doing good

Dani Johnson: The ‘Secret Millionaire’ Who Almost Wasn’t

Posted by Dale Buss on March 11, 2011 05:30 PM

Last Sunday night, ABC's Secret Millionaire debuted on ABC at #1. Part of the success was its first subject: Dani Johnson.

Raised on welfare, pregnant at 17, homeless at 21 and a millionaire by 23, the multi-millionaire and entrepreneur now runs five companies, is a best-selling author, radio talk show host, and internationally sought after speaker.

The mother of five was a smart choice as first "secret millionaire" to kick off the new hit reality series, in which a hand-picked group of wealthy individuals go undercover and volunteer with needy people and groups. Then they reveal themselves as wealthy, and donate big amounts to those they interact with on the show.

Think of it as Undercover Boss meets Oprah Winfrey. Interestingly, she wasn't only ABC’s first secret millionaire — she was a reluctant one. She almost didn’t do the show at all.

As a motivational speaker, part of her outreach includes helping people get out of debt. She and her husband also run a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping people around the globe.

Having been homeless and on welfare, the 42-year-old Johnson agreed to appear on Secret Millionaire and give away $100,000 of her own money. But her faith almost kept her from doing the show, traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., and living in one of the downtrodden parts of town for a week.

An avid Christian, Johnson prefers to write her checks in private, based on a Bible verse where Jesus says not to do your “acts of righteousness before men” but to do giving “in secret.”

Yet, as she told ChristianityToday, Johnson ultimately opted into the show because of the Bible passage, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Johnson’s evangelistic bent was evident throughout the show, which depicted her praying and reading her Bible. And at least two recipients of her largesse, who run the Love Kitchen in Knoxville, were believers as well.

The network, however, would only go so far. “For ABC I had to say, ‘I have a check for you,’” Johnson recalled. “But  I also told each person, ‘I normally give in secret and I give in the name of Jesus. This is from him, not me.’ But they cut that part out.”

Click here to watch her episode; and tune in Sunday night for the second secret millionaire — real estate investor Marc Paskin.


chris stuber United States says:

liked the story... puts things in perspective.  if you need volunteers to help out, please send me an email

March 12, 2011 10:17 PM #

Joanna Schmitt United States says:

I would just like to say this touched me so much. I am 37 and  also a mother of 5.... there are so many wealthy people in the world and so many people that need help, if we all gave like you Dani and remembered where we all came from to get to the place that we are at, the world would be a much better place !!!!!!!! We all go through our own strugles in life but, we all need to realize that we are all truely blessed and this show put that all into perspective for me so thank you LOVED IT !!!!!!

March 12, 2011 11:14 PM #

Lucy Rodriguez United States says:

The richest man in the world is no 1 because he doesn't spread his wealth to the needy ones.  Bill Gates could be no 1 but he has given away so much that even thought he might not be no 1, he will be when the doors of heaven are open..

March 12, 2011 11:26 PM #

Kathy Zeagler United States says:

I have been working on trying to get someone help me get a safe home  get a hope homes to come to. Its a Ministry bassed program. The need for women so often.Suffer in Silience .I have my storyfor 33 yrs was  10 yrs 2/13 i have the desire to have a place to home these women, Its not about what you give as what it feels to recieve, But these ladies I do not want them to have to go back to abuse, Drugs. I have the wordes God gave me about the women.  THE SILENCE OF WOMEN I have it wrote to share. I live for God hes my everything but im on SSI and I cant get a start on giving these women a chance.. Bless you from the both of my heart, if you can help and I have people that know my love for them and I want to pay it forward. I am writting a book and these people in need but that will take a while i love to write songs and poems., well enough of your time a angel on earter.  Sincerly, Kathy

March 13, 2011 12:58 AM #

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