Ever since I watched The Talented Mr. Ripley at an age that was, frankly, far too young—despite the film’s sophisticated trappings, Jude Law does get brutally clubbed around the head with an enormous wooden oar—I have been a sucker for the glamorous promise of an Italian vacation. It may be a cliché, but the reason I’ll always return to Italy’s boot is that it’s filled with places that feel like they could exist nowhere else in the world, from thigh to heel; from the mind-boggling engineering of the Venetian waterways to the devil-may-care energy of Naples with its whizzing motorcycles and crumbling Baroque churches.
Still, nowhere in Italy has captured my imagination—and feels as uniquely its own place—like Sicily. A crossroads for various Mediterranean civilizations for centuries (and still to this day), its rich and incredibly varied landscapes serve as a backdrop for one of the country’s most strange and seductive cultures. The seafood pasta isn’t half bad, either. null
Last year, I was lucky enough to travel to this sprawling island to write a guide to its hotels, with a specific focus on two new openings. But one of these new openings, the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, felt particularly magical: Situated on a rocky outcrop on the edge of the popular tourist hilltop town of Taormina, it seemed to capture everything that has made Sicily such an enchanting destination for travelers from the Grand Tour onwards.
Housed in a former convent that was first constructed in the 14th century—indeed, an entire wing includes rooms housed in the former cloisters, albeit with a few of the nun’s cells knocked through to form more spacious living quarters—peeling back the layers of its past is a history lesson in and of itself. Converted into a hotel in the late 19th century as Italian tourism began to truly boom, a wing was later added in the Liberty style (an Italian variation of Art Nouveau) to house guests including Oscar Wilde and D. H. Lawrence. Throughout World War II, it served as a headquarters for the German army. (After the war, it returned to its function as a hotel, attracting a breathlessly star-studded array of jet-set guests including Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Sophia Loren.)
So imagine my delight then when I heard Mike White’s masterful upstairs-downstairs comedy The White Lotus, would be renewed for a second season—and this time set in Sicily. And imagine my further delight when it was announced that the setting for the show’s second season would be none other than the San Domenico Palace. Visions of Jennifer Coolidge in a jazzily-patterned muumuu lounging by the same pool in which I’d taken my morning swim raced through my mind.
Of course, as soon as I came to the realization I’d stayed at the actual, real White Lotus—and I began sharing this with anyone who would listen, in a manner that in hindsight was probably extremely smug and annoying—the first question anyone asked in response was: Well, what was it like?
Reader, I’m here to tell you, it was just as beautiful as it looks. To start at the very beginning, in order to reach the hotel, you’re taken along a winding road that loops through and around the vertiginous cliffs from which visitors can take in Taormina’s peerless views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Then, you’re deposited in the courtyard—now and forever known as the historic location where Sabrina Impacciatore’s frosty hotel manager Valentina conjectures that Coolidge’s Tanya may have dressed up as Peppa Pig. (They should really make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site for that line alone.)
Stepping through the first of the cloisters, you’ll pass the shop where Mia and Lucia went on their wild spending spree, and descend to the bar area where Ethan and Cameron got up to no good while their wives were away in Noto. (I can confirm, however, that the hotel’s real-life musical offering was far superior to the warbling of the sleazy lounge singer Giuseppe in the show.) Cross the threshold into the Principe Cerami restaurant, and you can wander further out to the almost comically beautiful terraces where you watched Harper and Daphne eat their breakfasts.
Then, you can head through the perfectly manicured gardens awash with colorful lilies and scented with fragrant citrus trees, and down towards the hotel’s true pièce de resistance: the infinity pool with its widescreen view all the way from Mount Etna across to the Greek amphitheater that hovers above Taormina as a reminder of its illustrious history. Sadly, I did not spot Portia or Albie lounging by the pool and trading flirtatious glances, but if there’s anywhere you’d hope to find the spark of first love, it would be somewhere as impossibly romantic as this.
The Four Seasons San Domenico Palace has that rare thing only the very best hotels possess, which is the feeling that simply by staying there—even without venturing beyond its four walls—you’re having an experience in and of itself, with its lush gardens and corridors that seem to radiate history feeling like a microcosm of Taormina. I saw plenty of chatter on Twitter about the myopia of the White Lotus’s guests never seeming to leave the hotel and only ever eating in its restaurants, but once you’re there, it’s not hard to understand why you wouldn’t necessarily want to leave. It may not be the realSicily, whatever that is, but it’s a slice of Sicilian paradise all the same. The only thing that could possibly make it better? Staying there with Jennifer Coolidge. In matching muumuus
This is scary, upsetting, frustrating and disturbing to read.—LWH
NOBODY HAS MY CONDITION BUT ME
Medical researchers find my genetic mutation endlessly fascinating. But being unique isn’t a plus when you’re a patient.
In early 2021, Dr. Michael Ombrello, an investigator at the National Institutes of Health, received a message from doctors at Yale about a patient with a novel genetic mutation—the first of its kind ever seen. A specialist in rare inflammatory and immune disorders, Ombrello was concerned by what first-round genetic tests showed: a disabling mutation in a gene, known as PLCG2, that’s crucial for proper immune functioning. It was hard to discern how the patient, a forty-eight-year-old woman, had survived for so long without serious infections. Even more puzzling was the sudden onset of severe joint pain and swelling she was experiencing after years of excellent health. He decided to bring her to the N.I.H. campus, in Bethesda, Maryland, to study her case first hand.
That’s how I ended up as a patient in his clinic on a sweet, warming day in April, 2021, just as the cherry blossoms in the Washington area were in full bloom. As a historian and a biographer, I am used to conducting research, examining other people’s lives in search of patterns and insights. That spring, I became the research subject. At the N.I.H., Ombrello’s team took twenty-one vials of my blood and stored a few of them in liquid nitrogen for future use. Scientists outside the N.I.H. began to study me, too. In the past few years, my case has been examined by specialists at Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania—by immunologists, rheumatologists, dermatologists, pulmonologists, and experts in infectious disease. It has been debated at hospital grand rounds and global medical conferences, and in high-powered conference calls. There are PowerPoint decks about it.
All of which makes me lucky, in one respect. Far too often, women who present with hard-to-diagnose illnesses are told that the symptoms are no big deal, that the problem is in their head. They spend years going from doctor to doctor, in a desperate search for someone, anyone, who’s willing to help. This has not been my experience. From the first, doctors took my condition seriously, sometimes more seriously than I did. They pushed me along to the nation’s greatest experts, at the finest medical institutions. My insurance paid large sums for tests and treatments; my family and friends were patient and supportive. All the while, I was able to keep doing what needed to be done: write a book, raise a child, teach my classes.
But none of this gets around a single, stubborn fact. “You are the only person known to have this exact mutation,” Ombrello explains. “I haven’t seen any reports in reference populations of this mutation, and I don’t have anyone that I’ve had referred to me or that I’ve seen in my patient cohort that has this mutation.” In other words, I am one of a kind, and therefore a medical curiosity. Doctors often blurt out that my situation is “fascinating” before catching themselves; they’re aware that nobody really wants to be fascinating in quite this way. Thanks to advances in genetic sequencing, though, researchers are increasingly able to identify one-offs like me.
That leaves them engaged in a process not so different from what I do as a biographer, trying to understand a life and its meaning based on deep research but incomplete information. My historical training pushes me to think in chronological terms: Where do we stand in the great saga of human history? How do grand structural forces and ideas and technologies shape what it’s like for an individual to live a life, day to day? But nothing has rooted me in history quite like the experience of getting sick. Though illness and death may be the universals of earthly existence, the way that we get sick—and, sometimes, get better—has everything to do with the luck of the moment.
Like any good historical narrative, mine has a day when it all began. On September 1, 2019, I went for a mile-long swim in the Long Island Sound, along a thin strip of Connecticut beach where distance swimmers like to gather. A few minutes in, I brushed up against a strange aquatic plant; it scratched my forearm and left me with angry welts that disappeared about an hour later. That night, my ankles started to itch—really itch, the maddening kind of sensation that blots out all thought and reason. By the next day, a hivelike rash was creeping up my calves and thighs, and I could barely turn my neck or open my jaw. By the following week, the symptoms had colonized the rest of my body, with the rash moving north along my trunk and arms while the pain in my neck and jaw descended south into my arms and shoulders.
As a chronically healthy person, I assumed that these were temporary annoyances, perhaps reactions to that odd plant. My doctors initially thought more or less the same thing. As a professor at Yale, I receive my medical care through the university’s health center, a private bastion of socialized medicine for faculty, students, and staff. After five or six days of worsening symptoms, I made an appointment with an advanced-practice registered nurse, who sent me to a dermatologist, who prescribed a steroid cream and told me that things would clear up in a few weeks.
The cream did the trick; the rash disappeared, never to return. But the joint pain stayed and grew steadily worse, soon accompanied by bouts of dramatic swelling as it migrated into my hands and ankles and knees. When the inflammation visited my shoulders, I could not raise my arms without yelping in pain. When it stopped off in a knee, I aged thirty years in a day, a hobbled old woman daunted by a flight of stairs. When it visited my hand, I suddenly had a thick, swollen paw.
Based on these symptoms, I was sent to a rheumatologist. At first, I was charmed by the specialty’s anachronistic name, with its nod to an age when “rheums” and “vapors” and “humors” constituted the height of medical practice. Though scientific knowledge has advanced a good deal since then, rheumatology still relies on intuition and pattern recognition, as well as on definitive tests and cutting-edge therapies. Today’s rheumatologists deal regularly with autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissue. So perhaps it should have been no surprise when my first diagnosis fell into the autoimmune category. At our initial visit, the rheumatologist suggested that I might have serum sickness, a temporary allergic reaction (maybe to that plant in the Sound). Six weeks later, when the pain and swelling persisted, she switched to a diagnosis of seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic and incurable autoimmune disease that tends to afflict middle-aged women.
Already, though, there were aspects of my condition that did not quite make sense. I did not test positive for the usual markers of autoimmune disease. Nor did the pattern of my symptoms—random, asymmetric pain that moved from joint to joint; swelling of the tissues rather than of the joints themselves—follow the usual rheumatoid-arthritis course. And the frontline treatment for the disease, a powerful immune suppressant known as methotrexate, seemed to have no effect. We spent months cycling through other standard R.A. medications: Humira, Xeljanz, Actemra—many of them vaguely familiar from prime-time TV commercials.
