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Class Notes Profiles

Secret millionaire exposed

The secret is out about Marcus Lemonis, Arts ’95.

Lemonis made his fortune selling the RV lifestyle. But last summer, he spent a week living in a roach-infested, double-wide trailer in Miami when he went undercover as a star of ABC’s Secret Millionaire. His episode aired in August.

“I’ve had a very blessed life and to go back to my hometown of Miami was not only humbling but extremely emotional,” says Lemonis, who lives in the Chicago area and is chair and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam.

Under the pretense of filming a documentary about nonprofits, Lemonis left his cell phone and credit cards behind and spent a week driving a rusted-out van, looking for organizations in need of help.

“People kind of scratch their head about reality TV and ask, ‘Is it real or is it staged,’” says Lemonis, who appeared twice on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. “I will tell you, everything is very authentic.”

In Miami, he worked at a home for women who have transitioned out of foster care, a nonprofit that provides school clothes for kids, and an anti-bullying organization. The experiences hit home with Lemonis, who has had his share of challenges: He was abandoned as a baby in Beirut before being adopted by an American family, and was tormented by bullies and bulimia as an overweight youth.

“I ended up breaking down more than I thought I would,” he admits about the show. “You do a lot of thinking and soul searching, and you leave eternally changed.”

Once Lemonis’ identity was revealed, he gave the organizations nearly $250,000 and continues to support them financially.

Read more at Nicole Sweeney Etter


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