FROM THE ACADEMY MUSEUM TO THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL LOS ANGELES, CHERYL SABAN’S CAPACITY TO GIVE KNOWS NO BOUNDS.
"WHENEVER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, ESPECIALLY FOR A WOMAN—BECAUSE A WOMAN IS THE COMMUNITY BUILDER— SHE’S GOING TO HELP THE COMMUNITY AROUND HER.” –CHERYL SABAN
The Saban name needs no introduction, especially here in Los Angeles. It’s prominently displayed on several buildings across the city, most notably on the recently opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures facade, where Cheryl Saban and her husband, Haim, made a $50 million donation.
What’s interesting is that donation almost didn’t happen. “Initially it wasn’t even in our playing field because it falls outside of our mission statement,” says Cheryl, who along with Haim focuses her philanthropic efforts in the U.S. on healthcare and women’s empowerment. “But we went to a dinner and were approached by some of our really good friends who are involved with it, and they made the case.” Although Haim—who made his fortune in the entertainment industry— initially said no, on the drive home Cheryl convinced him to think differently. “I said, ‘Maybe we should do this because it will be a legacy.’ When you think about my husband’s career and everything he’s done, it made total sense.”
In typical fashion, Cheryl’s attitude to this major gift is completely lacking pretention. “There are so many people in our city who have been very generous in helping to make this come true,” she says. “We’re just one of many, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
Perhaps this comes from her upbringing— although she did not grow up wealthy, her family always encouraged her to give. “We gave back to the community in any way that we could, whether it was clothing drives, food drives or being a candy striper at a convalescent home,” she shares. “All of my young life, I was doing something to give back, so it was kind of baked into who I am.”
After receiving her PhD, she started the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women and Girls (selfworthfoundation.org). “I felt that in order to really make a difference in society, you have to make sure that the women are protected from danger and that they’re given a chance to an education, not only a chance but the ability to have that education, financial literacy—all of these things became super important to me because they were also part of my own journey,” says Cheryl about the foundation, which focuses on giving microloans to women and funding organizations like Girls Who Code.
The couple’s Saban Family Foundation— which supports Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Rape Treatment Foundation and other organizations that help woman and children—is very important to Cheryl on a personal level. “Part of my own story is that I didn’t have money to pay for my own healthcare at one point. I was a working single mom at the time and really got a sense personally of how difficult it can be to walk through a door and ask for help,” she says. “Whenever we can make a difference, especially for a woman—because a woman in my mind is the community builder—she’s going to help the community around her. I feel happy about that.”
As far as the legacy she’d like to leave, Cheryl’s message is unsurprisingly inspirational. “As a woman, I would hope that I’m leaving behind the statement that one shouldn’t give up,” she says. “Everyone has their Mount Everest to climb, and if you get to be courageous enough and dedicated enough to overcome the challenges to whatever it is that you’re facing, you can have a great adventure in life.”
Photography by: COURTESY OF SABAN GLASS