The only drug that controlled my symptoms was the steroid prednisone, in substantial doses. The trouble is that prednisone has side effects dire enough to put even the most alarmist F.D.A.-mandated voice-over to shame. In the short term, the drug can cause mood swings, anxiety, sleep disruption, and even psychosis. In the medium term, it leads to weight gain and fat cheeks, also known as Cushingoid features, or moon face. In the long term, it rots your bones and teeth, thins out your skin, degrades your vision, and increases your susceptibility to diabetes. Plus, the longer you stay on it the harder it becomes to stop. Prednisone is sometimes referred to as “the Devil’s Tic Tac”: cheap and available and effective, but at potentially scorching long-term costs.
I got off easy, at least at first. I gained about ten pounds and my face puffed up a bit. My lower teeth started to chip after a lifetime of solidity. These developments bothered me, but they were nothing compared with the prospect of life without prednisone. On a high enough dose, I could function reasonably well; once, I even played basketball with a band of teen-age boys. Dip below a certain threshold, though, and the simplest activities became impossible; there was no more bending of knees, chewing of food, lifting of arms.
A few months into this back-and-forth, I began to keep a record of my symptoms and sensations, hoping to uncover clues that would break the steroid loop. I tried to be scientific, dispassionately recording dosage, symptoms, and external conditions such as food intake, exercise, and weather. Mostly, though, I complained. Entries included “oof,” “omg ouch,” “can barely move,” and “this sucks”—accurate depictions of my inner state, if not shining displays of literary merit. There were days, sometimes several in a row, when things seemed to improve. “Hooray. Gratitude + joy,” I wrote in February, 2020, after a largely pain-free day. Inevitably, though, the highs turned low. Even a single day could bring wild variation. “Bad in morn,” I wrote on January 14th. “Felt stoic + accepting midday. Eve am kinda miserable but have been worse.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, that spring, did not help. As a consumer of powerful immune suppressants, I was “immunocompromised,” part of that subset of Americans who definitely weren’t supposed to go to the grocery store or hug their friends. At the same time, the imposition of COVID restrictions allowed me to hide some of my physical ups and downs. My son and my partner and a few close friends knew what was happening, but the medication cycle was so dismal and repetitive that I feared boring them with too much detail. Instead, I tried to be my own witness. “For the record: I will do my best with this, and I will stick it out over these next months in the hope that we can stabilize the situation and find some relief,” I wrote in my journal. “But I’m not sure I’m up for it if this is the next 30 or 40 years. I reserve the right to bow out.”
I also spent hours ruminating on what I might have done to deserve my fate: Was it too much bourbon? The cigarettes I smoked in college? My inconsistent commitment to yoga? The stress of my divorce? My rheumatologist says this is typical of her female patients, who often turn to self-blame. In contrast, her male patients just show up and say, “Fix me.” The truth, though, was that she could not fix me. So in the summer of 2020, with her blessing, I went in search of a second opinion.
It was a stroke of luck that my right hand was swollen when the day of the consult arrived. The new rheumatologist took one look at it and said, “That’s not rheumatoid arthritis.” Based on the pattern of swelling, which involved the tissues rather than the joint itself, he speculated that I might have an atypical presentation of a rare disease known as acquired angioedema. It was the first time that the words “atypical” and “rare” entered my medical calculus. He prescribed yet another drug, itself rare and therefore outrageously expensive. My health insurance denied the request and demanded further testing.
That, too, was a stroke of luck—not something often said of insurance denials. As part of an in-depth workup, another Yale doctor, an immunologist, tested my levels of immunoglobulins, key proteins manufactured by the immune system to fight infections. It turned out that mine were wildly out of whack, with too many of some and not nearly enough of others. In a functioning immune system, the body responds to a pathogen by creating new immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, which are specifically designed to combat a particular threat. When the immunologist tested my immune system by administering the pneumococcal vaccine, in the fall of 2020, I produced essentially no response.
This was an alarming discovery to make at a time when the COVID vaccine was about to enter mass production and supposedly save us all. But the numbers did not lie: according to the blood tests, I met the criteria for an immune disorder known as common variable immune deficiency (CVID), a grab-bag term for patients with low antibody levels and weak vaccine response. Despite its name, CVID is not especially common; it affects at most one in twenty-five thousand people. “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras,” the medical-school adage goes, counselling diagnosticians in training to think first of the most common scenarios. CVID patient advocates wryly refer to themselves as “zebras.”
But what sort of zebra was I? My tests showed the classic signs of CVID, including a paucity of B cells, the white blood cells that make antibodies, and, in turn, low levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG), the major class of antibodies that respond to infection. In other ways, though, the diagnosis did not fit any better than rheumatoid arthritis had. Most people who receive a diagnosis of CVID have a history of frequent, stubborn infections. I did not, at least as far as anyone knew. And there was also the imbalance in my immunoglobulins: though my IgG level was low, another type of immunoglobulin—IgM—was more than three times the normal level.
Then, there was the question of how any of this pertained to my actual symptoms: the pain and swelling that had begun so suddenly back in September, 2019. My doctors speculated that I might have a reactive arthritis related to mycobacteria discovered to be lurking in my lungs. Identifying infections in CVID patients can be difficult; many tests look at antibodies, which CVID patients don’t make a lot of. To complicate matters, such patients are often treated with infusions of donor antibodies—I myself started monthly intravenous IgG infusions in October, 2020—and it becomes impossible to sort out which antibodies are which.
But there was at least one important test that retained a high degree of precision. That fall, after seeing the alarming immunology results, my doctors ordered a round of genetic testing, which revealed my one-of-a-kind mutation. This was when we discovered that I was not only a zebra but one with polka dots.
From inside the gates, the N.I.H. looks like any suburban college campus: rolling green hills, a busy shuttle bus, a smattering of buildings, mainly brick, with no especially coherent architectural theme. It also features certain dystopian touches. To enter the campus, visitors must pass through a security station for an I.D. check and a full vehicle search, often conducted by armed police officers with canine assistance. The buildings are identified by numbers, designated in historical order of construction. When I arrived for my first visit, in April, 2021, I stammered to the security guards that I was there as a patient—you know, for medical research. “Oh, you’re Building 10,” they informed me.
Building 10, also known as the N.I.H.’s Clinical Center, is the largest hospital in the world devoted solely to clinical research. To be invited in, patients usually have either a rare or a refractory disease—in essence, one that is resistant to conventional treatment and thus a matter of medical interest. Ideally, they also have an illness of “national and international significance,” according to a Clinical Center handbook, with the potential to reveal something important about how the human body works. While N.I.H. investigators study a range of conditions, including common problems like COVID and cancer and alcoholism, many focus on conditions that afflict only a few people and therefore attract little attention from private industry. The federal government foots the bill for all of it. Most researchers do not apply for outside grants, and patients pay nothing for their treatment.
The N.I.H. broke ground on Building 10 in the late nineteen-forties, amid the burst of scientific optimism that followed the Second World War. During a dedication ceremony, President Harry Truman promised that the Clinical Center would be a place “for the people and not just for the doctors and the rich,” an oasis of democratic care. During those same years, Congress rejected his call for universal health insurance, though it appropriated plenty of money for the Clinical Center’s sophisticated research and high-tech experiments. Even then, Republicans and Democrats could not agree on the virtues of large-scale public-health investment, though they managed to press on with the Clinical Center, given its promise of dramatic medical breakthroughs.
In the aggregate, the idea of the Clinical Center has worked. Its walls are studded with exhibits touting the many pioneering discoveries made possible through the citizen-scientist-government triad. In the nineteen-fifties, N.I.H. researchers used plasma cells to show how antibodies evolve to fight thousands of specific infections. Around the same time, another N.I.H. team helped to break the genetic code. Since then, scientists there have made key discoveries in critical areas of medical research, from early tests of AZT in people with AIDS to recent success in curing patients with sickle-cell anemia.
Even so, today’s rhetoric is less lofty than Truman’s. Patients “come in the hope that we can cure them,” the cardiologist James K. Gilman, who runs the Clinical Center, says. “But we never promise that. If we could, it wouldn’t be research.” Hired in 2016 after a lifetime in military medicine, Gilman says that his job is to insure that the facility works as well for its research subjects as it does for researchers. This has been a challenge for the Clinical Center in recent years, as the rush to make and publish discoveries has sometimes overwhelmed the more human aspects of care. In 2016, a “Red Team” panel found lapses in patient safety that have led to a round of reforms. And patient advocates have criticized the N.I.H. for pushing incremental research ahead of more immediately useful clinical advances.
Still, to be treated at the Clinical Center is to feel awfully special, a member of a select group. It can also be a lonely experience; you wouldn’t be there if you had anywhere else to go. When I began planning for my first visit, COVID restrictions were in full force, so I had been instructed to come by myself. I wasn’t prepared, though, for just how alone I would feel. When you’re one of a kind, Facebook groups and solidarity ribbons and walks for a cure—the essential rituals of modern illness—don’t have much to offer. Becoming a patient at the N.I.H. accentuates that sense of isolation, even as it holds out hope for a medical miracle.
Like many N.I.H. patients, I stayed overnight at the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge (Building 65), situated a few hundred yards from the Clinical Center—a Holiday Inn and an assisted-living facility rolled into one. The rooms contain the hotel standards: good enough beds, a tiny television with basic cable. They also come equipped with support bars and emergency-alert devices. In 2021, roughly seventy thousand people visited the Clinical Center on an outpatient basis, down from nearly a hundred thousand in pre-COVID years. Three thousand more were admitted to the on-site hospital, for an average stay of 9.4 days. The team studying my case, which Ombrello leads, has brought sixteen patients to Bethesda for in-person visits.
The Clinical Center itself is designed to impress, with a soaring, seven-story atrium as the chief point of entry. Where private hospitals often feature the names of donors, the walls bear tributes to politicians who have visited or otherwise supported the center. But government appropriations do not seem to be distributed evenly. While the main lobby aims for transcendence, most of the working facilities are far more quotidian. The lab where my cells are stored features a stained drop ceiling, wall-to-wall tiled flooring, and a line of cardboard boxes stacked along the hallway.
My appointment began with a formal registration process: document after document in which I signed my medical record over to the federal government. From there, after a brief check of my vitals, it was on to phlebotomy, where I donated those twenty-one vials of blood. The Clinical Center has its own lab on site, separate from the investigators’ research facilities. The fact that everyone works under the same roof—scientists and patients, bench researchers and clinical staff—is supposed to be one of the center’s key strategic advantages. After phlebotomy, I made my way up to the ninth floor, where a member of Ombrello’s team took a detailed case history. A few hours later, Ombrello himself appeared, along with another researcher. (The rest of the team was listening in by laptop.) We crammed into a tiny exam room, all of us wearing masks, determined to get to the bottom of this medical mystery.
