My son, Sean, was obsessed with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He had the DVDs, the posters, cups, caps, action figures in every size, and when Halloween rolled around, he very specifically needed to be the red Power Ranger. No, daddy, not the blue one. Take my son and multiply him by a thousand-million (the number Sean always uses when he means a lot) and you have the universe that made Haim Saban, the creator of the super-hero franchise, one very wealthy man. Forbes says he’s the 128th richest American, with a net worth of $3.1 billion.
For the past 26 years, and for the life of the Rangers, Saban’s better half has been Cheryl Saban, Doctor Cheryl Saban, to be precise, a kind of superhero in her own right. The elegant, statuesque mother of four holds a PhD in psychology. She’s also an author, a philanthropist, and a women’s advocate.
After that, are all the ‘ings’ that this overachiever does:
glassblowing, skiing, kayaking, baking, and knitting. Back in the day, she was also a disco singer.
Judging by mere appearances, you’d never believe Cheryl’s two children from her previous marriage are now 40 and 38. Her youthful look and slim size-2 figure makes this completely implausible. Today, after decades as a blonde, she’s decided to change things up and is debuting a sassy dark brunette bob at our photo shoot. She arrives looking very ‘Audrey Hepburn’ in her black, skinny-to-the-ankles JBrand jeans, black cashmere mock turtleneck, grey Neiman Marcus sweater wrap that hits mid-thigh, and a chic pair of black flats.
The wardrobe stylist slips Cheryl into a breathtaking Elie Saab couture gown, and as she strolls along the pathway, a crazy crackling sound can be heard coming from her shoes. The heels are crushing the sequins along the hemline and they’re popping like firecrackers and flying off. Everyone laughs—albeit nervously—the dress is on loan from Saks for the shoot and Genlux is, naturally, on the hook for any damages. Fortunately, Cheryl saves the day: “I love this dress. Can I buy it?” By the end of the shoot, she’s also carted off other items like the full Stella McCartney ensemble. Saks will be very happy.
The Beverly Park estate the Sabans call home is, in Cheryl’s own words, “embarrassingly large—over 25,000 square feet.” With genuine sincerity, she quickly couches the admission of excess: “We’re grateful for everything we own, and we’ve worked hard for it. We don’t take it for granted and one of the guiding principles of our lives is to give back.”
And that they do. The couple’s list of philanthropic giving is long—very long. The Motion Picture and Television Fund, Soroka Children’s Hospital in Israel, the John Wayne Cancer Institute, American Israel Education Foundation, and the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, to name just a few. Cheryl herself also serves on numerous boards including Girls, Inc., Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and the Board of Overseers at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. Again, to name just a few.
One act of giving, in particular, meant a lot to Cheryl. When she was a young woman in need of medical attention, the Los Angeles Free Clinic was there to help. She remembers being treated with respect and kindness. And like a plotline for a feel-good movie where the audience cheers at the end, when the opportunity to return the favor came up, the Sabans gave big. How big? Let’s just say big enough to rename the facility The Saban Free Clinic in Los Angeles.
Cheryl’s pet project is her Self-Worth Foundation—something that evolved after the release of her most substantive book, What Is Your Self-Worth? A Woman’s Guide to Validation. She’s cheerfully vowed to give $10 million to specificwomen’s organizations. “I had difficulties in my own childhood.
I was sexually assaulted when I was in my teens. It was an extremely painful experience, so I focus my attention on women and children who are in groups like the Rape Crisis Center in Santa Monica. It needs to be on everybody’s radar, and we need to find a way to put an end to it. I have empathy for these women, so now that I have the resources to help, I jump right in.”
Cheryl’s also sponsoring Girls Who Code, created by Reshma Saujani and Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter. The program helps prepare high-school girls for their future by teaching them how to write computer code. Not surprisingly, Cheryl is also learning to write code. “It’s never too late or too soon to learn new tricks—I’m totally down with lifelong learning.”
Just last year, Cheryl was the recipient of a very honorable appointment. She was named by President Obama as a U.S. Special Representative to the United Nations and spent nearly four months in New York focusing on issues concerning women and children. (The post is to be confirmed later by Ambassador Rice and the Senate).
