Oprah's Big Give Contestants
Watch Angelo's video bio
The Philadelphia native was commissioned as a Signal Corps Officer after graduating from West Point. In the Army, Angelo worked as a mentor to other soldiers, helping them use computers and setting them up for online classes. Since returning home from Iraq, he has worked as a minority recruiter for West Point and as the marketing director for Bell Curves, an SAT and ACT prep course. In June 2005, he was deployed to Korea, where he served for one year. Angelo and his wife have two children—5-year-old Jasmine and 2-year-old Isaiah.
"I wanted to be on Oprah's Big Give to help infuse my giving spirit into the communities, so that when the cameras are gone, the giving continues,"
Giving Back Moment: Finding a way to help underprivileged youth by providing a free ACT class for students applying to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Following 9/11 and its aftermath, the number of underrepresented minorities applying to West Point spiraled in a negative direction. I realized that the only way to reverse the negative trajectory of minority enrollment was to increase the pool of qualified candidates. I worked with Bell Curves to provide customized test prep solutions to the West Point applicants in an effort to help them overcome the test barriers. But the greatest gift will be seeing those students walk across the stage at graduation to get commissioned into the U.S. Army!
Food: Philly Cheese Steak
Movie: Shawshank Redemption
Type of Music/Artist: : Hip-hop/R&B, Jay-Z
Dessert: Sweet Potato Pie
Time of Day: Lunch with my wife
Indulgence: Eating candy
Vacation: Disney Cruise
Memory: Becoming the first person from my high school (Scotland School for Veterans' Children) to graduate from West Point
Snack: Swedish Fish
Weekend Activity: Tailgating at University of Michigan football games
Watch Sheg's video bio
Sheg currently works in research at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and plans to attend medical school. "In the African countries, the people who can actually make a difference are the people in the sciences, especially researchers and doctors," he says. In 2006, Sheg and his father founded their Nigerian-based foundation, The Aranmolate Foundation for Deformed Children. While Sheg talks to doctors and medical students at Vanderbilt to raise awareness about the mission of the foundation, his father has performed more than 100 pro bono surgeries in Nigeria. "The main focus is to empower local surgeons to want to give back," Sheg says. In addition, he says the foundation hopes to expand into other countries around the world.
Sheg and his wife have a two-year-old daughter, Nilaja, which means "joyful one."
"I wanted to show the new generation—the MySpace and YouTube people—that it's hip to empower people," Sheg says. "We are getting to the point that people have become so secluded. We've become so distracted, but it's our duty as human beings to make a difference."
Giving Back Moment: When I was in Kindergarten, I would go into the cafeteria and get all of the drinks for my classmates. It's my first memory of giving back. They were so excited when they saw me coming in with the basket!
Food: : Steamed vegetables and steak
Movie: A Beautiful Mind
Type of Music/Artist: Frank Sinatra
Time of Day: Night. I get to reflect on my day.
Indulgence: A massage
Vacation: Hanging out with my sisters in London
Memory: The birth of my daughter
Snack: Beef jerky
Weekend Activity: I just finished writing a book. I write mostly on the weekends. My book is about very simple reasons to be inspired and make a difference.
Watch Rachael's video bio
Rachael, a singer, currently lives in Hollywood, where she is recording her first solo album. She has sung backup for Donnie McClurkin, Cassandra Wilson and Max Roach and shared a stage with P. Diddy and Erick Morillo. When she's not in the studio, Rachael is working on starting her own nonprofit organization, which will serve as a safe haven for kids in Brooklyn's inner city. Her ultimate goal is to open a school in every inner city in the country.
"I wanted to be on Oprah's Big Give because I know that Oprah does everything with love in the details. I just wanted to serve," Rachael says. "On her show, Oprah always stresses trusting your instincts, and my instinct was screaming, 'You have to be there!' I waited for six hours in line with a 104 fever, but I knew I wanted to give back in an O way."
Giving Back Moment: I went to Dakar, Senegal, for six weeks in December 2004 to work with children who had nothing—not even parents. I taught song and dance, and it was just the most amazing experience of my life.
