For the past four years, Lauren Sánchez has been quietly working behind the scenes to help Amazon founder Jeff Bezos strategically donate his vast wealth to a variety of causes.
In their first interview as a couple at their sprawling Washington, DC home, Sánchez spoke candidly about her philanthropic projects, space travel, and why her relationship with Bezos works so smoothly.
Last week, the couple honored country music legend Dolly Parton as their third recipient of the Bezos Courage & Civility Award, a $100 million grant given to a person they believe is her trying to make the world a better place.
“I think the work that we’re doing with the Bezos Courage and Civility Award needs to have a voice,” Sánchez said. “And the people we’ve picked so far, Van Jones, Jose Andres, Dolly Parton, they all have stories like that to tell. I’m just honored to be a part of what they do for this world.”
Sánchez, 52, a former Emmy-winning journalist who was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, cites her humble beginnings as a reason she wants to give back. The mother-of-three said she donated $1 million to This Is About Humanity, which has helped create learning spaces for the migrant children on the US-Mexico border, and said she met migrant families on a recent trip visited the border.
Sánchez also serves as vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund and has traveled to Colombia and the West African nation of Gabon as the couple fulfill their $10 billion pledge to help Africa’s recovery movement fight climate change and preserve nature.
Sánchez’s passion for giving back — whether through her efforts to create tuition-free, Montessori-inspired preschools for underprivileged children with Bezos Academy or by writing a check to Parton — comes at a time when Americans are on many issues are split.
Sánchez and Bezos said they wanted to bring a “little bit of light” to people using unity rather than conflict to solve problems. “We wanted to amplify their voices because the really negative voices seem to be amplified in this world,” she said.
Bezos, who founded aerospace manufacturer and space services company Blue Origin, has said he’s creating a path to space and believes anyone who wants to go will do so in their lifetime.
“I do [believe space travel will be attainable for everyone]. Let me give you an example. The Wright brothers flew this tiny little plane just a few hundred feet away. And if you told the Wright brothers a hundred years from now there’s going to be a 787 that carries 400 people, they’d laugh,” Bezos said.
Sánchez said she also intends to go into space in 2023. When asked who she wanted to take, she said with a smile, “It’s going to be a great group of women.”
During the interview, the normally private couple’s admiration for each other was fully apparent when Bezos once said, “Lauren is the most generous and big-hearted person you would ever meet. So in that way she’s an inspiration. She never misses a birthday. The network of people she gives birthday presents to is gigantic. And that is just a small example.”
The duo also joked that their typical Saturday night is… well, pretty typical.
“We can be pretty boring,” laughed Sánchez. “Normally I would say. We have dinner with the kids. It’s always fun and a great conversation. There are seven of us, so there is a lot of discussion. And then we’ll see a movie… by committee. It takes a long time to find this film.”
“We probably spend more time choosing the movie than we need to,” Bezos smiled.
When they’re not working on their charitable initiatives, Sánchez says they love flying closer to earth in the sky. A licensed pilot, in 2016 Sánchez founded Black Ops Aviation, the first female-led aerial film and production company focused on television and film.
“I also learned how to fly the helicopter,” Bezos says, laughing. “And she’s a terrible backseat pilot. She’s terrible!’
“I’ve realized that if I’m in the back of the helicopter when it’s flying, I just have to look out the window and just enjoy the scenery,” Sanchez laughed. “I say, ‘No, no. Pulling up. OK. OK, slow down. But he is very good.”
What makes their relationship work?
“We’re really great teammates and we have a lot of fun together,” said Sanchez. “And we love each other … We always look at each other and we are the team.”
Bezos added, “It’s simple. We bring each other energy, we respect each other. So it’s fun to work together.”