With the New York gala scene on hiatus, here is how some patrons and society figures are spending their time and resources during the coronavirus crisis.
Where are you sheltering?
At my house in Washington, D.C.
Has self-seclusion altered your routine?
I’m up earlier. By 6:30 I’ve I picked up my newspaper. I read more or less till 9. I’m still doing full hair and makeup every morning. I believe you always dress as if you’re going to meet the queen of England. That’s just you.
Do you have a favorite at-home retreat?
It’s my office. My desk is piled with the same papers as before the pandemic. There is a basket where I keep my knitting and a ball of yarn. I’m on my fourth afghan right now. I collect pillows. I have a new one with a motto that reads: “You don’t have to be productive during a pandemic.” Take that, Marie Kondo!
Which causes are urgent to you now?
If you’re being abused, sheltering at home is like lighting a match to a tinderbox. You have nowhere to go. I’m supporting the D.C. Volunteer Lawyer Project, which represents women who are victims of domestic violence.
How do you keep up your spirits?
I adore change. I say, just deal with it. I had a younger sister who committed suicide at 29. I’ve wondered, what was it that made her feel that death was easier to bear than life? My focus is on resilience, the ability to survive, adapt and construct a new way of life. You could almost say this pandemic is the equivalent of the meteor that crashed to earth and destroyed the dinosaurs. We’ll see what comes out of the rubble.
Where are you hunkering down?
With my husband [the film director Spike Lee] and two children at our apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
How does your day go?
I get up, exercise and make breakfast. I clean — that’s on me. Then I go into my office to work. During the first several weeks of this quarantine I found working difficult. It was really hard to focus. My pace slowed significantly. I feel like now I’m moving into a better pattern.
Have your domestic habits changed?
We used to order out a lot. Now I cook. We eat a lot of fish. I did a delicious Thai soup last night. I’ve been thinking about growing my own food and what that would look like. I hope this is the new normal for us. We are healthier for it.
What do you do with your downtime?
Drawing and painting are a release. I run a couple of days a week along the East River. On a good day the river is so beautiful, it’s almost like not being in the city at all.
Which causes are most vital to you now?
I’m on the board of March of Dimes, focusing on issues of maternal mortality in the United States, especially as they relate to black women. Corona just makes these problems more apparent and dire.
What can we learn from this crisis?
I hope we come out with a better of understanding of what is an essential worker. Who is the store clerk, the sanitation worker, delivery person? Will you remember to thank the person who rings up your groceries? Without these people, what would we do?
Eat well. Exercise. Don’t drink too much. Give yourself a break.
Where are you hunkering down?
At our beach house in Mustique, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
What took you to Mustique?
Tommy, my husband, has had a home here for almost 30 years. We left in March for our son’s spring break. I packed for a two-week trip and we’ve been here since. I’m looking out at the ocean as we speak. Our stay wasn’t planned, but I’m grateful it worked out this way.
How have you kept up your giving?
We are co-chairs of the B.C.R.F. Virtual Hot Pink Evening in support of cancer research. It was a Zoom situation, a new frontier for me. We expect to raise substantial funds. [The May 20 virtual gala brought in $5.2 million]. I’m also on the board of Glam4Good, founded by my friend Alice Stephenson. We provide clothes for women in shelters.
Are there positive aspects to life in seclusion?
I’m loving that I’m able to spend time with two of my six children: my stepdaughter Kathleen, who is 24, and my son Sebastian — he’s 10. Having this time to engage with him, that’s been a blessing for sure. We’re doing home schooling, Lego projects, swimming and playing silly games like hide and seek.
What are some other distractions?
We spend a lot of time playing backgammon and chess. I’ve seen every episode of “Ozark.” And I’m hiking around the island with Tommy every morning. Those routines have been a necessity for everybody’s sanity.
Have there been challenges?
I’ve had my cries. They come from a pent-up frustration at feeling so helpless. Ordinarily we have everything planned out months in advance: school, travel, evenings out. Now there are so many unknowns. I don’t know when I’m coming home.
Interviews have been edited.