During her ascent from unassuming local news intern in Albany, N.Y., to sought-after fashion writer in New York City, Jené Lupoli Luciani ’99 never forgot SUNY Cortland.
She has appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” nine times in the past year and has won plenty of attention for her first book, The Bra Book: The Fashion Formula to Finding the Perfect Bra, which came out in 2009. Still, the style consultant has generously offered her talent and treasure to her alma mater in the 12 years since her graduation.
“Cortland gave me the foundation to go out into my career and tell myself I could do anything,” said Luciani, who will be the focus of the Nov. 28 episode of the Bravo television network’s “Mad Fashion.”
She is one of the many alumni that SUNY Cortland will celebrate Monday, Nov. 14, and Tuesday, Nov. 15, with Philanthropy Week events. Two ‘thank you’ card signings for alumni donors will be held on both days from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Corey Union and Neubig Hall. By participating, students become eligible to win prizes. Those prizes include a $50 Visa gift card for a raffle winner and a large jar of M&Ms for the person who submits the closest guess to the College’s number of alumni donors.
“SUNY Cortland has many generous donors and these events are a small way of saying ‘thanks,’” said Jennifer Janes, director for the Cortland Fund. “We also hope the card signings help our active students see the importance of becoming active alumni like Jené.”
Last year, alumni including Luciani contributed nearly $1.4 million to SUNY Cortland and accounted for $670,000 in scholarship contributions. Janes said every dollar was needed because state funding has decreased over the past two decades.
“In the early 1990s, nearly 90 percent of the College’s operating budget was funded by New York state,” Janes said. “Today, only about 30 percent comes from the state.”
Luciani, who also contributes to several charities near her home in White Plains, N.Y., said she tries to give slightly more to the College each year as her personal success grows.
“I always say: Some day, I’m going to give a student an entire scholarship,” she said.
The goal might seem ambitious but Luciani has never been a person to let conventional wisdom ground her dreams. When she was an undergraduate, the former communication studies major told Distinguished Service Professor Samuel Kelley, her academic advisor, that she wanted to be a television personality on MTV one day.
“It sounded funny at the time,” Luciani said. “But he never laughed at me or said my goal was ridiculous.”
|Jené Lupoli Luciani ’99 is shown wearing her couture Chris March bra dress, made of some 200 of the foundation garments, to promote her new book in April in New York City.|
A college internship turned into a four-year career as a television news producer at NBC News Channel 13 in Albany, N.Y., immediately after her SUNY Cortland days. When she moved downstate after marrying her husband, Luciani’s dream career slowly took shape.
She eventually latched onto a multi-media marketing company in Manhattan and primarily dealt with fashion topics. She secured a freelance writing gig with The Wag magazine in 2005 and quickly became its fashion and beauty editor.
“Fashion just seemed like a natural fit,” Luciani said. “I realized that I liked giving advice and helping people in that way.”
While she was working on a story about the must-have items in the everyday woman’s wardrobe, she found that most women hated bra shopping and needed help badly.
“I said to my boss at the time that someone should write a book on bras,” Luciani said. “She goes: Well, do it.”
The Bra Book sold 25,000 copies in its first year on the market and Luciani’s status grew with the book’s popularity. “Mad Fashion,” which features high-profile designer Chris March providing an extravagant outfit for a client on each episode, will feature Luciani in three weeks.
March, who once designed Meryl Streep’s Oscar gown, put together a dress for Luciani made out of 200 bras for an April book event in Manhattan. The dress perfectly encapsulated Luciani’s creativity, a trait she said blossomed at SUNY Cortland.
“Cortland was just such a good environment for me,” said Luciani, who served as the keynote speaker at SUNY Cortland’s Student Leadership Banquet in 2008 and received the College’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 2009. “Twelve years later, being able to reflect back on that, I want to give back as much as I can.”