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Nicole in Wonderland

Nicole Shanahan Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Shanahan’s only-in-Silicon Valley transformation—from patent lawyer to scenester to philanthropist and now, suddenly, a vice presidential candidate—has floored those who used to party or talk politics with her. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Theodore Schleifer
March 26, 2024

Last week, amid the crush of events and obligations that would ordinarily surround a campaign for president, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. reached out to an old friend in Malibu, the surrealist painter and art dealer Zoe Rose Schwartz. Kennedy had commissioned some work from her before, and he was back in town. This time, though, he wanted to show her work to a new friend: Nicole Shanahan, his 38-year-old mega-donor once married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

On Tuesday, at an hours-long rally filled with land acknowledgments and musical numbers, Kennedy introduced that new friend as the “next Vice President of the United States.” Shanahan, who described herself as a “disillusioned Democrat,” came across as poised, totally normal and eminently relatable—someone who, as she put it, wants to “make the world a little less crazy.” But to see her walk on stage, alongside R.F.K., was fully surreal.