Last Night’s TV – The Secret Millionaire

by Lynn Connolly

secret millionaire

Last night’s secret millionaire was Liz Jackson, a 36 year old businesswoman whose marketing company has netted her a small fortune.

With Secret Millionaire now in its sixth series, one would’ve thought that any charity anywhere which is suddenly visited by someone toting a camera crew might suspect they’re about to receive a cash boost, but the people Liz met and eventually gave money to, did seem genuinely unsuspecting.

But what sets Liz apart from the other similarly successful people who’ve been benefactors on the show is that she’s blind. And it’s that fact which might have thrown the charities that she visited for last night’s show off the millionaire scent, for, prejudiced and judgemental it may be, but one might not immediately assume that someone with such a physical problem could become so very successful in the business world.

I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say that my pre-conceived ideas about blindness would’ve prejudiced my thought process too, and wholly wrong I would’ve been. Not only is Liz very successful at what she does for a living, she’s very successful at living.

Blindness is, for me, one of my biggest fears; I simply cannot imagine how taxing and frightening and just plain difficult it must be to live and function in a world where one can see nothing. Everything must surely be, quite literally, an obstacle, and I’ve always had huge admiration for blind people, but Liz was especially inspiring.

She mentioned several times in last night’s show that her blindness isn’t something she considers to be a disability, and it hasn’t stopped her doing what she wants to do. That said, Liz added the caveat that although she doesn’t feel sorry for herself, what she does regret very much is being unable to see her daughter’s face.

However, armed with her PA who was Liz’s only help in a world that, were I blind, would terrify me, she moved temporarily to Lewisham in order to conduct her covert operation of looking into charities which aid sight impaired people.

These included a talking newspaper, a sailing club and a group that is exclusively for sight impaired people and aims to introduce them to activities that would normally be out of reach to them. One such activity was playing tennis using a ball loaded with something akin to ball bearings so that it rattled. This enabled the players to hear where the ball was. It’s such a simple idea but it means a great deal to those people who would love to play tennis but of course, can’t see the ball.

Liz was, at first, most concerned that this club was exclusively for blind people and she mentioned that it made her “feel” disabled, however, as she spent more time with the group – and especially loved the tennis which had hitherto been something she couldn’t do – she realised the real value of this group in extending the boundaries for its members.

The show ended of course with the ‘reveal’ and the donations, all of which were most gratefully and graciously received by the people who run the charities Liz gave money to. But apropos of the money aspect – and this applies to all the previous millionaires featured too, not just Liz – but I’m always a little surprised by the relatively small amounts given.

Now, I know that might sound terribly ungrateful and I’m sure anyone who’s been a recipient of money from one of the secret millionaires has been very grateful for it, but I’ve always thought that £5,000 here or £10,000 there isn’t really that huge an amount to a millionaire.

I know that also many, like Liz last night, offered ongoing support and often the services of their businesses, but even so, in most of the Secret Millionaire shows, the actual cash money given doesn’t usually go much over £20,000.

Again, I know that as someone who is most definitely not a millionaire and therefore not in a position to give away money of that magnitude, I perhaps shouldn’t voice an opinion, but if I were to be, I think I would be willing to give more than most of them do.

I recall one millionaire especially who drove – as some millionaires are I’m sure wont to do – a car worth around £50,000 but he gave away only about £15,000. In terms of relativity, though of course any donation to charity is generous, it’s possibly a very small drop in the ocean in relation to, say, what the millionaires featured may earn in interest alone surely? Or am I just being overly critical? I’d like to hear your thoughts about that.

But overall, this was far more interesting than many of The Secret Millionaire shows have been previously because whilst all those featured in past shows have thoroughly earned their money, I would suggest that Liz has more than earned it. She was an inspiration and it was humbling to watch her going about her life with no self-pity and no fear. I, sadly, could not say the same were I to find myself going blind.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.