Guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show aren’t strangers to the talk show host’s over-the-top generosity. It’s not uncommon for guests to walk out of the studio with a brand new car, job, or bags full of loot. But during an episode that aired October 27, one mom left with $100,000 in her pocket — gifted to her by Ellen and the stars of A Bad Mom’s Christmas, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Kathryn Hahn.
Two years ago, Ayesha Dixon was single and pregnant with her daughter Phoenix when she attended Ellen’s popular Mother’s Day special — you know, the episode where moms-to-be get gifted with pretty much every item you need to take a baby into toddlerland. I remember how excited she was, because she had recently joined a Facebook support group I started for single and pregnant mothers.
Like most women faced with the reality of single motherhood, Dixon, who has a Masters in Public Administration from USC and works in nonprofit assisting seniors, was worried about making ends meet. How was she going to be her child’s sole caregiver and financial provider? She also had loads of student loans to pay off.
Needless to say, all the baby gear Ellen gifted her helped. A lot. But it was Ellen’s overall generosity that really inspired her.
“You literally changed my life,” Dixon told Ellen on last week’s show, when the host asked her to stand up. Dixon had been randomly called by the show’s producers and asked to appear on the show. There would be two tickets waiting for her when she got to the studio, and as far as what she should talk about, Dixon was asked to mention her work with elders. But beyond that, she didn’t know much.
Once Dixon was invited on-stage to sit with the stars of A Bad Moms Christmas, she opened up about her personal story.
“I’m a single mom, and it’s been difficult,” she admitted. “As much as I like to give back, I don’t have much to give, but I try to volunteer. I always know that there’s someone who’s worse off than I am … For me and my daughter, you know, as long as our bellies are full and I have a roof over my head, it’s been just amazing.”
Once her own mother was brought onto the stage, it was obvious Dixon’s appearance was anything but random. Ellen told the audience about Dixon’s struggles — her debt, the cost of daycare, rent, and bills, and how at one point her bank account had dwindled to just $28. Then Kunis, Bell, Hahn, and DeGeneres handed her stockings, each filled with $25,000 in cash — totaling $100,000 in all.
“I was in shock,” Dixon tells Babble. “We’ve all seen the show, so I was expecting maybe a gift card to Target, or to play a game on stage if I got called. But, seeing my mom, and with each stocking felt like I was dreaming.”
Dixon, who has sole legal and physical custody of her daughter Phoenix, has spent the last few years living paycheck-to-paycheck, so you can imagine how relieved she is not having to stress out as much about making ends meet.
“Every month I have to pick and choose what extra-curricular activity (or basic life need) I do with my daughter,” she says. “Is it a children’s museum, dinner out with friends, swim lessons, oil change, that new tire that probably needs replacing, paying more than the minimum on that maxed out credit card, or sometimes … nothing. I am relieved I don’t have to wait two weeks for the next paycheck to decide what priority I have to pay my bills in.”
She is also looking forward to using some of the money to pay-it-forward to other moms who are struggling, just as she was.
“If I can make someone’s holiday by buying a turkey, or if I am in line behind someone paying with food stamps, I will step in to help,” she says. “I love seeing those moments when people give back in a Starbucks line. This will be the first thing I do … buy coffee for the person in the car behind me.”
Ellen fans are going wild over Dixon’s appearance on the show, with a Facebook clip of the segment earning close to 11 million views. And it’s clear from the heartwarming comments that so many people — moms, single moms, non-moms, and even men — can relate to her journey and are inspired by her story.
But if there’s one message Dixon wants to send to other moms, she tells Babble, it’s to not lose your sense of self, and to keep on trudging — especially if you’re a single mom who’s going it alone.
“Sometimes you will feel lonely, ostracized, overwhelmed, marred with a scarlet letter, considered having ‘baggage,’” she says. “But, you will find your tribe. Join meet ups and Facebook groups, anything to get out of the house and smile with your baby.”
I feel blessed to personally know this amazing woman, and so many others like her. After I started writing about my own struggles of being single and pregnant, many women (including Dixon) reached out to me because they connected to my story. And it takes a village, right? So I created an online space for women across the world going through it alone to connect with one another and share their fears and frustrations. When you don’t have to go through it alone, things seem so much easier. And each woman’s journey can serve as inspiration to another.
A big thanks to Ellen, Mila, Kristen, and Kathryn, for not only being super generous with an all-deserving mama, but for reminding the world that there are lots of awesome and inspiring single moms out there.
For more fun with the cast of A Bad Moms Christmas, check out the ladies’ holiday confessions: