When Gloria Richards isn’t performing off-Broadway, she travels with the children of billionaires, often whom she has never met, around the world.
Richards spends half of each year nannying to the ultra-rich to supplement her income between off-Broadway shows and one-woman shows in New York and Virginia. The gig earns her up to $167 an hour, plus flights and accommodation covered, she says, meaning caring for the billionaire’s children accounts for 80-90% of her annual income.
“I could nanny for, like, two months at the peak of the year, and it would be fine for the rest of the year,” Richards, 34, told CNBC Make It. “What feeds me is being able to work so closely with these children.”
Richards’ job is atypical by most definitions, from pay to responsibilities. Nanny for the Ultra-Wealthy isn’t always about childcare: She spends most of her working hours coordinating the children’s educational and social schedules.
She gets paid up to $2,000 a day for 12 to 15 hours of work, she says. She travels the world in private jets and yachts, drives Porsches and Teslas to work, and attends toddler birthday parties where iPads are party favors.
With the glamor comes an emotional charge: Richards often acts as a companion for neurodivergent children with absent and complicated parents, she says. And as a black woman helping to raise wealthy white children, she must handle cultural situations with tact — or risk losing her paycheck.
Here’s how she makes it work.
Some of Richards’ clients are famous actors she never officially meets. One was so constantly surrounded by security guards and make-up artists that she only saw the top of the client’s head during her three months of employment, she says.
She’s seen other customers spontaneously buy houses on layovers and take single bites of $3,200 steaks. She adds. On her first day as a nanny for the ultra-rich, she showed up at an airport, was introduced to the children of the family, and instantly became their chaperone on a private jet to a rented resort in Barbados.
Richards, who typically works with about 10 families at a time, says it took him a while to figure out exactly what his job responsibilities were. Unless the family is short-staffed, they don’t wipe up spills, cook meals, or open car doors.
Rather, she is a social coordinator and, often, an emotionally supportive mother figure. Once, the parents actually enrolled their child in an Italian boarding school under his surname, she says.
“I had full interviews where [parents] are like, ‘We’re looking for someone to raise our kids,’ she says. “They told me they had children to pass on their trust funds, [and that] “I’ll hang out with them after boarding school when they can drink.”
Backed by contracts
Richards, who grew up with one of eight siblings and landed her first professional acting role at 14, says she came to nanny organically.
When she moved to New York over a decade ago, she worked in the babysitting department of a Reebok Sports Club, which was later acquired by Equinox. Some of the members were from wealthy families who started asking her to babysit.
She had no idea what to charge or how to get regular nanny jobs. Her search eventually led her to Madison Agency, a New York-based staffing firm. Her willingness to travel and her passion for working with neurodivergent children made her an attractive candidate, says Jackie Mann, chief operating officer of the Madison Agency.
Richards also has the kind of “extraordinary personality” needed to work with billionaires, Mann adds.
Sometimes, when Richards is overseas, employers “catch her off guard” by cutting her salary or international phone plan, or “completely neglect” her previously agreed-upon working hours, she says.
Some of them just don’t realize that Richards will miss bill payments if she isn’t paid quickly, she theorizes. Others may be wary of their own staff because people have only used them for their money before.
“I’ll be in Switzerland, for example, and they tell me they can’t pay me for three weeks because they don’t have the money,” Richards says. “It’s also how they communicate when they don’t like something you’ve done. They’ll stop paying you.”
That’s when the Madison agency’s support becomes critical, Richards says — making sure she gets her money in a timely manner, even after a client deliberately signs the wrong name on a check to evade payment.
Financial advantages, emotional disadvantages
Balancing one’s mental well-being with clients’ unpredictable mood swings is taxing, says Richards. But after living in the world of billionaires for more than 10 years, she says she empathizes with most of them.
Many of its customers are born into wealth and fame, and despite efforts to be normal, they cannot enter grocery stores or commercial airports without being verbally and physically assaulted. This understanding is what makes Richards an invaluable employee, Mann says.
“The skill one has to take care of a child is not uncommon,” Mann says. “[But] the qualities needed to work for the ultra-rich are patience and a nuanced sense of anticipating a person’s needs.”
As Richards begins working with new clients, she gradually shares personal stories to build trust with parents and children. But even then, she still has to be on her guard, she says.
“I’ve had families who have gone through an immense amount of heartbreak in the public eye. I look at their divorces or their deaths within the family,” she says. “Sometimes I am literally a shoulder to cry on. A second later they will turn on me.”
Racial dynamics can also get messy, she adds: “I’m a black woman, and there are many times when I work for white families, and by the time the kids are six or seven, they have very specific thoughts. about people who look like me.”
The money, the thrill of the trip and the opportunities to help even difficult kids are enough to keep Richards going, she says. She sets firm boundaries about how much and when she’s willing to work, and when she’s off the clock, splurges on smoothies and massages as a form of self-care.
“I have to be very aware that even though it’s an intimate setting, it’s still work,” says Richards.
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