Sunday’s premiere of ABC’s “Secret Millionaire” was a big hit with 12.6 million viewers. The feel-good reality show has made the name Dani Johnson a hot search trend.
So the question is, who is Dani Johnson?
In an interview with The Christian Post, Johnson summarized her life into four major points: grew up on welfare, became pregnant at 17, was homeless by 21 and became a millionaire by 23.
When the offer for “Secret Millionaire,” came to her, she refused to participate in the show four times because to her, giving to charities had always been done in secret.
While fighting the offer, she said she “came to the revelation that I was fighting God and that God was the one to open up the door and it was clear that He wanted this message to get out there.”
Johnson’s “yes” came out of the realization that God told her, after having read the Bible eight times, that it was the right thing to do.
After going incognito and living on a $40 budget in a tough neighborhood in Knoxville for the show, she began working on her own personal gift-giving with a group of 31 people during Christmas.
“Immediately after the show, I'm not kidding you, I got together with a group of clients and I said 'let's go and infiltrate a city and through that, love our orphans who have been abandoned and abused, let's go in and be the surrogate parents;' and we did,” she said.
She added that one of the reasons why she wants people to be successful is so that they not only annihilate their personal debt but, most importantly, also contribute to a falling society.
Johnson said, “I just came back from India from an orphanage with 237 boys whose parents were martyred for Christ. We have never mobilized our clients to do it with us and so it has definitely expanded the vision that God gave me seven years ago – helping people succeed in business so that they could go and make a difference in other people’s lives.”
For those who think Christians can’t be wealthy, she has one thing to say: “What about King Solomon, King David, Joseph (in the Bible)? If Joseph had the mindset that you are not supposed to be wealthy, well then he would've just stayed in the pit and in prison and not exalted to the highest position of the most powerful nations at that time.”
While the self-made millionairess is known for her philanthropy, she is also known for a story of overcoming some tough battles.
She conceived her first child with the deacon’s son when she was 17 years old. To her, it wasn’t her child that had brought pain into her life, but it was the judgment, condemnation and manipulation she received from those around her.
“It was so deeply hurtful, more hurtful than my parents’ drug addiction, and violence, the emotional mental, verbal and sexual abuse that I grew up in,” she recalled.
“The pain that I experienced through Christians was far harder to be healed from anything that I had experienced growing up at home that I was raised in; and so I know what it feels like to be abandoned.”
Johnson wants to comfort people by reminding them that “God has not abandoned you. It is unfortunately the broken people who wear the title Christians or Catholic or Protestant or whatever they want to call themselves. It is the broken people that are not yet healed and set free themselves. They are not yet matured in the walk with Christ.”
Today, Johnson is a bestselling author, success coach, president of danijohnson.com, a personal achievement and corporate training company, and a mother of five. But on Sunday, she went back to the slums for her stint on the reality show. Leaving her luxury lifestyle outside San Antonio, Texas, Johnson headed to Western Heights, a corrupted and impoverished neighborhood in Knoxville, Tenn. Over half of the residents there live below the poverty level.
While posing as a volunteer at several local non-profits that were serving the community, Johnson found herself being inspired by the love and sacrifice of those running the organizations. In the end, she revealed her real identity – a millionaire businesswoman – and presented each with checks from $10,000 to $40,000 each.
Though she was able to help out financially, she realized, “No matter how much or how little you make, you don’t need to make a lot of money to make a difference in your community.”