|The $112 Million Dollar Woman||01.16.11|
Creative Visualization Pays OffDavid Hochman
Visualizing $112 million pays off in big way for generous woman
What would you do if you won the lottery? Buy a fancy car? That’s what Cynthia Stafford did after cashing in her $112 million ticket. She scooped up two Bentleys—a baby-blue convertible and a bright-orange sedan. Maybe you’d take a first-class trip to Paris? Or hire a personal trainer? Stafford did both.
But she did more than change her lifestyle—she changed her life. What she really wanted was to make movies, so the one-time office worker set out to do just that. Nearly four years later, she heads her own production company. The craziest thing? She predicted every bit of her journey. “I knew I’d get here,” Stafford says, as she sits in the elegant living room of her Los Angeles–area home. “It was just a matter of visualizing it.”
Back in January 2007, Stafford was raising five children and struggling to pay the bills, so she began lulling herself to sleep at night by imagining that she was holding a lottery check. She pictured the exact amount: $112 followed by lots of zeroes. The story seems implausible, and yet Stafford’s steady gaze and positive energy make you believe her, even the bit about knowing what she’d be wearing when she won: a lime-green blouse with a leaf print. “That part kept surprising me,” she says, laughing. “I thought I’d lose weight by then and wouldn’t still have that top.”
But that’s what she was wearing the next Mother’s Day when she learned the $2 ticket she’d bought made her the sole winner in a drawing worth, yes, $112 million. “When I found out, I sat in silence for a minute because it confirmed how powerful our minds can be,” she says with a grin. “ Then I started screaming and crying!”
Stafford had always been generous, even back when she had much less to give. As a 6-year-old, she forked over her allowance to UNICEF, and when her younger brother died in a car crash in 1999, she took in his children: Qumani, now 14; Sigourney, 15; Jahmil, 18; Charmaine, 20; and Presley, 22. Stafford opted to take a $67 million lump-sum payout from the lottery. So, after sharing the prize with her father and older brother, putting away funds for the kids’ education, and making some giddy purchases, she wrote substantial checks to organizations including UNICEF, the Natural Resources Defense Council, God’s Love We Deliver, and Kids in the Spotlight, a local group that teaches filmmaking to low-income and foster children. “I love helping kids bring out their creativity,” she says.
Then she set about fulfilling her own movie-making dreams. Always thinking big, she approached billionaire mogul David Geffen, co-founder of the film company DreamWorks SKG, for guidance. “I wanted the best people around me, but you don’t get that unless you ask,” she says with charming directness. His best advice? “Make good investments,” Stafford says, “because even $67 million can go quickly.” Since their conversation, she has also become actively involved in the Geffen Playhouse, a nonprofit Los Angeles theater.
Says TV producer Gilbert Cates, an adviser of Stafford’s, “Cynthia gets what she wants, and what she wants most is to make a difference. She’s very smart, doesn’t take no for an answer, and she sees only goals where other people might see obstacles.”
In 2009, Stafford launched Queen Nefertari Productions to develop movie and TV projects. Her first film, now in pre-production, is a comedy to be directed by actor Kevin Connolly of HBO’s Entourage. She has also optioned Don DeLillo’s critically acclaimed novel White Noise. “To me, it represents the ultimate challenge as an adaptation,” she says.
Meanwhile, Stafford is busy planning a Beverly Hills wedding to Lanre Idewu, a personal trainer, and outfitting her kids with the latest Wii and Xbox gadgets. Still, you get the feeling that if she lost everything tomorrow, she’d be just fine. “I would simply visualize it again and make it happen,” she says. And you believe her.
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