Editor’s Note: A version of this story first published in November.
For four years, Lauren Sánchez has been quietly working behind the scenes to help Amazon founder and her now fiancé, Jeff Bezos, strategically give away his vast wealth to a variety of causes.
Last November, in their first sit-down interview as a couple, Sánchez spoke with CNN from their Washington, D.C. home about her philanthropic projects, space travel and what makes her relationship with Bezos work.
At the time of the conversation, the couple had just awarded country music legend Dolly Parton as their third-ever recipient of the Bezos Courage & Civility Award, a $100 million grant given to an individual they feel is trying to make the world a better place.
“The work that we’re doing with the Bezos Courage and Civility Award I think needs to have a voice,” Sánchez said. “And the people that we’ve chosen so far, Van Jones, Jose Andres, Dolly Parton, they all have such stories to tell. I just feel honored to be able to be a part of what they’re doing for this world.”
Sánchez, 53, a former Emmy-award winning journalist who was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, cites her humble beginnings as her motivation for giving back. The mom-of-three said she donated $1 million to This Is About Humanity, which helped build educational learning spaces for the migrant children at the US-Mexico border, and said she visited with migrant families on a recent trip to the border.
Sánchez also serves as the vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund and traveled to Colombia and the Western African nation Gabon as the couple makes good on their $10 billion commitment to help Africa’s restoration movement, combat climate change and preserve nature.
Sánchez’s passion for giving back – whether by her efforts to create tuition-free, Montessori-inspired preschools for disadvantaged children with the Bezos Academy, or writing a check to Parton – comes at a time when Americans are divided on many issues.
Sánchez and Bezos said they wanted to bring a “little bit of light” to the people who use unity instead of conflict to resolve issues. “We wanted to amplify their voices because the voices that are really negative seem to get amplified in this world,” she said.
Traveling to space
Bezos, who founded aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services company Blue Origin, has said he is creating a pathway to space and believes that everyone who wants to go, will in his lifetime.
“I do [believe space travel will be attainable for everyone]. Let me give you an example. The Wright brothers flew this tiny little plane, just a couple hundred feet. And if you told the Wright brothers a hundred years from now, there’s going be a 787 that carries 400 people, they’d laugh,” Bezos said.
Sánchez said that she too intends to head to space in 2023. When asked who she plans to take with her, she said with a smile, “It’ll be a great group of females.”
During the interview, the normally private couple’s admiration for one another was on full display, with Bezos at one point saying, “Lauren is the most generous, most big-hearted person that you would ever meet. So, she is an inspiration in that way. She never misses a birthday. The network of people that she gives birthday presents to is gigantic. And that’s just a small example.”
The duo also joked that their typical Saturday night is… well, pretty typical.
“We can be kind of boring,” Sánchez laughed. “I would say normal. We have dinner with the kids. That’s always fun and a great conversation. There’s seven between us, so there’s a lot of discussion. And then we watch a movie … by committee. It takes a long time to find that movie.”
“We probably spend more time picking the movie than we need to,” Bezos smiled.
Love is in the air
When they aren’t working on their charitable initiatives, Sánchez says, they love to take to the skies closer to earth. A licensed pilot, Sánchez founded Black Ops Aviation in 2016, the first female-owned and operated aerial film and production company with a focus across television and film.
“I’ve also learned how to fly the helicopter,” Bezos said, laughing. “And she’s a horrible backseat pilot. She’s terrible!”
“I’ve realized that when I’m in the back of the helicopter when he’s flying, I just kind of have to look out the window, just kind of enjoy the scenery,” Sanchez chuckled. “I’m like, ‘No, no. Pull up. Okay. Okay, Slow down. But he’s very good.”
As for what makes their relationship work?
“We’re really great teammates, and we also have a lot of fun together,” Sánchez said. “And we love each other … We always look at each other and we’re the team.”
Bezos added, “It’s easy. We bring each other energy, we respect each other. So, it’s fun to work together.”