When Gloria Richards isn’t acting on off-Broadway stages, she travels with billionaires’ kids, often whom she’s never met, across the world.
Richards spends half of each year nannying for the ultra-wealthy to supplement her income between off-Broadway and one-woman shows in New York City and Virginia. The gig pays her up to $167 per hour, plus covered flights and accommodations, she says — meaning that caring for billionaire’s children makes up 80% to 90% of her annual income.
“I could nanny for, like, two months at the top of the year, and I’d be fine for the rest of the year,” Richards, 34, tells CNBC Make It. “What feeds me is being able to work so closely with these kids.”
Richards’ job is atypical by most definitions, from the pay to the responsibilities. Nannying for the ultra-wealthy isn’t always about childcare: She spends most of her working hours coordinating children’s educational and social calendars.
She gets paid up to $2,000 per day for 12 to 15 hours of work, she says. She travels the world by private jets and yachts, drives Porsches and Teslas on the job, and attends toddlers’ birthdays where iPads are party favors.
The glamour comes with an emotional tax: Richards often acts as a companion for neurodivergent children with absent and complicated parents, she says. And as a Black woman helping raise wealthy white kids, she has to navigate cultural situations tactfully — or risk losing her paycheck.
Here’s how she makes it work.
Some of Richards’ clients are famous actors whom she never formally meets. One of them was so constantly surrounded by security guards and makeup artists that she only caught glimpses of the top of the client’s head over the course of her three-month employment, she says.
She’s watched other clients spontaneously buy homes on layovers and take single bites of $3,200 steaks. she adds. On her first day as a nanny to the ultra-wealthy, she showed up at an airport, got introduced to the family’s children and instantly became their chaperone on a private jet to a rented-out resort in Barbados.
Richards, who typically works with roughly 10 families at a time, says it took her a while to understand exactly what her job responsibilities were. Unless the family is short-staffed, she doesn’t wipe up spills, prepare meals or open car doors.
Rather, she’s a social coordinator and, often, an emotionally supportive mother figure. Once, parents actually listed their child in an Italian boarding school under her last name, she says.
“I’ve had full-blown interviews where [parents] are like, ‘We’re looking for someone to raise our kids,'” she says. “They tell me they had kids 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 one of eight siblings and landed her first professional acting role at age 14, says she came by nannying organically.
When she moved to New York more than a decade ago, she worked in the childcare department of a Reebok Sports Club, which was later acquired by Equinox. Some of the members were affluent families who started asking her to babysit.
She had no idea what to charge or how to secure regular nannying jobs. Her research eventually led her to Madison Agency, a New York-based household staffing firm. Her willingness to travel and passion for working with neurodivergent children made her an alluring candidate, says Madison Agency director of operations Jackie Mann.
Richards also has the kind of “extraordinary personality” needed for working with billionaires, Mann adds.
Sometimes, when Richards is abroad, employers will “blindside” her by cutting off her pay or her international phone plan, or “completely neglect” her previously agreed-upon work hours, she says.
Some of them simply don’t realize Richards will miss bill payments if she isn’t paid promptly, she theorizes. Others may distrust their own staff because people have used them purely for their money before.
“I’ll be in, like, Switzerland, and they’re telling me they can’t pay me for three weeks because they don’t have cash,” Richards says. “That’s also how they communicate when they don’t like something you did. They’ll stop paying you.”
That’s when the Madison Agency’s backing becomes essential, Richards says — making sure she gets her money in a timely manner, even after one client purposefully signed the wrong name on a check to escape payment.
Financial pros, emotional cons
Balancing her mental well-being with unpredictable client mood swings is taxing, Richards says. But after living in billionaires’ worlds for more than 10 years, she says she has empathy for most of them.
Many of her clients were born into wealth and fame, and despite efforts to be normal, they can’t walk into grocery stores or commercial airports without being verbally and physically assaulted. That understanding is what makes Richards an invaluable employee, Mann says.
“The competency one has to care for a child isn’t uncommon,” Mann says. “[But] the qualities it takes to work for the ultra-wealthy is patience and a nuanced perception of anticipating a person’s needs.”
When Richards first starts working with new clients, she gradually shares personal stories to build trust with the parents and children. But even then, she still has to be on guard, she says.
“I’ve had families go through an immense amount of grief in the public eye. I’m watching their divorces or deaths within the family,” she says. “Sometimes I’m literally a shoulder to cry on. A second later, they’ll turn on me.”
The racial dynamics can get messy, too, she adds: “I’m a Black woman, and there are many times that I’m working 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, thrill of travel and opportunities to help even difficult children are enough to keep Richards around, she says. She sets firm boundaries around 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 mindful that even though it’s an intimate setting, it’s still a job,” Richards says.
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