Food: Jamaican cuisine, especially sweet fried plantains
Movie Shawshank Redemption and Malcolm X
Type of Music/Artist: Whitney Houston
Dessert: Rum bread pudding
Time of Day: 2 a.m.
Indulgence: A beachfront Swedish deep tissue massage
Vacation The all-inclusive spa at Le Sport at Saint Lucia
Memory: Being in Jamaica when I was 18 years old. It was the first time I ever liked a guy who liked me back the same way! We were just sitting on a boat together, talking, underneath the Jamaican sun. It was a movie moment.
Snack: Orville Redenbacher Kettle Korn and vegan chocolate nut ice cream bars
Weekend Activity: Sabar and Djembe African dance
Watch Cameron's video bio
Cameron credits his success to never hearing the word no . At 9 years old, he had started his first business—a printing company that produced greeting cards and stationery for family and friends. By 17, his net worth had reached $1 million. The Roanoke, Virginia, native has since started 12 profitable dot-com companies, written a book and consulted for Fortune 500 companies—all by the age of 22.
Outside of the office, Cameron travels to college campuses and uses his business savvy to empower students. "I try to encourage people to call their own shots and succeed on their own terms in life," he says. Cameron is also on the board of a statewide organization in Virginia that helps at-risk students stay in school. In his spare time, he can be found hanging out with friends, going to concerts and rooting for his favorite college football team, Virginia Tech.
"Who wouldn't want to be involved in a show that's about giving?" Cameron says. "As a young entrepreneur, I've been giving since I was 10 years old, and this was an opportunity to continue that on a much larger scale."
Giving Back Moment: Two years ago, I had four front-row tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert, and I was going to put them on eBay to sell them. A lady called me because her daughter was coming back from Iraq and she wanted to surprise her with these tickets. She told me that she could only pay a certain amount, and I just gave her the tickets and then we drove them to her house. It was something that was simple for me to do. I could have sold them, but I also had the power to give them to someone, and that was more rewarding then selling them for any amount of money.
Movie: The Departed
Type of Music/Artist: All types, including country and R&B
Time of Day: Waking up knowing I have a full day to do anything
Indulgence: Nice restaurants
Memory: A company in Japan hired me to be an advisory board member when I was 15, and it led to my book, 15-Year-Old CEO . They spent a million dollars promoting me over there. I became somewhat of a media phenomenon. It was surreal.
Snack: An energy bar
Weekend Activity: Relax, sleep and catch a movie with friends
Watch Eric's video bio
Eric lives in Venice Beach, California, and is the founder and CEO of Can-Do, a nonprofit organization that enables people who make charitable donations to actually see how their money is being spent. "I always wanted to create an outlet that is all about accountability," he says. "It's important for donors to see where their money is going, which is what Can-Do is all about."
After graduating from Florida Atlantic University, Eric moved to New York City, where he worked as a model and actor. In 2004, after the Salem, Massachusetts, native moved to California, he was in a car accident that he says changed his life in an unexpected way. "It sounds crazy, but getting hit by that drunk driver was like winning the lottery for me," he says. "I got money from a settlement that allowed me to finally do what I'd always dreamed—give back in a big way." Eric took his settlement money, and, instead of having surgery to repair his orbital eye socket, he headed to Sri Lanka to help with the tsunami disaster relief. Just months after returning home, he spent a year in the Gulf Coast working for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"When I heard this show was with Oprah, I knew it would be special," Eric says. "Everybody wants to give back, but people just don't know how. I was confident that this would be a great opportunity to show people the simplicity behind giving and inspire them to do the same."
Giving Back Moment: In 1998, I went to visit a friend in Namibia, Africa. Before I left, she told me that it gets cold and many of the kids there don't have much, so I started a clothing drive at the bar where I worked. Seeing the children's reactions when I gave them the clothes was amazing—they were shaking from excitement, just because of a simple T-shirt! I videotaped the whole thing, and when I screened the video at the bar, it was equally amazing to see the reactions of the people who donated the clothes. They were mesmerized. That's when I knew I'd be doing this for a long time.