When she’s not helping to save the world, Cheryl’s favorite passion is glassblowing. “It takes a long time to get good at glassblowing, and mastering it takes years. You have to be there, in the moment. Focused, because you’re dealing with 2000-degree molten glass. It’s also true with sports like skiing and kayaking—you have to be focused. It’s that way with anything. It’s hitting the sweet spot or having a good ski day. When your skis are in the right position and you’re making all of your turns, it feels sooo good.”
Yesterday, a beautiful gift arrived at my door. It was from Cheryl.
Carefully wrapped in a simple white box was an exquisite glass sculpture created by Cheryl herself as a thank you for this interview. Her favorite quote by Pablo Picasso quickly came to mind: "The
meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." In Cheryl Saban's case, those are clearly words she lives by.
The Shoot from Hell
October 6, 2012
Genlux Cover Shoot for the Holiday 2012 issue.
Location: Smashbox Studios,
Creative Director: Stephen Kamifuji
Photographer: Tracey Morris
Stylists: Jessica and Kelly with
The Wall Group
Model: Jennifer McManis with Photogenics
Makeup Artist: Camille Clark with
Hair Stylist: Sienree with
Today was literally the photoshoot day from hell.
Well, actually it was more the days leading up to the shoot that were the real hell days. We were shooting a certain actress from the movie Twilight for the Genlux Holiday cover. All week her publicity team and I were going back and forth and back and forth trying to decide on a "mutually" agreeable glam team lineup. When an actress we're shooting hasn't worked enough to establish their own hair/makeup team, I'm perplexed as to why publicists find the need to get in the middle of choosing the pair for the shoot. Isn't that the art director's job? In the end, we got an "agreed upon" team in place and the energy for the shoot reverted back to where it should have been before the publicist got involved.
Shoot day, October 27: We had a call time of 9:00 am. At 8:30 this morning I get a call from the actress's publicist saying that she came down with strep throat and asked if I still wanted her to come in. I thought for about half a second and said, "Um, well, no. I don't think we want to be around one of the most contageous illness known to man today." That was the opening conversation of my day.
At 8:45 I emailed Tracey Morris the photographer and told her the problem. We decided to have everyone still come into the studio and that we'd come up with a suitable "replacement."
At 9:10 everyone arrived and I broke the news that our cover girl was ill and couldn't make it. From that moment until about 1:00 we were all making calls to every possible cover girl. It went the gamut, from Dita Von Teese to Nicole Ritchie. From Kirstie Hume to finally deciding to just pull in what we all really wanted—a really great model. Her name is Jennifer McManis and I honestly think she's the best. She has that amazing look. She's beautiful. Has that "in vogue" gap-tooth smile and she's super quirky—perfect for high fashion. I just wish she were a little taller. She's 5' 9" and a size 2. But probably more like 5' 8" and like a size 0.
All morning we tried to get in touch with her agent Phira over at Photogenics, but never heard back. We did finally get in touch with Rick Ferrari but he was in the middle of something and told Tracey that he wasn't about to call Kirsty Hume with such a last minute request. I get that. Nobody wants to feel like yesterday's news. (But when was the last time Kirsty was on a cover?) Compromises people, compromises.
Finally, I remembered that Candice Birns, the hairstylist had gotten Jennifer's phone number the last time we all shot together, so I called Candice. She texted me the number and I got Jennifer on the phone. The only problem was she was in San Diego for her child's birthday party. Ugh! Jennifer said she could leave the party at noon and get to Smashbox in Weho by 2, so I said, YES!
So, after 5 hours of hanging out at the studio and eating breakfast and lunch without taking one photo, Jennifer arrives at 2 and we get things going. The result was a beautiful shoot with amazing hair and makeup by Sienree of Celestine Agency, and Camille Clark, our beauty editor, respectively. Our stylist team killed it. They pulled an amazing story. It was Jessica and Kelly from over at The Wall Group.
Today's Lesson? It's only fashion. It should always be a positive and fun experience for everyone involved. When it isn't, it's time to meditate on all that we have to be grateful for. The other thing I need to remember is that everything always works out for the best. Okay, I'm ready for the next shoot!