'OPRAH'S BIG GIVE'
Va. Man Loses Out, but He'll Be Soaking Up the Sun
Cameron Johnson was shut out of $1 million Sunday on Oprah Winfrey's charity challenge. But he says he feels like a winner anyway.
The 23-year-old whiz kid from Roanoke, a self-made millionaire and philanthropist who started a greeting card and party invitation business on his computer when he was 9, was one of three finalists on "Oprah's Big Give," a reality television show on ABC whose goal was to find a life-changing philanthropist. The winner on Sunday's finale was Stephen Paletta, a 43-year-old real estate developer from Bedford, N.Y.
Paletta, Johnson and the other runner-up, Brandi Milloy, a 23-year-old beauty pageant winner from Chicago, were guests on Oprah's daytime show yesterday. On the show, Johnson announced how he plans to spend the $100,000 he received as a finalist. It will go to a charity run by Richard Branson, the British billionaire whose trajectory has mirrored Johnson's: His first business venture was a magazine he started at age 15. Branson founded Virgin Atlantic Airways and the record label Virgin Records and runs a charity that helps small entrepreneurs in Africa.
"It was a graceful way to go out on a high note," Johnson said last night after arriving home.
Johnson said the judges may have penalized him for his youth and called Paletta "the image of what they were looking for," partly because he has children.
He said Branson has invited him to spend a few days next month on his private island in the British Virgin Islands.
-- Lisa Rein