Movie : Man on Fire and Last King of Scotland
Type of Music/Artist: Anything cheesy
Dessert: Dark chocolate, or anything chocolate
Time of Day: Dusk
Vacation: Etosha National Park in Namibia
Memory: After the 2004 tsunami, body surfing with the villagers who were once terrified of the water
Snack: Anything chocolate
Weekend Activity: Work!
Watch Brandi's video bio
Brandi's four titles include two in her hometown of Sierra Vista, Arizona, and at every pageant, she had one goal in mind. "I always wanted to out-do the other girl in volunteer hours," she says. From high school through college alone, Brandi estimates that she volunteered more than 5,000 hours. A graduate of the University of Arizona, Brandi is passionate about being a mentor to children. She says she's a natural competitor and has always played sports, despite being diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager—a condition that required her to wear a back brace and undergo four subsequent back surgeries. "It was really hard feeling different and being bullied and peer pressured. I grew up always being the ugly duckling," Brandi says.
An admitted fast food addict, Brandi's resume of wins stretches even beyond the Miss America Organization. "I've been the winner of a pie-eating contest, and I've even eaten a live worm."
"I wanted to be on Oprah's Big Give to show America that a young person can give back," Brandi says. "Volunteering has always been a way of life for me, and I believe that it's everyone's obligation. A lot of people wait until they are older or have money, but there are so many small ways that you can give, which really adds up to a big give."
Giving Back Moment: I was a mentor to two brothers for two years. I spent pretty much every weekend with them. Seeing the changes that I helped develop in them was really rewarding, from something as simple as helping the older one with his basketball skills or the younger one with school. It became a really great friendship.
Food: Fried chicken and mashed potatoes
Movie: The Notebook
Type of Music/Artist: I always say I dance to anything—from country to pop to hip-hop.
Time of Day: I'm a morning person.
Indulgence: I'm such a food person. I love trying out new restaurants.
Vacation: When my dad took me to Holland for the tulip festival on my 12th birthday
Memory: Pick-up basketball games with my dad, sister and little brother or making cookies with my mom
Weekend Activity: I enjoy going to church on Sundays and spending time with my sister and my nephew, Max.
Watch Stephen's video bio
While his family has always taken precedence, Stephen's other priorities in life have changed dramatically. Thirteen years ago, Stephen says someone challenged him to decide whether his life was going to be about significance or success. It took him until recently to figure out that his answer had less to do with the latter.
Stephen graduated from Cornell University, where he was an All-American lacrosse player and a civil engineering major. After college, Stephen worked in his family's general contracting business before starting his own company in the same industry. He is currently CEO of Renaissance Integrated Solutions, a technology-based company in the pipeline industry. "I have been blessed with a lot of success," Stephen says.
In 2004, he traveled to Rwanda—a trip that changed his life. "For the first time, I was really hands-on and connected to the plight of the poor and the Third World," he says. "The images and the people I got to know would not allow me to just go back to work and worry about making my own money." Stephen and his family financially adopted and corresponded with 10 children in Africa. He later created The International Education Exchange, a nonprofit organization that partners American and African schools. He currently lives with his family in Bedford, New York.
"I thought Oprah's Big Give would be an opportunity to inspire others to engage in philanthropy on their own. It will encourage people to move away from a strict career focus and spend more time on charities or caring for others."
Giving Back Moment: The first things I built in Africa were classrooms and bathroom facilities for a school. They had previously had one working toilet for 2,700 children. It made such a difference for all of those kids.
Food: Peanut butter and jelly dunked in chocolate milk
Movie: The Godfather
Type of Music/Artist: U2
Dessert: My wife's chocolate soufflé
Time of Day: Morning
Indulgence: Playing golf
Vacation: My mom's place in the Exumas Islands in the Bahamas
Memory: Holding my first daughter in my arms after she was born. I remember thinking: I have no idea what you are going to be, but I can't wait to see what happens.
Snack: I don't really snack.
Weekend Activity: Playing golf with my wife
Watch Kim's video bio
Kim is a sports marketing executive for the Titans Radio Network. She spent 15 years selling everything from skincare to hunting knives as a host for the TV shopping network Shop at Home. "I can sell ice to an Eskimo," Kim says. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, one of Kim's first jobs was on stage rather than in front of a camera. "I was a clogger for a show at Dollywood," she says. "I was on the clogging team in high school. We were national champions."
