Last month, ABC added a new hit to their Sunday schedule when 12.6 million people tuned into the premiere of “Secret Millionaire“. Although ratings have dropped slightly, the show continues to tug on heartstrings of millions who enjoy the simple premise: a millionaire spends a week undercover living and working with local charities in an economically challenged community. At the end of their week, they reveal their compassion and generosity with large checks. They also find themselves changed as last week’s couple reveals here. Sunday’s season finale focuses on Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Ali Brown, who slips into the hardscrabble side of Venice, California. I spoke with Brown Saturday at the Reality Rocks Expo in Los Angeles and got the dish on her episode.
What was the hardest part about going from your millionaire lifestyle to living on welfare wages?
A single woman’s welfare wages for one week is $55. I thought, Gosh, I drop that on drinks with the girls or dinner out. A lot of us do. I wasn’t sure how I could make that stretch, especially since I wasn’t near a grocery store where I stayed so I had to shop at the mini mart. I was eating peanut butter and pasta. Near the end of the week, my best day was I got a rotisserie chicken and I picked that thing to the bone. I made it last two days. It was very grounding and made you realize how little you can live on. By the third day, I was in the groove and I was loving it because I was helping people.
Tell us about the lucky charities you gave the $100,000 to?
I met many amazing people and organizations, but I narrowed it down to four I really connected with. Harvest Home. They do wonderful things for pregnant women in the area. Common Ground works with local homeless youth. Bread & Roses and it’s a café designed to give homeless people a restaurant style meal once a week so they can feel human again. I waitressed there. I was terrible but it was amazing. And Beauty Bus brings beauty to homebound terminally ill women and men.
Do you still work with them?
Actually, yes. I am local so I am still working with three of these organizations.
What is the most emotional moment at the end of the show when you surprise these people with the fact that you’re rich and you’re giving them money?
The most emotional moment for me was with the organization I gave the biggest check to. I found out later that they probably would not have survived the year without it. I think the show is going to inspire a lot of people.
How often did you cry throughout the show?
A lot! I’m a crier.
How has this experience changed how you live? Are you more frugal?
I’m a single gal and I live in a 4,200 square foot home. I came home transformed because I remembered how simple life really needs to be. So I’m in the process of downsizing. I looked in my frige when I got home and I thought how much food I had and how some of it could go to waste. So I look at things different now. I’m moving into a beach cottage. I do more service work. Right now I’m really craving simplicity so I’m going to honor that. It changed me.
“Secret Millionaire” airs Sunday, 8-9 p.m. ET, on ABC.