Dr. Cheryl Saban is an author, philanthropist, skier, kayaker, glassblower, mom, and if that weren’t enough, the President appointed her as a Special Representative to the U.N. Our STEPHEN CHRISTOPHER catches up with the tireless over-achiever at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel.
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 specific women’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.
Art Director: Stephen Kamifuji
Stylist: Holly Copeland / HollyCopeland.com
Makeup: Annie Ing / CelestineAgency.com
Hair: Randi Petersen / ArtistsbyTimothyPriano.com using Redken
Manicure: Elisa Wishan / The Rex Agency using Orly
Photo Assistant: Drew Roberts
Location: Special thanks to the Peninsula Beverly Hills