Kim and her husband live in Nashville with their two dogs, Taco and Hammer, and a cat named Flabby Abby.
"I didn't think that my life was being lived properly," Kim says. "I felt like I wasn't doing my part. I wanted to be on Oprah's Big Give because I wanted something to really push me out there and force me to make the transformation I was thinking about."
Giving Back Moment: Picking up my little Jack Russell Terrier, Taco, from the humane society. He was bitten with fleas. He looked so sad and skinny. He needed to be saved.
Food: Mexican, but my single favorite food is pickles
Type of Music/Artist: My favorite artist is George Strait, and I also love Nelly.
Dessert: Jelly Belly Sours
Time of Day: 9 a.m. on the weekends and on days when I stay home from work
Indulgence: Watching movies all day
Vacation: Vegas, baby!
Memory: The day my husband and I got married and we had our first dance
Snack: Chips and salsa
Watch Marlene's video bio
Marlene says she grew up in a neighborhood of Chicago where there were gangs, drugs and alcoholism all around her. One of six children to a single mother, Marlene says her mom is her role model. "She always encouraged me," Marlene says. "She taught me that whatever is going on in the world, it shouldn't impact you so much that you can't go forward and move on." When she's not traveling for her job, Marlene spends a lot of time at her local church, where she is a motivational speaker and an aerobics instructor. "I love the fact that I'm large and can show people that if I can move, you can, too," she says. Her goal is to expand the class into every church in Chicago.
"I wanted to be on Oprah's Big Give because I love to meet people. I like to encourage people and inspire them to help someone else. I love people to be happy!" Marlene says. "I'm going to win this Big Give because I'm a competitor. I don't care what it takes—I can eat snakes if I want to."
Giving Back Moment: When this local Chicago family was burnt out of their home and I was able to donate coats, boots, groceries and a TV. They were so excited that someone they didn't even know cared about giving them things they needed.
Food: Soul food
Movie: Soul Food
Type of Music/Artist: Gospel
Dessert: Peach cobbler
Time of Day: I'm a 24-hour lady. I don't have bad days.
Indulgence: Taking my nieces and nephews out. I indulge them a lot.
Vacation: Portland, Oregon
Memory: Every year, for the last three years, I've been hosting my family for breakfast on my birthday. I give them gifts on my birthday.
Snack: Double chocolate chunk ice cream, with double chocolate chunk cookies
Weekend Activity: Going to church and spending time with family and friends
Watch Carlana's video bio
Today, Carlana is trying to dispel the myth that people struck by tragedy are victims forever. She scuba dives, sky dives and is working on getting her pilot's license. "Over the years, it's been a journey," she says. "Obstacles and challenges can bring meaning and purpose into our lives." While Carlana's career has spanned from local TV news to writing her own memoir, she says one of her current passions is her nonprofit organization, The Courage Community, which serves as an online networking community for injured Iraq war veterans. "If I can use my experience to help someone else work through their pain a little more quickly, then it's all been worth it," she says.
Carlana graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Slavic languages. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and their two cats, Emmy and Sammy.
"I believe that my wheelchair is less of a restraint and more of a force in my life," Carlana says. " Oprah's Big Give was an opportunity to really put that to the test. I wanted to see how well I've learned from my experiences in the face of adversity and utilize that to empower other people."
Giving Back Moment: There was this woman who came up to hug me in the library when I lived in Miami. She was disheveled, dirty and she was crying. She said that she had watched me on the news. She was a recovering heroin addict and said that they talked about how I had overcome adversity in their group. You don't even know when people are watching you. It showed me that I really needed to be responsible with what I did. It was extremely rewarding, even though I didn't give back to her on her purpose.
Type of Music/Artist: Steely Dan
Dessert: Crème brûlée
Time of Day: The evening with my husband or waking up to him in the morning
Indulgence: Fine dining with a nice Cabernet
Memory: My wedding day
Snack: Cream cheese frosting
Weekend Activity: Going flying with my husband and spending valuable time with family and friends
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