Aside from a white lab coat and the deference of his staff, Ombrello might be mistaken for a grad student, all tousled hair and comfy clothes and eagerness to talk shop. He came to the N.I.H. to study systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (known, more briefly, as Still’s disease), a rare condition characterized by recurrent fevers, joint and organ inflammation, and a distinctive skin rash. Not long after he arrived, another researcher mentioned a family with an as yet undiagnosed inflammatory disorder; its members suffered from strange infections and swelling, along with a rash that occurred with exposure to the cold. Genetic sequencing revealed a PLCG2 mutation that caused disruptions in the immune system at low temperatures. Ombrello and his colleagues named the new disease PLAID (for PLCG2-associated antibody deficiency and immune dysregulation) and published their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine. With that, Ombrello became an expert on PLCG2 mutations and began receiving referrals.
Our first appointment together consisted largely of talk. I recounted my story. We went over the parts of my situation that seem distinctive, including the high IgM, the weird pattern of symptoms, and, of course, my one-of-a-kind mutation. “When I said we’ve known about you for a while, I wasn’t kidding,” Ombrello told me that first day. “We’ve actually made the mutation that you have and tested it in the lab at this point.” Then he whipped out his phone to show me a graph with two lines. One rose sharply and then evened out, depicting the normal activities of the PLCG2 gene. Next there was my line, pancake-flat from start to finish. According to Ombrello, I have a severe “truncating” mutation, yielding a total loss of function in one copy of the gene. Of the eighty or so participants enrolled in his study, just two others have a similarly serious loss of function, and even the three of us differ considerably in the details.
It’s hard not to feel important when highly trained investigators are busy building your one weird gene. “Your cells are gold to us,” a member of Ombrello’s team told me during one visit. The Clinical Center does its best to feed this sense of purpose. “A Researcher’s most important discovery might be you!” a screen in the main lobby declares. Gilman, the Clinical Center’s chief, says, “Whether it’s a young man or woman on the battlefield or whether it’s one of our patients in the clinical trials, I think it’s hard to imagine making a bigger contribution at the end of life.” This is not what a research-study participant wants to hear: that the rewards will come later, maybe long after I’m gone. But research of this sort is by nature slow and tedious, a matter of piecemeal improvements and repeated failures rather than one big cure.
Thus far, my disease does not even have a name. Several well-informed experiments have failed, each with its own cycle of optimism and disappointment. After my first N.I.H. visit, I embarked on a yearlong course of antibiotics, in the hope that the drugs would not only kill off mycobacteria lodged in my lungs but also take care of my joint pain and swelling. At a second appointment, this past spring, I tested positive for exposure to bacteria that cause Lyme disease, necessitating a month of oral antibiotics, followed by two weeks of I.V. antibiotics. None of these attempts yielded the desired results. Mostly, I came away nauseated and discouraged.
Our latest experiment involves a drug called rapamycin, an immunosuppressant usually prescribed for kidney-transplant patients. As of yet, there have been no dramatic improvements, though this particular drug may have at least one upside. Among fitness types, rapamycin is reputed to have anti-aging properties. After years of feeling decidedly middle-aged, I am now imbibing from a pharmaceutical fountain of youth.
From Ombrello’s perspective, treating an odd case like mine can be intriguing and frustrating all at once. “If you think about people who get referred to the N.I.H., either you have something that someone is specifically interested in—a mutation or a disease—or you have something that’s flummoxed everyone you’ve come in contact with and you’ve received a referral to come here as the last center of hope. And so we’re a bastion of hope,” he says. “But at the same time we can’t always deliver what people are hoping for.”
What he can deliver, for the moment, is a research paper: an aggregate analysis of seventy-six patients with sixty distinct PLCG2 mutations. For such purposes, my set of one is not necessarily useful; professional journals tend to want the big picture, not the quirky individual case. And yet the new age of genetic testing seems to be producing a never-ending stream of one-off mutations, most of them “variants of uncertain significance,” as the medical designation goes. Ombrello says, “We’re now dealing with a fire hydrant,” spraying out vast and unmanageable quantities of information. This may someday yield a renaissance of personalized medicine, in which each patient’s genes can be tweaked and edited in boutique fashion. For now, though, we are a long way from that ideal.
At Yale, my doctors are forging ahead with their own research. In the fall, Dr. Mehek Mehta, an allergy-and-immunology fellow, condensed my saga into a presentation before the global Clinical Immunology Society—beginning with “Cool Breezy Labor Day weekend, 9/2019,” as she put it on one PowerPoint slide, and ending with what little is known about my PLCG2 mutation. Despite the assembled brainpower, she came away empty-handed. “We don’t have any answers for you,” she said during a recent conversation. “Which is the most unsatisfying part.” Her supervisor, Dr. Junghee Shin, is similarly baffled. “The tricky part is that it’s very new,” she says of my genetic mutation. “So nobody really knows what would be the best way to treat it.” Like Ombrello, Shin has studied my cells in her lab, hoping to figure out the relationship among the arthritis, the immune deficiency, and the genetic mutation.
With no clear answers to go on, it has been hard to stabilize a narrative about my current state: Am I healthy or sick? Is my condition alarming or just interesting? As a practical matter, I’m more or less fine on sufficient doses of prednisone, able to live my life without giving my medical-mystery status too much thought. The worst-case scenario seems to be that I will be stuck in this state for years, going about my daily business while my bones erode and my blood sugar spikes and my eyes cloud over with cataracts. Forty years ago, I would likely have ended up in the same situation, dependent on prednisone to function day to day. In that sense, all the tests and appointments, the poking and prodding, the resources of the federal government and the great marvels of twenty-first-century medicine, have not made much of a difference.
And yet it’s impossible to unknow what the tests have revealed: that I have one strange gene, with its own agenda. Ombrello says that he tries to avoid the “retrospectoscope,” in which patients and doctors reinterpret past symptoms through the lens of new knowledge. Historians often refer to this error as presentism, the tendency to read contemporary attitudes back onto history. For better or worse, I haven’t been able to avoid this way of thinking. If the mutation was always there, throwing my immune system off-kilter, what else might it explain: my overhyped and anxious nervous system, the ferocious muscle tension I fought for years, my lifelong unwillingness to work at night? Then again, how did I not know about it for so long? Dr. Shin once suggested that perhaps I’ve always been sicker than I recognized, that my baseline for pain and fatigue and discomfort might be radically different from the norm. “You might be a very tough person,” she offered, a narrative that I’d be happy to embrace, were it not for the impossibility of ever knowing for sure one way or another.
Ombrello says that the “hardest part” of his job is accepting the slow pace of medical research, when there is so much urgency to discover answers for his patients in the here and now. Our standard cultural narratives don’t offer much help. In an episode of “House,” the Fox network’s tribute to the power of diagnosis, the cranky but brilliant protagonist saves a dying Presidential candidate by determining that he has CVID and ordering antibody infusions, stat—at which point the patient heads back out on the campaign trail. But things don’t always work out so neatly, either for CVID patients, who must commit to a lifetime of treatment, or for the medical oddities who end up at the N.I.H. Beginning in 2015, the Discovery Channel spent about a year filming four patients at the Clinical Center, each of them suffering from a rare or refractory disease. Of the four, two died, one was cured, and the other was left somewhat improved but facing an uncertain future.
Learning to live with that uncertainty—staring it down, then letting it go—may be as good as it gets for most patients at the N.I.H. Despite everyone’s best effort, “you don’t have control over what it’s going to do going forward and it is what it is,” Ombrello says of rare disease. “For me, that’s the point that I want to help people to come to.” Such a measured assessment may not be quite what Truman envisioned when he dedicated the Clinical Center more than seventy years ago. But the sentiment seems true to our age of diminished expectations, when defeat and discovery so often coexist, when we have learned just enough to understand all that we do not and may never know. ♦︎
Hesty Leibtag’s (in colorful suit) blowout birthday party that was completely over the top last night.Speeches told a story of one terrific and accomplished woman. Everyone was overwhelmed. We are the Fountainhead Arts women united forever. Kathryn Quinlivan Mikesell Hesty LeibtagTeresa Lois Whitman-Hess
The whirlwind surrounding “quiet quitting” first stirred in July when Zaid Khan, a twentysomething engineer, posted a TikTok of himself talking over a montage of urban scenes: waiting for the subway, looking up at leaves on a tree-lined street. “I recently learned about this term called quiet quitting, where you’re not outright quitting your job but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” Khan says. “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not. And your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.” The #quietquitting hashtag quickly caught fire, with countless other TikTokers offering their own elaborations and responses.
Traditional media outlets noticed the trend. Less than two weeks after the original video, the Guardian published an explainer: “Quiet Quitting: Why Doing the Bare Minimum at Work Has Gone Global.” A few days later, the Wall Street Journal followed with its own take, and the traditional financial media piled on. “If you’re a quiet quitter, you’re a loser,” the CNBC contributor Kevin O’Leary declared, before adding, “This is like a virus. This is worse than covid.” Quiet-quitting supporters fought back, mostly with sarcasm. Soon after O’Leary’s appearance, a popular TikTok user named Hunter Ka’imi posted a video, recorded in the passenger seat of a car, in which he responds to the “older gentlemen” whom he had seen dismissing quiet quitting. “I’m not going to put in a sixty-hour workweek and pull myself up by my bootstraps for a job that does not care about me as a person,” he declares.
As we approach the sixth month of debate over this topic, what’s interesting to me is not the details of quiet quitting, or even the question of how widespread the phenomenon actually is, but our collective reaction to its provocations: we’re simultaneously baffled and enthusiastic. To understand this complicated reality, it helps to adopt a generational lens. Though quiet quitting has gathered diverse adherents, its core energy comes from knowledge workers who are members of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012). This is reflected in the movement’s emergence on TikTok, and in the survey data. A recent Gallup poll found that the largest group of workers reporting being “not engaged” are those born after 1989. Today’s young employees, however, are far from the first population to go through a period of sudden disillusionment about the role of work in their lives. Indeed, a look backward reveals that knowledge workers in every previous generation seem to have experienced a similar pattern of work crisis followed by reconceptualization.
The baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) entered a newly emergent knowledge-work sector that had been formed by a postwar migration to the suburbs. Their parents found a substitute for civic engagement in an Organization Man-ethos centered on loyalty to corporations that could offer lifetime employment in return. This subordination of the individual to the greater cause fit with the ethos of a generation that had banded together to fight fascism in the nineteen-forties, but to their children, surrounded by the social disruptions of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, the sentiment began to seem stiflingly conformist. The boomers responded with a countercultural movement that recast work as an obstacle to self-actualization. The rise of back-to-land, voluntary-simplicity, and communal-living experiments were all, in part, attempts to find meaning outside the structure of employment.
