who has designed many couture gowns for me. Also, I love everything designed by Chanel. Dior also makes beautiful clothing. I love the designs of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, and Courreges — there are so many great designers. It’s wonderful to be able to own a variety of different pieces of clothing.
I have a large collection of ball gowns that I will donate to a museum one day.
Harper’s Bazaar: What is your advice on using clothes to define who one is and to help one achieve success?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: A well-dressed person makes a very good impression and dressing well helps to add to the success. When someone goes out, they make a first impression and it’s usually based on how they’re dressed. For those that have limited budgets, there are many ways to dress beautifully. Style is about creativity more than anything else.
Choose clothing that looks good on you. Fit is very important. Follow trends when they work for you. I believe in investment shopping. I don’t mind repeating a beautiful look a number of times. I recommend buying beautiful pieces that look good on you. Interesting accessories make a difference too. Observe how others are dressed. Read fashion magazines or online publications and emulate the looks you like. But make sure they are right for you.
Harper’s Bazaar: On your Instagram, you posted a photo with Fern Mallis, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) from 1991–2001, when she was signing her new book – FASHION ICONS: FASHION LIVES WITH FERN MALLIS. What are the secrets of successful women like Fern Mallis and yourself?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: I adore Fern Mallis and think very highly of all that she has done for the fashion world. She’s a great woman and a friend.
No question, hard work is key to success. Integrity, honesty, and perseverance are also vitally important for success. You must also believe in what you’re doing. If you’re going to start a project, make sure you do research so that you, in your heart and in your mind, feel that the hard work you’re going to give has a good purpose. We all have value and we all can add to society. Everyone can achieve. But it does take a lot of work. Be nice to others. A positive attitude is also very important for success.
Harper’s Bazaar: In this era of social media, many young people dream of becoming social public figures. What must they do to achieve their dream?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: To be a public figure, you must be a good role model. You must realize that others will be looking to you for advice and guidance. You must make every effort to add value to society.
Harper’s Bazaar: Many people think our modern society is full of instabilities. Do you agree with this view? How to achieve happiness and balance when things are constantly changing?
JEAN SHAFIROFF: The world is constantly changing.
None of us will be able to achieve everything and solve all the world’s problems. But we can help to improve world conditions. When we reach outside of ourselves and do what we can to be useful, collectively, we can lessen poverty and we can lessen many of the problems in the world. We can teach the next generation good values which are so key to their future.
It is my belief that we achieve happiness when we try to help others. We can enjoy our lives, too — but we must try to be useful to society as well. This is the key to balance and happiness.
Jean Shafiroff has over 1.000,000 followers on Instagram @JeanShafiroff where she promotes positivity, philanthropy, and her love of fashion.
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