The glow of spotlights, the extra-large television cameras and, of course, the A-list celebrity sitting on stage are already shocking enough for those lucky enough to attend a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But audience member Dianna Beasley’s experience in 2016 was even more thrilling.
That’s because Beasley didn’t just sit alongside the rest of the crowd – the talk show host invited her onstage. And, in true DeGeneres fashion, she had a surprise up her sleeve that floored Beasley – almost literally. The show’s crew rushed to the woman’s side to make sure she was okay after she received the shock of a lifetime.
Her 2016 appearance on Ellen wasn’t Beasley’s first visit to Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California, where the show is filmed. She first came to see a taping on February 10, 2006, for a very unique reason.
Beasley had survived Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, six months prior to her appearance on Ellen. As one of the costliest and deadliest hurricanes in US history, it was no surprise that Beasley was deeply affected by the storm.
“How’d you make out?” DeGeneres asked from her seat on stage, her hair much longer than it would be ten years later. “Well, I lost everything,” said the resilient Beasley, smiling as she added, “But I have my family.”
And, as that grin suggested, she still had her zest for life. In fact, she told DeGeneres that she had made the cross-country trek for one reason: “I had to come and dance with you,” Beasley said. New, happy memories would certainly override the ones made during the hurricane.
Little did Beasley know on that day in 2006 that DeGeneres had her first of two huge surprises for the New Orleans native. “There’s a reason you’re in that seat, Dianna,” DeGeneres said before she presented her with an amazing gift: a new car.
Looking back on her first experience on Ellen, Beasley called it “a blessing.” “I lost everything, and [the car] has actually changed my life,” she said. And she was able to tell DeGeneres personally in 2011, when she was once again a guest on the show.
“I want to first thank God for you,” Beasley said, “because without you the world wouldn’t be what it is today.” DeGeneres humbly turned the spotlight back on “one of [her] all-time favorite [guests],” saying, “I love that I could help you.”
Little did Beasley know, that wouldn’t be the last time DeGeneres would help her. Ten years after her first appearance on Ellen, the talk show host invited the New Orleans native back on the program to catch up – or so Beasley thought.
“It’s been ten years, can you believe that? I can’t believe that,” DeGeneres said, squeezing Beasley’s hands in hers. She then asked the 65-year-old what she’d been up to since her last visit to the show. Needless to say, she was still taking on life with the same zeal she had in 2006.
For one thing, Beasley was a dedicated runner. “I’m running three to six miles every day,” she said, eliciting cheers from the crowd. Beasley then revealed that she had also gone back to school “to finish and complete [her] M[aster in Public Health]… to start a career as a wellness practitioner.” And, shockingly, there was more: she’d even been saving up to start her own business.
“Explain to everybody what you want to do,” DeGeneres asked so that the audience could have a better idea of Beasley’s business idea. The 65-year-old obliged, beginning by saying, “I live in New Orleans, which is one of the most unhealthy cities in the United States.”
“Well, they have beignets there, and they’re delicious,” DeGeneres said, making a joke about NOLA’s indulgent cuisine. “That doesn’t help us any,” she added, with which Beasley agreed. In fact, that’s why she wanted to save money – she wanted to give her neighbors the option of healthy, delicious food.
“I decided that I was saving my money – along with my grandbaby, she saved over $300,” Beasley said, pointing to her tearful granddaughter Rachel in the audience. Together, the duo hoped “to purchase the healthiest food truck in the city of New Orleans to put out on the streets so people can enjoy healthy foods.”
They had developed their idea so far, in fact, that they knew what’d be on the menu: “the delicious quinoas, the greens, the great beans, the rice, the vegetables, the veggie quesadillas, the veggie pizzas,” Beasley said. Her granddaughter had even designed the brand’s logo; the food truck would be called “Ms. Beasley’s Catering Company,” complete with a crown-wearing bee to represent the 65-year-old herself.
After she revealed the logo, DeGeneres revealed something of her own design. “So listen to this,” she said casually, barely hinting at the huge surprise she had in store. “Shutterfly [an online photo-printing service] and our staff, we have been working for over a month to make this happen. And we want to make your dream come true.” Beasley was already shocked, responding, “What now?”
“This is your food truck!” DeGeneres screamed, and Beasley immediately fell to her knees. “Oh, God. Take me to the hospital,” she said, clutching her chest. The talk show’s staff swarmed to Beasley’s chair, making sure the shocked guest was not actually in any sort of pain.
Fortunately, though, Ellen realized her guest was simply overwhelmed by the gift. This became clear when the host quipped, “Never mind, we won’t give it to you!” which drew a huge laugh from the crowd. “Have you eaten today?” DeGeneres then asked. “Have you had some quinoa and some greens that you’re talking about?” She then sent the show to commercial to make sure Beasley was alright one last time before sending her off with her new business on wheels.
It turned out that the 65-year-old was just fine, as was her business idea. Since the taping of the show, Beasley has led classes on healthy juicing, curated a veggie-filled menu for her customers and rolled her truck around New Orleans, just as she imagined. And she still has regular lunch service outside of New Orleans’s Tulane University, where she brings her fresh fare to students five days a week.