By the time the boomers began having kids of their own, in the nineteen-eighties, their countercultural dreams had long since crumbled. They had to figure out what new message about the meaning of work to pass on to their children, the so-called millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). In looking for a compromise between corporate conformity, which they still distrusted, and their own failed attempts to reject work altogether, the boomers came up with a clever solution: telling the millennial to seek work that they loved. This advice might sound timeless, but its arrival can be connected to this specific period. As I document in my 2012 book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” it’s hard to find references to the phrase “follow your passion” in the context of career advice until the nineteen-nineties, at which point the adage explodes into common usage. This passion-centric perspective attempted to thread the needle between the extremes that the boomers had experienced: get a job, they told their kids, but make it one you love. Seek self-actualization, but also care about making your mortgage payments.
It’s hard to overstate the degree to which millennials—the generation to which I belong—were bombarded with this message during our childhood. This passion culture shaped our initial understanding of work and meaning, but, as with our parents, world events eventually disrupted its influence. The destabilizing impact of the 9/11 and the financial crises that followed cast doubt on the idea that our jobs should be our ultimate source of fulfillment. Employment had become too precarious to leverage in such a self-indulgent manner. When I finished graduate school, in the fall of 2009, American unemployment was near ten per cent. Millennials my age who had nurtured dreams of becoming journalists, or lawyers, or entrepreneurs retreated during this period into whatever fallback jobs they could find. Just a few years earlier, an author named Elina Furman had been making the TV rounds talking about her book “Boomerang Nation,” which documented the rising trend of young adults moving back in with their parents. Many in my generation responded by adopting a new and more pragmatic ethos of “hacking” work to serve a vision of the good life that expanded beyond the details of a particular job.
This was the decade of the blog-fuelled minimalism movement, which argued that if you simplify your life, you can simplify your career, leaving more time for other meaningful pursuits. It was also the decade in which a formerly burned-out entrepreneur turned life-style guru named Tim Ferriss dominated the best-seller lists with his surprise hit, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which advanced a vision of using automated online businesses to support “mini-retirements” that included exotic travel and adventurous hobbies. In the early twenty-tens, the millennial philosophy of work as a means to an end was further boosted by the arrival of newer, slicker social-media platforms that made it easier to show off curated scenes of aspirational living.
Gen Z entered the workforce with a mind-set that was notably distinct from the millennials who preceded them. As the first group to fully come of age with smartphones and social media, Gen Z formed an understanding of the world in which the boundaries between the digital and real were blurred. Every experience was a potential cyber-palimpsest of self-documentation, and reaction, and reaction to the reactions. Whereas millennials, who had gained access to these tools later in life, used social media to keep track of the adventures and accomplishments of acquaintances and celebrities, this new generation embraced a voyeuristic digital vérité, characterized by the short video of a subject talking straight to camera about both everything and nothing at all. This new style of lo-fi influencer shifted the center of gravity of youth culture and began, for a small core of highly visible examples, to generate substantial financial rewards. “Every waking moment has become pertinent to our making a living,” the artist and writer Jenny Odell explained in a 2017 speech that, appropriately enough, went viral and which eventually turned into a book. For this generation, the personal had become intertwined with the economic.
Then the pandemic arrived. Though this disruption negatively affected knowledge workers of all ages, for Gen Z it delivered an extra sting. The depredations of pandemic-induced remote work—the crush of constant Zoom meetings, the sudden uptick of e-mail and chat, the loss of the redeeming social aspects of gathering in offices—stripped the last vestiges of joy from these jobs. For older employees, these conditions created a professional crisis. For Gen Z, which had so thoroughly mixed work and self, this suffocating grimness hit at a more personal level. It became clear to many that they needed to separate their personhood from their jobs. It is this transition that generates much of the angst exhibited in quiet-quitting videos. “Your worth as a person is not defined by your labor,” a defiant Zaid Khan concludes in the original quiet-quitting TikTok. To a millennial, with our work-as-a-means-to-an-end ethos, this statement sounds obvious and histrionic—like something you’d pronounce in a sophomore-year seminar. But, to Gen Z, declaring a distinction between the economic and the personal is a more radical act.
This is why so many older people are confused by quiet quitting: it’s not meant for us. It’s instead the first step of a younger generation taking their turn in developing a more nuanced understanding of the role of work in their lives. Before we heap disdain on their travails, we should remember that we were all once in this same position. For me and my fellow-millennials, it wasn’t that long ago that our own parents shook their heads at our confident plans to run an automated business from a laptop in Tulum. Our initial struggle to break free from the impossible demands of passion culture may have seemed excessive at the time, but it has, over the years, evolved into a more practical relationship between work and our sense of self.
Quiet quitting is not a life philosophy or policy proposal that needs logical scrutiny. It’s also not a political weapon to be wielded to prove how much more woke or conservative you are than everyone else. It’s both more incoherent and essential than all of that. Figuring out how work fits into a life well lived is hard, but it’s an evolution that has to happen. Quiet quitting is the messy starting gun of a new generation embarking on this challenge. The specifics of what a young engineer says in his TikTok video might annoy or confuse many of us, but it shouldn’t. The content here isn’t that important. What matters is that Generation Z is waking up to the fact that the unnatural melding of self and work induced by an adolescence lived within online spaces isn’t sustainable. They’re finally—thankfully—ready to ask what should come next. ♦
“I’ll make an exception and enjoy a slice of strawberry shortcake, my favorite!” he told USA Todayvia email of the low-key festivities for his 90th birthday at his home in upstate New York. Jones, who said that he plans to continue acting “for as long as I can,” added at the time that he was “feeling fantastic and grateful.”
“Looking back at my life and extensive career, I am so proud of my work and accomplishments. I love growing older and wiser with time,” he said.
While Jones intends to continue acting, in September 2022 he announced that he would step back from performing the voice of one of his most iconic characters, Darth Vader. Moving forward, the franchise will use cutting-edge A.I. to voice the character by utilizing archival recordings of Jones’ previous performances.
The Oscar and Tony Award-winning Cabaret star told PEOPLE on April 11, 2022, that he would be celebrating his 90th birthday “with good friends.”
When asked if he ever imagined becoming such a prolific actor as a young boy growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he told PEOPLE, “No! I didn’t. I’ve never thought about it, actually, and I never thought [about] this number that I’d be associated with: 9-0.”
Daniels, who starred on the drama series St. Elsewhere and voiced the iconic KITT automobile in the action series Knight Rider, is perhaps best known as Boy Meets World‘s beloved Mr. Feeny.
She’s pictured here on the left attending the 1961 premiere of the original West Side Story, for which she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita, and on the right at the 2021 premiere of the Steven Spielberg version, in which she plays a new character, Valentina.
In addition to the West Side Story remake, Moreno has remained very active, including appearing in the 2023 films 80 for Brady and Fast X.
“I feel young,” the I Dream of Jeannie star told Page Six shortly after her 90th birthday in August 2021.
In addition to maintaining an “active” social life, she credits regular workouts (she still has a trainer!) for her longevity.
“You put me with George and Lucy and it’s weird,” Newhart said. “Like I was in some weird museum of comedy.”
“It’s more like legends of comedy,” Stiller insisted, riffing. “Alive, dead … all different types of comedy!”
But Newhart wasn’t buying it. “This legend is going to kick your ass, that way you’ll know I’m alive,” he said. “You thought I was dead!”
Though best known for starring in the sitcoms The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart, he has continued to occasionally appear on television in shows like The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon.
The beloved, bespectacled designer turned 100 on Aug. 29, 2021. “Everything about turning 100 is fantastic, but I really do believe that I’m still the world’s oldest teenager,” she joked to InStyleahead of the big milestone.
And she’s still working. In 2022, Apfel released new collaborations with both H&M and Ciaté London.
The actor-musician-activist, who turned 90 in March 2017, came out of retirement after a 2015 seizure to shoot a stirring scene for Spike Lee’s Oscar-nominated 2018 film BlacKkKlansman. “He walked onto the set, and we were all shook,” Lee told Deadline. “He shot the scene three times, shook hands and posed for pictures with everyone, gave me a hug and he was out of there.”
In 2022, Belafonte was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early Influence category. He became the oldest living person to have received the honor.
“I miss the actual acting part of it, as it’s what I did for almost 60 years, and I really loved that. But the business for me is very stressful,” he told Reuters in 2008. “It had gotten to a point where I just didn’t feel like I wanted to do it anymore.”
A beloved actor and comedian, Van Dyke charmed audiences across the decades with his television series The Dick Van Dyke Show and films like Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bangand Night at the Museum.
The prolific actor/director joined the club on May 31, 2020, when he turned 90.
In a December 2019 chat with Ellen DeGeneres, he got candid about aging, saying, “I don’t think about it,” adding with a laugh, “I sometimes think, when I was a little kid and I used to hang out with my grandfather who was in his 90s, and I thought, ‘Jesus, who the h—- would want to live this long!'”
Eastwood continues to direct and occasionally star in films, including 2019’s Richard Jewell and 2021’s Cry Macho.
Eva Marie Saint
The On the Waterfront and North by Northweststar is a true living legend. Saint is the oldest living winner of an Academy Award
In 2014 — the year she turned 90 — Saint lent her voice to Katara in the Avatar: The Last Airbender television spin-off The Legend of Korraand appeared in the film Winter’s Tale.
As the mind behind All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons and many other television hits, Lear has an unmatched resume in the history of television production.
Though he celebrated his 100th birthday in July 2022, he is still busy writing and producing. Incredibly, Lear told PEOPLE at the time that he had 23 projects in the works!
The actress, who turned 90 in 2020, hadbeen working since 1955 — but gained a whole new generation of fans with her memorable role as Allie in 2004’s The Notebook, which was directed by her son, Nick Cassavetes. Rowlandsretired from acting after the release of her 2014 film Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, and she received an Honorary Oscar in 2016.
A comrade of Queen Elizabeth II, beloved television host and natural historian, Attenborough won a Primetime Emmy Award for narrating the 2017 documentary series Blue Planet II. And he remains incredibly popular — in 2020, Attenborough (who turned 90 in 2016) became the fastest Instagram user to gain 1 million followers, achieving the feat in just four hours and 44 minutes.
The founder of Motown Records, responsible for launching the careers of The Supremes, the Jackson Five and Stevie Wonder, among many others, turned 90 in November 2019, but still keeps busy: In the early 2010s, Gordy oversaw a musical about his life and successes that premiered on Broadway in 2013.
The actress received an Oscar nomination at age 84 for her role in Nebraska and hasn’t slowed down since — you’ve seen her in Palm Springs, Godmothered, Life & Beth and Little America, all of which came out after her 90th birthday in 2019.
