I’ve gone through life seeing things differently the most people, and that includes my perception of beauty. Growing up I viewed Mary Ann as infinitely more attractive than Ginger (“the movie star”) on Gilligan’s Island. When my adolescent friends were hanging the famous swimsuit poster of Farrah Fawcett of Charlie’s Angels fame on their walls, I romanticized Jacklyn Smith.
I imagine many will perceive me as odd viewing MacKenzie Scott as the sexiest woman in America.
Scott is not yet a household name, but you’ll instantly associate her by her previous married name: MacKenzie Bezos. Yes, that Bezos, the guy who founded Amazon and the world’s most famous sender of dick picks. Scott was married to Jeff Bezos for 25 years and supported him when the online retailer was still a germ of an idea in his not yet bald head.
Scott and Bezos amicably divorced last year. According to press reports they grew apart; Bezos was attracted to the glitz of Hollywood and wanted to spend time palling around with celebrities. Scott reportedly maintained more modest and grounded aspirations.
As a result of the split, Scott got 25 percent of Bezos’s stock holdings worth some $36 billion, instantly making her one of America’s wealthiest individuals. The value of Scott’s Amazon holdings has since increased to more than $56 billion.
Scott this week revealed that she’s given away more than $4 billion to 384 American charities and nonprofits. The size of her charitable giveaway is impressive, but also noteworthy is how Scott disclosed it, what motivated the speed of her generosity, and the recipients of her largesse.
Scott could have made herself a media sensation, garnering profiles on 60 Minutes, all the networks, and a fawning New York Times profile because of her support of institutions focused on minorities and the economically disadvantaged. Instead, she penned a post on the Medium’s blogging platform disclosing the donations and the rationale and timing behind them. As best I can tell, that’s been Scott’s only public comment.
“The pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” Scott wrote after quoting the poetry after Emily Dickson. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”
While Scott didn’t cite the finding, she was likely referring to this study by Chuck Collins of Inequality.org which found that the wealth of billionaires increased 34 percent since the pandemic began in March.
What’s impressive about Scott’s charitable giving is the considerable due diligence that was performed to determine worthy recipients. Following the death of George Floyd in police custody, many corporations rushed to donate to Black causes, but most of the recipients were well known organizations like the NAACP and the ACLU. The quickness with which those donations were made suggested that speedily donating to Black organizations was more important than scrutinizing them to ensure they lived up to their media hype. (I’ve previously been critical of the ACLU.)
Scott said her advisors took a “data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leaderships and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.” Scott said her team examined 6,490 organizations and then did a deep dive into 822. That’s a lot of analysis.
The list of qualifying organizations included brand name nonprofits and their branches, including the NAACP, Meals on Wheels, Easterseals, United Way, YMCA, and YWCA. But they also included hyper local organizations like Invest Detroit, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, and Southwest Human Development, an Arizona nonprofit. The organizations are located in all 50 states Puerto Rico, and Washington.
I was surprised to see that Goodwill Industries and some of its affiliates made the cut, as I mistakenly believed the company was a for-profit organization because of a slew of negative publicity. If Scott and her team deemed Goodwill worthy, that’s good enough for me and I will resume donating to the organization’s stores.
Although it’s a problem I wouldn’t mind having, giving away billions as Scott is committed to doing is a formidable challenge, particularly given her determination to identify only organizations deserving of no strings attached donations. My only disappointment with Scott’s Medium post is her reference to “burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place” on nonprofits. I maintain that nonprofits require considerably more oversight and regulation, as most donors don’t have Scott’s resources to do extensive due diligence.
Scott is impressive in her own right. She holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton and has published novels, including one that received an American Book Award for literary achievement. She met Bezos while working as an administrative assistant at a New York hedge fund. When Scott married Bezos she had no idea that he’d go on to become one of the wealthiest people in the world.
Media cynics like Kenzie Bryant of Vanity Fair speculated that Scott’s sizeable charitable donations are intended as a FU to Bezos, who is known for his corporate tax avoidance and has faced criticisms that his philanthropy falls short of other moguls. If that were the case, she could have written sizeable checks to major universities and cultural institutions and had a prominent buildings and wings named after her. There isn’t a lot of national PR glory giving to The Arkansas Food Bank.
Scott strikes me as a warm and kind person with a big heart and a deep soul. She’s written novels, reads poetry, and she’s Ivy League. She’s come into great wealth and is committed to responsibly distributing most of it to worthy causes. She exudes class and has a distinct personal style. And she has a mile-wide smile in every photo I’ve ever seen.
I know of no woman, or man for that matter, who has all these qualities and attributes. That’s what makes Scott so interesting and sexy.