1. How did you become a millionaire?
We also talked to Ali about her experience after filming the show:
What surprised you most about your experience as a "Secret Millionaire"?
Eleven years ago I quit my last job to work for myself. With no business training or mentors, I took it day by day and figured it all out from scratch. I offered writing services to businesses and then moved into online marketing. I started to gain a huge following so I created courses, seminars, and programs offering education for entrepreneurs. I became a millionaire by age 35, and today Ali International is a multimillion-dollar company.
2. Is there anything that would surprise viewers to learn about you?
Probably how simple my life actually is. People often think I'm this swingin' single jetsetter girl. While I have a beautiful home here at the ocean in Southern California, a fun car, and gorgeous clothes, my favorite days are spent on the beach with friends or family. You can surf, sun, bike, skate, or play volleyball (all free) and then get a $2 taco! Money makes life easier, but it's not what makes life.
3. Why did you want to be a part of the show?
I'd never heard of the show before, and honestly when I was first approached, I was skeptical. I slept on it for several days and finally sat down and make a list of the pros and cons of saying yes. The bottom line was, while I've written tens of thousands of dollars in checks to charities before, I knew this experience would be a bit scary, but it would make me a better person. And isn't that what life is all about?
4. Was there anything you were hoping to learn about yourself?
In my mentoring programs, I help women business owners go from good to great. I wasn't sure honestly if I could relate to those who had been knocked down and were starting over on the street with absolutely nothing. Or people who had been hit with a terminal illness. While I've had some hard times in my life, there was nothing that could prepare me for what I was about to encounter. But I knew it was the next step on my path of growth. I can't tell you anything else yet, but I'm so glad I did it!
The first few days of the experience were the hardest, as you're acclimating to being stripped of your identity and everything you're used to, and of course being filmed. But I tell you, what surprised me the most was midweek I wanted the experience to last LONGER. I was NOT missing the complexity of my normal life at all! To have nothing to do all day but serve others brought me incredible joy, and life (and the meaning of life) suddenly became simple.
How did you feel about the experience living "undercover"?
I understood that was required as part of the experience, and I didn't mind the living simple part. And I didn't mind explaining we were filming a documentary on volunteering, which was accurate. What was hard for me was being dishonest when explaining to others who I was. I did my best to not tell any untruths, but of course I had to be careful what I said and what slipped out of my mouth. Weirdest of all was I was only two miles away from my home, so it was surely a challenge at the beginning!
How did you feel living on such a limited amount of money for a week?
I knew that living on welfare wages (for me it was $55) was part of the experience, and I also had no transportation, so it was definitely challenging and mostly because I was not near a real grocery store. I could only get to a mini-mart, which as we all know has inflated prices and rarely any healthy food. I ate a lot of staples like bread, pasta, peanut butter, and cans of tuna. Toward the end of the week I did end up near a grocery store and bought a small rotisserie chicken. I have to say that seemed to be the BEST chicken I'd ever had – I got a few meals out of it, and I picked that thing to the bone!
Has your life changed since this experience? In what ways?
My life changed the moment I got back to my house, which is where I also run my business from. I suddenly realized how complex my life had become. I honestly thought, "Why do I need all this living space? Why is there so much food in the fridge that could go to waste? Do I really need all this office equipment?" I suddenly wanted everything to be simpler. I traded in my fancy sports car for a hybrid. I'm planning on downsizing my home this year and moving into a beach cottage. I'm selling or donating things I don't need or use or love anymore. I want to feel lighter and freer, so I can spend more of my time in service.
Do you have any suggestions or advice for someone who wants to become involved in helping their community?
The best way to start is to honestly go start walking around your town. Talk with people. Get out on the street. I would have never known about any of these organizations had I just stayed in and watched the news. I had to hear it directly from the people they were helping.
Any other final comments you'd like to add?
There are so many ways to give or "give back" as some call it, and I think this show is a wonderful reminder that we can all give in some way. The show isn't meant to be perfect, or dictate how we should give. It's an opening. An introduction. An inspiration. How we give, and how much, of course is up to every one of us. And there isn't one "right" way to give. Some give publicly, some privately, some a lot, some a little. If I had one wish it would be that we all stop judging each other and just focus on what WE can each do in our own way. That will change the world.