Gilbert, whose career in entertainment has spanned nearly 70 years (and even included two albums), has been the voice you’ve heard introducing Alex Trebek on every episode of Jeopardy from the host’s first turn in 1984 to his last, filmed in 2020 before he passed away from pancreatic cancer — and beyond. The announcer turned 90 in 2018.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer
A German Jewish refugee whose parents died in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, Dr. Ruthimmigrated to the United States in 1956 and began to pursue her post-doctoral studies in human sexuality. In 1980, she launched her radio career, eventually hosting the call-in show Sexually Speaking and becoming a phenomenon that changed the way Americans spoke about sex. In 2019, a documentary about her life debuted and as of her 94th birthday in 2022, she was still dishing out spicy life advice.
The astronaut became the second human to set foot on the moon in July 1969, when his Apollo 11 mission landed on the lunar surface. Aldrinhas since earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom, written books and continues to promote space exploration. He turned 90 in 2020.
The Baywatch star revealed, “We just wanted to have babies and be together forever.”
While their relationship was unquestionably tempestuous, Pamela Anderson is the first to admit that her ex-husband Tommy Lee may have been the great love of her life.
At the end of the month, the Baywatch star will release both a new memoir, titled Love, Pamela, as well as a Netflix documentary, Pamela, a love story, in which she speaks frankly about the many phases of her life and the men who were part of them. In an excerpt of the book, obtained exclusively by People, Anderson writes, “My relationship with Tommy may have been the only time I was ever truly in love.” The pair wed in 1995 on a beach in Cancun wearing a bikini and board shorts, respectively. While the good times could get a little too wild at momemnts, she added, “We had fun and our rule was no rules.” The animal rights activist confessed, “We just wanted to have babies and be together forever.” The couple would go on to welcome two sons together, 26-year-old Brandon and 25-year-old Dylan.
However, when their personal home videos were stolen from a safe in their garage and repackaged into a “sex tape” that was sold and distributed, their relationship was put under a new pressure and level of public scrutiny. “It ruined lives, starting with our relationship—and it’s unforgivable that people, still to this day, think they can profit from such a terrible experience, let alone a crime,” she writes, noting that she has never watched the stolen tape. From then on, the stress became too great for their marriage to withstand and she revealed that one night in 1998 Lee twisted her arm as she was holding her then seven month old son Dylan. “Tommy ripped Brandon off me and threw me and Dylan into a wall,” she said, prompting her to call 911 in a panic. Tommy was arrested and served six months in jai and so, she said, “Our hell began.”
Anderson filed for separation shortly after and she explains, “The divorce from Tommy was the hardest, lowest, most difficult point of my life. I was crushed. I still couldn’t believe that the person I loved the most was capable of what had happened that night. We were both devastated, but I had to protect my babies.” But now, over two decades later, the Playboy star says, “Tommy is the father of my kids and I’m forever grateful,” adding that even though their two kids are now adults, they still “check in, every once in a while.”
The actor went on to get married four more times, once to Kid Rock, twice to Rick Salomon (although one of their marriages was annulled), and most recently to Dan Hayhurst, although their marriage ended in 2021 after less than a year together. Theses days, she’s totally single and living with her five dogs in her grandparents’s former farmhouse on Vancouver Island, but she writes, “I live a more romantic life now that I’m alone than I did in relationships. l light my candles, have my music playing. I have my piano, I’m sure it would be lovely if someone else was in my life and wanted the same thing, but I’ve just never met them. It’s usually about catering to them, and there has to be a balance.” Anderson concluded, “I don’t need someone to bring me roses. I’ve just planted a hundred rose bushes. I can get them any time I want—and they’re my favorite roses.”
Fountainhead Arts took us on a guided tour yesterday of Didier William’s work at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in North Miami. This is largest solo exhibition of his career. Didier is a mixed-media painter originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti but he grew up in Miami. His work incorporates traditions in oil painting, acrylic, collage and printmaking to comment on intersections of identity and culture.
If you are a jazz lover, then you are going to be thrilled with what Miami has to offer. The Faena Jazz Series is back. If you’re looking for unusual gift items, checkout the Frost Science Museum gift store, which is not just science. Every third Thursday of the month, Miami Beach comes alive with culture. Did you know that Miami-Dade is the largest rum consumer market in the USA? No wonder we’ve been chosen as the site of the Rum Convention.
Faena Jazz Series Is Back
The Faena Jazz Series is just as good, if not better than the Jazz at NYC’s Lincoln Center (Dizzy Club). That’s a big statement but I have full confidence in Alan Faena, the founder and owner of the Faena Hotel. Everything is first class under his watchful eye. Designed by Alan Faena, the 150-seat venue is in one of Miami Beach’s most beautiful hotels.
Frost Science Museum Gift Store — The Most Unusual Items Ever
Every time we have to purchase a gift for someone, I am always scratching my head as to what to buy. Then one day I walked into the gift shop at the Miami Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science and felt like I finally found a plethora of items that were perfect for presents, both young and old.
Every third Thursday of the month, Miami Beach comes alive with culture as various institutions and buildings open their doors to give you just a taste of what they have to offer. Most of the programming is accessible by foot, and by bike, but dedicated free trolleys drop you off, and pick you up, at dedicated Culture Crawl stops.
I love rum. I used to drink rum and coke all the time as a teenager in growing up in New York City. I never thought that I would be living in an area, Miami-Dade, that would be the largest rum consumer market in the USA. It represents over 2.4M cases of rums sold per year. I guess that’s why Miami is one of the cities around the country that was picked by TheRumLab.com to celebrate the 4th Miami Rum Congress.
When the artificial intelligence platform ChatGPT was released in late November, I was one of many educators who jumped on it, introducing it in the seminar I teach at Yale on the media and democracy. With its ability to communicate in plain-English prose, it was undeniably fun for the students to play with, composing everything from silly poems to job application letters.
But it was also deeply troubling. When I prompted it to spread misinformation, it generated a news article falsely asserting the “U.S. Electoral Commission” had found “rampant voter fraud” in the 2020 election. It was also alarmingly quick to complete the term paper assignment that my students had been working on for weeks. It instantly spit out six excellent topic ideas (written as country-western lyrics, as requested)—and then generated a paper on gender in the newsroom that, while not up to college standards, was credible enough to show how ChatGPT could soon morph into the ultimate cheating machine.
So it’s understandable why New York City’s Department of Education announced last week that it will ban access to ChatGPT on school devices. That decision, by the nation’s largest school district, was quickly followed by similar moves in Los Angeles and Baltimore, with others likely to join them.
Yet blocking access to ChatGPT is a mistake. There is a better way forward.
Students need now, more than ever, to understand how to navigate a world in which artificial intelligence is increasingly woven into everyday life. It’s a world that they, ultimately, will shape.
We hail from two professional fields that have an outsize interest in this debate.
Joanne is a veteran journalist and editor deeply concerned about the potential for plagiarism and misinformation. Rebecca is a public health expert focused on artificial intelligence, who champions equitable adoption of new technologies.
We are also mother and daughter. Our dinner-table conversations have become a microcosm of the argument around ChatGPT, weighing its very real dangers against its equally real promise. Yet we both firmly believe that a blanket ban is a missed opportunity.
The New York City department’s justification for blocking ChatGPT illustrates why a ban is shortsighted. “While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success,” a department spokesperson explained (emphasis added).
Yet attempting to teach “critical thinking and problem-solving” skills – while ignoring the real world in which students will deploy those skills—is a fool’s errand. These students are growing up in an era when technology increasingly is driving human behavior and decision making. Their generation needs to understand how best to utilize it, what are its perils and shortcomings, how to interrogate it and how to use it in an ethical way.
What’s more, on a practical basis, a ban simply won’t work. Students will still have access to ChatGPT outside of school. Microsoft is reportedly in talks to invest in OpenAI, the company that created it, which would expand access further. And previous prohibitions have failed. Early researchers warned against using Google in schools because it would “harm students’ information literacy skills.” Wikipedia was banned early on in both colleges and school districts. Not surprisingly, students have always found creative ways to circumvent such bans.
Nor have fears that those technologies would trigger an educational Armageddon been realized. Today Google is an essential research tool. Wikipedia is ubiquitous, though it isn’t considered a reliable source for research purposes. ChatGPT is a far more powerful and disruptive tool, which only underscores how important it is for students to learn how to safely engage with it.
For example, educators can deploy the platform to teach those crucial critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They might ask students to analyze a ChatGPT-generated report on a historical event, to track down its sources, and to assess its validity—or lack thereof. They could teach rhetoric by having students challenge ChatGPT’s reasoning in its answers. Computer science students could analyze ChatGPT-generated code for flaws. The technology itself provides a framework to discuss the ethical considerations about benefits and harms of artificial intelligence.
This isn’t to minimize the risks surrounding ChatGPT. Some educators are setting up guardrails to prevent cheating, requiring essays to be written by hand or during class. Students themselves are getting involved, like the college senior who created an app to detect whether text is written by ChatGPT. OpenAI has said it is looking at ways to “mitigate” the dangers, including by potentially watermarking answers.
These are important steps. But they don’t let us off the hook when it comes to teaching all students how to understand and responsibly use not just ChatGPT, but also other new technologies to come.
This isn’t simply an academic exercise. In her work at the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Rebecca sees firsthand how AI is being implemented in healthcare around the world, even as challenges with bias and inequity remain. From arts to the environment, emerging technology is only becoming more intertwined with every aspect of our lives. Today’s students will soon be tomorrow’s leaders, tasked with ensuring that technology is designed and implemented in responsible and ethical ways.
Their education needs to start now. We’re reminded of when Google was founded in 1998, when Rebecca was in grade school in the New York City public school system. At first, she wasn’t allowed to use a computer for research. When it was finally allowed, she mistakenly used it to find articles to share with her class—not, as expected, to write a report. She was mortified.
But rather than discipline her, Rebecca’s teacher explained how the computer was intended to be a resource for learning, not a substitute. Her lesson was clear: technology should be a tool to expand students’ own thinking—not a crutch to limit it.
That lesson is even more important today. To ensure future generations are responsible stewards of technology, we need to create opportunities for them to participate in its design and use—beginning in the classroom.
There are several duplicate posts. Sorry. They are stuck.
The Powerful Women Behind The Rich & Famous
Latvia born Astrid Menks, the second wife to the well-known investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet has quite a story with the wealthy businessman. The two met while Menks worked as a waitress at a nearby cafe. Buffet frequented the cafe with his former wife Susie, who would often perform there as a singer.
Menks and Buffet then began a 40-year relationship to the full knowledge of Buffett’s wife Susie, who would even be seen out with Menks herself on various occasions. Menks and Buffet tied the knot in 2006, two years after Susie’s passing.
