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Solon grad has the experience of a lifetime

Paige (Hingtgen) Prior and her husband win tickets to see The Ellen DeGeneres Show

SOLON – Most people never see their favorite television celebrities up close. This isn’t the case for 2009 Solon graduate and former North Liberty resident, Paige (Hingtgen) Prior, and her husband, Christopher, who visited a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” this past December.
“I’ve always been a little obsessed with The Ellen Show,” said Paige. “She’s the most inspirational person ever for what she does for everyone. Plus, she’s hilarious.” Along with watching the show, Paige began following Ellen on Facebook.
“Several times I saw she was having different kinds of contests, like ‘Come to my show’ contests or ‘Win this grill’ contests. I always entered them, not thinking I was ever going to get anything back, because she has several million fans on Facebook,” said Paige.
For one particular contest, the participants were required to submit an essay explaining why they deserved to win tickets to one of the “12 Days of Giveaways” tapings of the show. In the essay, Paige talked about different parts of her life, attending classes and operating her own photography business while living in San Diego with her husband and their two dogs. Her husband is an active sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps who has served in several overseas tours.
“I said, ‘I do not deserve to win. I know there is someone out there much more deserving than me, but this would be the opportunity of a lifetime,’” Paige recalled.
A few weeks later, in September, Paige received a call from an employee of the show, informing her that she was one of just 10 winners who were chosen from the contest.
“It was amazing. I thought someone was joking. I called everyone, crying. I did not expect that whatsoever,” she said.
On Dec. 12, Paige and Christopher hopped on a shuttle along with four other winners to the Warner Bros. Studio lot where she joined a crowd of several hundred people queuing for a chance to see the show. Because they were VIPs, Paige and Christopher were guaranteed to be part of the 300-person studio audience.
“They gave us these card[s] to hold with our number and Ellen’s face on them. While we were waiting, we bought some Ellen underwear.” Paige and her husband were then shown to their seats in the studio where they passed the time having fun with the other people in the audience.
“Before the show, after everyone is (seated), they do these fun little games, like dance contests and stuff,” Paige explained. Along with dancing, she and her husband also sang along to singer-songwriter Lorde’s song, “Royals.” The clip was shown in a montage on a later episode of the show.
The audience was soon asked to take their seats and turn off their cell phones. Ellen then walked out onto the stage.
“You actually couldn’t hear what she’s saying for the most part, because everyone is cheering,” Paige said. She and her husband watched as Ellen interviewed her two guests; movie producer Tyler Perry, and Ken Jeong, best known as Leslie Chow in The Hangover. Paige and her husband both received a copy of Despicable Me 2, a film in which Ken Jeong provides the voice for Floyd Eagle-san.
After the appearances of the two guests, a bell went off signaling that it was time for that day’s giveaways. The studio audience erupted with cheers and excitement, said Paige, as they watched Ellen unveil several JCPenney gift cards totaling $2,500.
“I didn’t think that both my husband and I would get it. I thought just me, the person who won the tickets. But, no. My husband and I both got it. In total we had $5,000 to JCPenney.” Paige indicated some of the money had been used to purchase items that she and her husband had needed for their home.
At the end of the show, Paige experienced another great moment when she made eye contact with the comedian she so admired. As Ellen was thanking the audience for coming to the show, Paige held up her hands in the shape of a heart.
“I was like, ‘I love you!’ and she pointed at me and winked,” said Paige with a laugh.
“I never in a million years thought anything that awesome would happen to us. It was crazy. Way cool experience,” Paige said of her opportunity to see The Ellen Show.
Although she loves living in San Diego, Paige also misses her Solon home and intends to visit in July. She and her husband plan to have the big wedding they’ve always dreamed of this coming September.