As Viacom jets flight attendant, it’s believed Malia Andelin caught the eye of Sumner Redstone while on the job. Other than private jets (that’s plural, mind you), Redstone is a prolific businessman who happens to own the National Amusements group. It is the parent company to most major television networks, including Viacom, MTV Networks, BET, CBS Corporation, and Paramount Pictures.
Andelin was in her twenties when the two met, while her husband, Sumner, was 89. Their relationship came to an unfortunate end in August 2020 when Redstone passed away at 97 years old. She now manages his philanthropic fortune.
Erica Baxter PackerErica Baxter Packer is the second wife of one of the wealthiest men in Australia — businessman and investor James Packer. This fellow Aussie is a model and singer, releasing her first single (“Dreams”) in 2001.
Getty Images Photo by Gaye Gerard
2001 was also the year when year she started dating the billionaire. The two married in 2007 and have three children together. Unfortunately, Erica and James went their separate ways after being married for just six years. She has since started dating Cuban artist Enrique Martinez Celaya, and the two are now happily engaged.
Laurene Powell Jobs
Laurene Powell Jobs was once married to the late Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. They met in 1989 when he came to speak at Stanford Business School and didn’t leave each other’s side until his unfortunate death in 2011. He was unarguably one of the greatest technological minds from the last century, but certainly not the only successful person in the marriage.
Getty Images Photo by Alexandra Wyman
Laurene founded Emerson Collective, a company that clamors for immigration, education, and environmental reforms. She is also involved with foundations that assist students without access to the funds or financial aid to attend college.
Dasha Alexandrovna Zhukova
Russian socialite and fashion mogul Dasha Alexandrovna Zhukova was once married to the Russian billionaire tycoon, Roman Abramovich — founder of the IRIS Foundation, a group that significantly promotes contemporary culture. The two were married for nine years, during which they had two children.
Getty Images Photo by Alexander Fyodorov/Epsilon
Dasha and Abramovich called it quits in 2018, but don’t you be sad for them. Zhukova has a career of her own in arts and philanthropy, and she has since married another billionaire — Stavros Niarchos II.
Billionaire tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, made his wealth working in media after founding News Corp leaving him with a net worth of $18 billion. His wealth placed him on the top of the charts of the richest people in the world by the time he was 77.
Getty Images Photo by Jon Kopaloff/WireImage
Now well into his 80s, Murdoch got married to Mick Jagger’s ex, Jerry Hall, at the beginning of 2016. Hall is a well-established model and actress, although she hasn’t been performing much lately. The two are still married today!
Claire Elise Boucher
Claire Elise Boucher is also known professionally as Grimes. She is a Canadian singer and musician, but if you’re less into avant-garde music and more into tech, you might know her as the better half of technology entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The two have been in a relationship since 2018. On January 8, 2020, Boucher announced that she was pregnant with her and Musk’s first child together. Claire Boucher gave birth to their son in May 2020 and gave him the controversial name X Æ A-Xii.
Kristy Hinze is married to Silicon Graphics and Netscape founder Jim Clark, but there is more to her than this marriage. She is an actress, model, and television host. She has appeared on the front pages of Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated magazines.
Getty Images Photo by Mike Flokis
Their relationship has sparked controversy due to the 36 year age difference between them, but they have been married since 2009, shutting everyone down. They are now happy parents of two daughters — Dylan Vivienne and Harper.
Priscilla Chan is the kind of woman anyone would love to introduce to their parents. The only one who got to put a ring on her, however, is Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Chan is not only a pediatrician but also a philanthropist.
Getty Images Photo by Kimberly White
Alongside her billionaire husband, she founded a political action and philanthropic organization called the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative, which focuses on health and education. The two have two daughters — Maxima and August.
Kirsty Roper Bertarelli
Kristy Roper Bertarelli is the former Miss United Kingdom, winning back in 1998, but she has lots of other talents. She’s also a successful singer, model, and songwriter. Bertarelli co-wrote “Black coffee,” a popular song released in 1988 by the group All Saints.
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Her husband, Ernesto Bertarelli, is a businessman born in Switzerland who inherited a large biotech firm, Serono. They currently reside in Switzerland with their three kids.
Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world today. In 2007, he tied the knot with Lucy Southworth, who has quite the brains herself. They have two children together.
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Rather than a career as a model, actress, or TV host, her life trajectory is more academic. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, and Oxford University. Lucy also holds a Ph.D. in biomedical informatics.
Salma Hayek got her start as a Mexican model and actress. She burst onto the scene in Hollywood with roles in “Desperado,” “Wild West,” and “Dogma and Wild.” Hayek also earned an Emmy Award nomination for her performance in “Ugly Betty.”
In 2009, after a two-year engagement period and having a child together, she tied the knot with the billionaire businessman, François-Henri Pinault in Paris. He works with luxury retail empires that have created brands like Puma, Gucci, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Flavia Sampaio is the founder of Institute Consciousness, an NGO that was started to assist children. Additionally, she is a tax and environmental lawyer who is a member of the Sampaio, Morrison, and the Boquimpani Advogados Associados. What a powerhouse!
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Her partner, Eike Batista, is quite a powerhouse as well. He is the wealthiest man in Brazil, and as the chairman of the EBX Group, he made and then later lost his money in the mining, oil, and gas industries. The two never officially married, but they do have a son together.
Australian model Miranda Kerr made history as the first Victoria’s Secret Angel from down under. She owns KORA organics, a brand of skincare products.
Snagging the best men in the world, Kerr was married to Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom for three years. Now, however, she is married to Evar Spiegel, Snapchat’s CEO and co-founder. The two tied the knot in 2017 and have two sons.
Wife to the richest man in India, Nita Ambani is the co-owner of a cricket team in India, the Mumbai Indians. Additionally, she is the chairperson of Dhirubhai Ambani International School, one of the best schools in India.
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Her husband, Mukesh Ambani is a multi-billionaire who made his wealth in the petroleum industry. The two met when she was a mere schoolteacher and have been married since 1985. They have three children who will be lucky enough to inherit the family fortune.
A doctorate holder, Anne Wojcicki was previously married to Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin. Sadly, however, things did not work out, and they divorced in 2015 after eight years of marriage and having two children.
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Regardless of her former connection to the Google empire, it seems that Wojcicki is quite successful in her own right. She is a biologist by profession, and a biotech analyst, earning her degrees from Sanford University and Yale University. Anne is the CEO and co-founder of the firm 23andMe.
Kate Greer is a designer by profession and a co-Founder of Cheerie Lane, a homegrown popcorn company. For the past 4 years, Kate has been dating Jack Dorsey, the founder and CEO of the social media company Twitter.
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Jack is also the founder of the tech company Square. They have been walking the red carpet of every tech event possible since 2013.
Irina Viner is famous for being one of the best gymnastics coaches in the world. In 2015, Irina was awarded the Olympic Order for the part she played in global sports. In Russia, she leads the training department of the country’s rhythmic gymnastics team.
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Viner is married to Alisher Usmanov, the richest man in Russia. The two met as young athletes in Tashkent when she did gymnastics, and he practiced fencing. They grew apart and found their way back to each other years later in Moscow. How romantic!
Queen Noor of Jordan
Queen Noor of Jordan, born Lisa Najeeb Halaby, married the late King of Jordan, King Hussein. They were married for 21 years before he died in 1999. However, she was quite the noblewoman before the two even met. Born in the United States to a Navy pilot and an airline executive, her family is well-established financially.
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Years after her husband’s passing, she is still going strong. Not only is she an ambassador to the UN and the Queen of Jordan, but she is also an author. She has published two books explaining the history of her family’s wealth.
Stephanie Seymour is a former actress and supermodel who appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated and Vogue magazines. She’s had a tumultuous life peppered with names of rich and famous men such as John Casablancas (head of Elite Models) and musician Axl Rose. She has even performed in two of Guns N’ Roses music videos — “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry.”
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The man who ultimately won her hand is the billionaire, art collector, and real estate magnate, Peter Brant. In 2009, after being married for almost 14 years, Seymour filed for divorce from Brant, but love eventually won — the two patched things up the following year, and now they are better than ever.
Married to, Donald Trump, Melania Trump is a prosperous businesswoman as well as a former model. She owns a skincare line as well as a jewelry and watch collection that was often featured on QVC.
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However, when her husband became president, her own business career took a step back. According to a White House Spokesperson, her companies are now inactive because she doesn’t want to use her position for profit.
Eloise is an actress and model from the United States, Eloise Broady is married to John Paul DeJoria. DeJoria is the co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company as well as the Paul Mitchell line of hair products.
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This former Playboy’s Playmate has been married to the billionaire and philanthropist since 1993. Now the two invest in numerous charitable causes like Help Clifford Help Kids, The Austin Recovery Center, Helping Hands, The Austin Children’s Shelter, and more.
Andrea Hissom is married to Steve Wynn — an art collector, casino mogul, and the CEO of Wynn Resorts with a net worth of over $3.1 billion. Not too shabby! Wynn divorced his first wife to get married to Hissom at a star-studded event where Clint Eastwood was his best man.
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Other celebs in attendance included Donald Trump and Celine Dion, who stayed at the luxurious Wynn Casino. That must have been quite the party!
Nikita Kahn is an actress from Ukraine. You might know her thanks to her role in the movie “Catch 44,” where she acted alongside Nikki Reed and Bruce Willis. She is currently dating Larry Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle Corporation and one of the world’s wealthiest men.
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Ellison has been married four times. The longest one lasted 7 years, and the shortest lasted no more than a year. With four failed marriages under his belt, it’s unlikely the two will ever walk down the aisle.
Belgian model, Jade Foret, is married to French billionaire Arnaud Lagardère who made his money as the General and Managing Partner of Lagardère SCA of the Lagardère Group. Prior to being married, Foret had a relationship with soccer player Émile Mpenza, which ended abruptly in 2009.
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She moved to New York to continue her work as a model when she met Lagardère. After three years of dating, the two finally got hitched. They got married in Paris in May of 2013, and she has been towering over him ever since.
Despite their 46-years age gap, Fabiana Flosi has a successful marriage to Bernie Ecclestone, multi-billionaire and CEO of the Formula One Group. Flosi was born and raised in Brazil and known for her high taste in fashion.
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The two had their first son, Alexander Charles Ecclestone, in 2020. It is Flosi’s first and Ecclestone’s fourth. In fact, his previous children have already produced their own lineage, making him a great-grandfather of five.
Supermodel and mother of two, Claudia Barilla is arguably the most humble wife on the list. She is married to Canadian poker player and billionaire businessman Guy Laliberte, but his most famous endeavor is probably co-founding Cirque du Soleil.
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Barilla is famously known for living quite modestly for a woman of her stature. She has been seen wearing brands like Converse despite all the wealth ascribed to her name. She directs a foundation that helps youths at risk called the One Drop Foundation.
Businesswoman Nicole Schuetz is the CEO and founder of Sutro Energy Group, an organization that helps advance investment in clean energy technologies and projects.
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She is married to Instagram co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Kevin Systrom. The two met at Stanford University and hit it off quite nicely. After a two-year engagement period, the pair got married in 2016.
Princess Ameerah is a Silatech board of trustees member. She is now a philanthropist and Vice-chairperson of the Al-Waleed bin Talal Foundation. She is mostly known as the former wife of the Saudi Prince, Al-Waleed bin Talal.
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Unfortunately, the marriage lasted just five years and the two divorced in 2013. However, this kind of woman does not stay on the market for long. In 2018, she married Khalifa bin Butti al Muhairi, an Emirati billionaire who took her as his second wife.
Susan Dell is married to the founder and CEO of Dell computers, Michael Dell. Dell Corporation is one of the largest manufacturers of computers on Earth. These lovebirds got married in 1989 and produced four children, all of whom live in Austin, Texas.
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This group supports underprivileged children around the world by granting access to healthcare and standard education. Together they own the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, of which she is the vice-president.
Alison Gleb Pincus is the wife of the co-founder of Zynga Inc. and Farmville developer Mark Pincus. Apparently, she is a businesswoman in her own rights. She is the co-founder of One Kings Lane, a home décor website and firm that offers luxurious furnishings to its 10 million+ clients.
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The two have been married for seven years and have three kids together. However, it is possible that the two won’t last since she filed for divorce in 2017, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Former Miss. Ukraine Universe Oleksandra Nikolayenko Ruffin is a Ukrainian model married to billionaire investor Phil Ruffin. Ruffin is known to be media-shy but has amassed wealth largely from the oil and gas industries, casinos, real estate, and greyhound racing tracks.
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Despite the enormous age-gap between them (they were introduced to each other by Donald Trump when she was 27 years old and he was 72), the two are still married and have two children together.
Mackenzie Bezos is a best-selling author and writer of “The Testing of Luther Albright,” which earned her a National Book Award. She was married to the founder of Amazon and Blue Origin from 1993 to 2019, Jeff Bezos, also known as the richest man in the world.
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Her divorce settlement made her the third wealthiest woman in the world and also placed her amongst the wealthiest individuals in April 2019. It was revealed by Forbes in June 2020 that her divorce settlement of $38 billion!
News anchor Lauren Sanchez is Jeff Bezos’ new girlfriend, and rumor has it their relationship is far from pleasant — filled with texting and affair scandals. Some sources claim these issues have only brought them closer to each other, but only time will tell.
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Bezos’ split from ex-wife Mackenzie Bezos was the most expensive divorce in world history, and it cost Jeff a significant fraction of his net worth, but he still remains the richest man in the world.
George Soros was declared a legend in the hedge fund world when he placed a bet against the British pound and was nicknamed “The Man Who Broke The Bank Of England.” It is alleged that Soros met Tamika Bolton at a dinner party around 2008, but they only got married in 2013.
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With Bolton’s MBA and her dietary supplement company, she could get any man she wants, but she chose a man nearly 40 years her senior. This age gap and a legal issue among Soros and a former partner of his have sent lots of criticism their way. However, the love between the two seems to be growing stronger than ever.
Julie Chen and Leslie Moonves had a romantic relationship back in 2003 while he was still married to someone else. As CEO and chairman of CBS, Moonves met young Chen there while she was working as a reporter on “The Daily Show.”
He married Chen 13 days after he was granted an early divorce settlement. Lately, allegations levied against him may have reduced his net worth, but his marriage to Chen is still intact, and they even have a son together.
Diane von Furstenberg
Diane is listed as one of the top 100 most powerful women in the world by both Forbes and Time Magazine, and for a good reason. Not only is she a longtime fashion icon and the creator of the wrap dress, but Diane von Furstenberg was once a princess of Germany.
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Her husband, Barry Diller, is the founder of the popular Fox Broadcasting Company. He is also the chairman and a senior executive of both IAC Inc and Expedia Inc. Von Furstenberg’s husband is worth over $4.3 billion, but she is also a billionaire in her own right, with a net worth of $1.2 dollars.
Princess Charlene of Monaco
Married to Prince Albert II, the Prince of Monaco, Princess Charlene Wittstock is a former Olympic swimmer. She met her husband years back in 2001, but their relationship was kept away from the media until 2006. The couple tied the knot in 2011, although it was rumored that the soon to be Princess of Monaco had cold feet before the wedding.
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However, these claims were heavily denied by the royal family. The Prince of Monaco is estimated to be worth over a billion dollars, making him one of the richest royals in the world.
When we think of the richest women in Britain, we probably think of J.K. Rowling. However, the richest woman in the UK is actually Kirsty Bertarelli, Miss UK 1988 winner, as well as Miss World runner-up.
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While she has made plenty of money on her own, most of her wealth is actually from her husband, Ernesto Bertarelli, who is worth around $7.9 billion. The couple got married twenty years ago in 2000 and live in Switzerland with their three children.
The Gates family is without a doubt one of the most famous families on Earth. Melinda Gates is married to Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world. Shortly after graduating from college, she started working at Microsoft, a company owned by her soon to be husband. She started dating her boss just a few months later.
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Years later, in 1994, the pair got married in Hawaii and they have been together ever since, having three children over the years. The couple is also known to be heavily engaged in philanthropic work through their Bill and Melinda Foundation which has donated billions of dollars to researches and charitable projects all around the world.
Ricky Anne Loew-Beer
Ricky Anne Loew-Beer, also known as Ricky Lauren, met her husband, Ralph Lauren when she worked as a receptionist in a doctor’s office. It took them just six months to solidify their relationship, getting married in 1964. Together, they have spent more than five decades building a family, having three well-brought-up children.
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Two of their children have become entrepreneurs in their respective fields. Although fashion mogul Ralph, stepped down as the CEO of Ralph Lauren Corporation in 2015, he is still rated to be worth nearly $6 billion.
Kate Capshaw, also known as Kathleen Sue Spielberg, married Hollywood director Steven Spielberg in 1991. They met during the filming of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” back in 1984, a film in which Capshaw played Willie Scott, an American nightclub singer.
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The pair instantly connected. They dated for six years, and in 1990, Spielberg and Capshaw got married. Capshaw’s work in the movie industry and her marriage has made her one of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Belarussian supermodel Yekaterina Domankova is famous for her modeling work for Victoria’s Secret. She is married to Anton Zingarevich — a Russian businessman who married her year after they first met.
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Anton is currently the owner of the Reading Football Club, which plays soccer in the English Championship. Yekaterina and Anton have one child together.
Penny Knight met her husband Phil Knight years ago when he was still a lecturer at Portland State University. In 1968, Penny married the love of her life, Phil. Now popularly known as “Shoe Dog,” Phil is the billionaire founder of the famous sports brand, Nike.
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With an estimated net worth of over $30 billion, he is one of the most successful businessmen in the world. The couple has had three children, but sadly, one of their sons passed away in 2004 in a scuba diving accident.
Hope Dworaczyk rose to fame by appearing in Playboy and earning the title of “Playmate of the Month” in April 2009. She later became Playmate of the Year in 2010 and has also tried her hand in acting and reality TV.
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Dworaczyk married Robert F. Smith in 2015, a successful investor and businessman. He is currently said to be worth over $7 billion. He and Dworaczyk have two children who need to share his wealth with his kids from previous relationships.
Julia Flesher married David Koch who was fortunate enough to inherit his wealth from his parents. With his brother, Koch has since grown his share of the wealth to more than $50 billion, making them both the richest people in their family.
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The couple got married in 1996 and had three vibrant children together. Sadly, David Koch passed away from prostate cancer in 2019 at the age of 79.
After his divorce from his ex-wife in 1986, Amancio Ortega got married to his current wife Flora Pérez. Ortega co-founded Inditex with his ex-wife. This retail brand is the parent company to fashion giant Zara. Since his second marriage in 2001, the couple has been known to be living a very private life.
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This has led to there being very few pictures of the two, either together or individually. Ortega, who has a net worth of over $70 billion, is one of the wealthiest men in the world. That being said, they live modestly, and he usually sticks to generic (non-Zara) dark blazers and no ties.
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe is married to Patrice Motsepe, a famous shareholder in the South African mining industry. The pair met when he was practicing law and she was practicing medicine. They got married in 1989 and have been together ever since. They have three children together.
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Moloi-Motsepe is the head of many charitable organizations and her firm is known to have organized the Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week in South African cities like Soweto and Cape Town. With a combined net worth of over $2.1 billion, their family is one of the most famous and wealthiest in South Africa.
Helene Mercier-Arnault is a French-Canadian classical pianist that has been nominated for and won several musical awards. Her husband is French billionaire, Bernard Arnault, the owner of LVMH company which is home to luxury brands such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Sephora, and many more.
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With an estimated net worth of over $110 billion, Arnault is one of the richest men in the world. The two married in 1991 after Arnault broke off his previous marriage, from which he had two children. In addition to building a considerable amount of their net worth together, the couple also has a fruitful marriage with three children.
Andrey Melnichenko is a Russian billionaire, business owner, philanthropist, and social investor. His $14.7 billion personal net worth makes him one of the richest men in Russia. His wife, Aleksandra Melnichenko, is a former singer and model from Serbia.
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The pair met in the South of France back in 2003 and got married two years later. It’s alleged that Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston performed at their wedding, which was on the Cote D’Azur. Aleksandra and Andrey Melnichenko have two children together.
Many people know Padmathanks to her appearance on the show “Top Chef” as a host, but she has many other talents: she’s also the author of many bestselling cookery books, an actress, and a model. She has an established net-worth of $40 million, but marrying a billionaire probably couldn’t hurt.
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She married billionaire Theodore J. Forstmann in 2009, and they had two years together before he passed away from brain cancer in 2011.
Elle Macpherson is a popular TV host, actress, and model from Australia. She was once married to billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, heir to Donald Soffer who is credited for turning Florida swamplands into the beautiful and exciting location now known as Aventura.
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Macpherson started dating Soffer in 2009, but the two soon fell apart and broke up in March of 2012. However, they got back together in November of 2012 and then tied the knot in the middle of 2013. Unfortunately, marrying each other didn’t fix their issues, and they have since gotten divorced.
There is very little known about Paola Rossi apart from her marriage to Giovanni Ferrero, an Italian businessman. After the unfortunate passing of his elder brother Pietro Ferrero in 2011, he took over the family confectionery company — Ferrero.
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The company specializes in chocolate and confectionery products and is the second biggest chocolate manufacturer and confectionery company in the world. They produce popular chocolate brands like Nutella, Raffaello, Kinder Surprise, and many others. Rossi and her husband have two sons together.
Connie Snyder is married to billionaire Steve Ballmer, LA Clippers owner and former CEO of Microsoft. Snyder is an American philanthropist. She is the co-founder of the Balmer group, an organization whose sole aim is to support the poverty-stricken families in the United States.
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While her husband is estimated to be worth over $70 billion, Snyder herself is worth around $2 million. Connie has been an employee of Microsoft and other popular technology companies, where she made a name for herself in their marketing and public relations departments.
Lily Safra is a billionaire, philanthropist, and socialite of Brazilian-Monegasque descent. She has been married to four different men but we’re here for the latest one — Edmond Safra, an affluent Lebanese Jewish banker. Edmond is famously known for starting the Republic National Bank of New York.
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In 1976, despite the fact that his family opposed their relationship, Edmond married Lily. They were married until 1999 when he tragically died in a fire. Lily is currently well into her 80s and holds a net worth of $1.3 billion.
Melanie studied anthropology at Oberlin College and archaeology in Egypt but ended up not pursuing a career in the field. Since 1998, Melanie has written and published three books and now she is working on her fourth.
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Melanie is married to Larry Ellison and both serve on the board of the Ellison Medical Foundation, which aids Alzheimer’s research. Interestingly, their wedding photographer was none other than Steve Jobs! Sadly, however, the couple divorced in 2010.
Anne Dias Griffin
Anne is a Harvard MBA who also founded Aragon Global Management. She is also a supporter of the arts, serving as a trustee of New York’s Whitney Museum and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
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In 2003, Anne married hedge fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, and the pair had three children. In 2006, she and her husband donated $19 million to the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2015, the two got divorced and haven’t remarried since.
Kathy Hilton is an American socialite and actress who expanded her career ventures to fashion design (with her party dress line sold in stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus) and Philanthropy. At the age of 15, she met Richard Hilton.
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Hilton is an American businessman and founder of the successful firm Hilton & Hyland, specializing in upscale homes in Beverly Hills, Malibu, Hollywood Hills, and more. The couple has four children, including well-known Paris Hilton, who made her claim to fame in the popular early 2000s reality show “The Simple Life” with Nicole Richie.
Janet Hill is the fourth wife of the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak. Hill and Wozniak met while Hill worked at Apple in Strategic Education Solutions and as Sr. Manager in Education Marketing.
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The two were long-time friends before tying the knot in August of 2008. The couple is still happily married and lives together in Los Gatos, California. Wozniak is reported to have a net worth of $100 million as of 2017.
Wendy Deng met well known Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch not long after graduating with an MBA from Yale University. The Chinese-born entrepreneur was working in Hong Kong as vice president to Star TV, a company which Murdoch had purchased when the two began their relationship.
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The couple married in 1999, making Deng Murdoch’s third wife. Throughout her career, Deng has worked in a wide variety of fields such as TV, a MySpace advisor, a Chinese internet investor, and film production. Unfortunately, the couple filed for divorce in 2013.
Usha Mittal holds her own against her husband Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company. The two have been going strong since the young age of 21, and Usha has even been given the responsibility of running ArcelorMittal in the managing board’s absence, having had 15 years of experience running a steel plant in Indonesia.
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Though impressive as that may be, her biggest contribution is becoming the namesake of the Usha Mittal Institute of Technology. The well-renowned institution is a large promotor of education for women throughout India.
Tina Munim, a former Bollywood actress, made her claim to fame in the movie “Des Pardes” (At Home and Abroad), which was released in 1978. She is married to businessman Anil Ambani, once ranked the sixth richest man in the world.
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Though Munim has left the Bollywood scene after acting in over 30 films, she still has her hand in the arts as an acting member of the Harmony and Art Foundation. She also sits on the board of the Mumbai based Koklilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital as a chairperson. Munim and Ambani have two sons.
Daughter of former White House Chief of Staff Sam Skinner, under the George H.W. Bush administration, Jane began her career, unsurprisingly, as a political correspondent. The Northwestern University graduate continued her career in Newscasting, ultimately settling as the anchor for the 2 pm ET edition of Fox News Live.
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In 2010, Skinner announced her retirement from the anchor position to devote more time to family. Skinner is married to NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell, raising their twin daughters in Westchester, New York.
Diana Taylor is the domestic partner of businessman and former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. The Greenwich, Connecticut native graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in economics and subsequently with an MBA from Columbia University.
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Taylor and Bloomberg met in 2000 after being seated next to each other at an event for the Citizens Budget Commission. Taylor is a strong women’s advocate, serving on the board of both the International Women’s Health Coalition, The New York Women’s Foundation, and the YMCA of Greater New York, to name a few.
Jenny Gillespie is married to Andrew Mason, CEO, and founder of the popular website Groupon. Mason is estimated to have a net worth of approximately $200 million (as of March 2013). A singer and jack of all trades, Gillespie has recorded a number of studio albums, all of which she had a hand in producing.
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Gillespie also started the record label Narooma records, which focuses on overlooked female artists around the globe. The singer splits her time between the world of the arts and taking care of her two young boys.
Rubina Bajwa is married to successful internet entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal, who became a millionaire at the young age of 18 after founding a successful internet advertising company two years prior.
Bajwa was born and raised in a Punjab family in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has built a successful career as an actress in Punjab films. The actress was awarded Best Debut Female Actress at the Punjab Film Awards in 2018.
Jill Biden, formerly Jill Jacobs, met Joe Biden on a blind date arranged by Joe’s brother Frank. Jill, having been married once and already separated, was impressed by Joe’s gentlemanly demeanor.
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The two were married in 1977, where Jill took on mother’s role to Joe’s two sons, who were survivors of a car crash killing his former wife and infant daughter. After a full term as the Second Lady of the United States, Jill Biden became the First Lady in January 2021.
A truly impressive woman in her own right, Michelle Obama met former President Barack Obama while working in marketing and intellectual property law at the Chicago-based law firm Sidley & Austin. The two spent their first date at Spike Lee’s movie, “Do The Right Thing,” and the rest is history. The Obamas were married in October of 1992.
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The former First Lady studied at Princeton University for undergrad and is also a Harvard Law School graduate. Amongst the myriad of Michelle Obama’s accomplishments, she is a successful author, podcast host, and founder of The Girls Opportunity Alliance, a foundation committed to the empowerment of adolescent girls around the world through education.
Joan Templeman is the second wife to the well-known businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Richard Branson, who is estimated to have a net worth of 5.6 billion dollars. Templeman met fellow Brit Branson in 1976, Branson has already become the well-established founder of Virgin and all its various branches.
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The two were married in 1989 and had two kids together. They reside on the family’s private island, Necker Island.
Linda Fuller is a co-founder with husband Millard Fuller of the well-known organization Habitat for Humanity, an NGO which builds houses internationally for those in need. A devout Christian, the fullers were married in 1959 and subsequently moved to an interracial farming community.
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With faith driving her, Linda Fuller picked up her family and moved with her husband and the children to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for 5 years before returning to the US. It was there in Zaire that the Habitat for Humanity business model was tested and proven a great success.
Alice Barry is the third wife of SNL creator Lorne Michaels. The couple met in 1991 while Barry worked as Michaels’ assistant on the late-night show and was married that same year.
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Barry still works in the entertainment industry and has three children with Lorn, Sophie, Edward, and Henry Michaels. The family resides in New York.
Sanni McCandless is the wife of the successful pro rock climber and Academy Award winner for the documentary “Free Solo,” Alex Hannold. An extremely outdoorsy person herself, McCandles began her career in the tech-world working at a Seattle-based company called EnergySavvy focusing on energy efficiency.
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McCandless is a graduate of IPEC’s Life Coach Certification program and works as a coach for outdoor-focused individuals. Though much of her life with Hannold is mobile, the two often live in their van while rock climbing throughout the country, her husband’s acclaim, and fame have slowed their road-life a bit, settling them just outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
Wife of Rob Stringer, CEO of Universal Music Group, Julia Carling is a British journalist and TV presenter. Carling married Stringer, her third husband in 2006 after previously being married to Jeff Beck, a guitarist and musician, and Will Caring, an English rugby captain.
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Carling has a degree from Birbeck, the University of London in Egyptology. In 2004 she became a published author with her book “Beauty Scoop: The Indispensable Guide to the Best Beauty Products on the Market.”
Yael Cohen, a South African born and Canadian raised mining heiress and businesswoman, is the daughter of David Cohen, an oil and mining entrepreneur, and is wife to well-known Hollywood agent Scooter Braun.
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After her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Cohen became an active breast cancer advocate, working closely with millennials primarily through social media to facilitate discussions about early prevention. In 2018, Cohen became a senior advisor for the successful dating app Bumble. Cohen and Braun have three children and reside in LA, California.
From somewhat known actress to part of the Royal Family, Meghan Markle has been talked about quite a bit in recent years, boosting her to the spotlight. Markle married Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in November of 2017, “crowning” her the titles Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex and Countess of Dumbarton and Baroness of Kilkeel.
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The former actress was previously known for playing the role of Rachel Zane in the show “Suits” from seasons 1-7. The royal couple has one son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, and have settled in Montecito, California.
Anjali Pichai is the wife of Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc and its subsidiary Google. Pichai is herself a chemical engineer, having graduated from ITT, the Indian Institute of Technology, where she met her husband. Pichai grew up in India in a brahman family before moving to the US.
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She began her career as a business analyst at Accenture and later started working as Business Operations Manager at Intuit. The couple has two children.
Melanie Craft is an accomplished author and novelist, having published popular books such as “Man Trouble” and “Trust Me.” The writer is the former first wife to businessman and founder and CEO of Oracle company, Larry Ellison, estimated at a net worth of $86.9 as of January 2021.
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Although Craft is 25 years Ellison’s junior, the two were married in 2003; however, the couple filed for divorce in 2010.
Helen Morris was born into an aristocratic family with heavy value put upon art, history, literature, and culture. Though the fifth wife of the well known and highly regarded director Martin Scorsese, Morris herself has had an impressive and successful career.
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Morris was a well-renowned book editor for Random House, as well as successfully producing the TV show “Daisy Daisy” and a number of documentaries. A devout philanthrope, she is also known to work with a number of various charities.
Pamela Kerr is the wife of French-born, Armenian-American businessman Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay. Kerr originally hails from Hawaii but met husband Omidyar after moving to the continental US.
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With a net worth of $8.3 billion, Kerr and Omidyar use their wealth to help those in need, having donated millions of dollars to various charities and non-profit organizations. The couple has three kids and has made a home base in Henderson, Nevada