By Cari Hachmann
Staff Writer 

Ellen stuns Fallbrook mother with daughter's surprise visit


Last updated 3/11/2019 at 3:22pm

Nancy Grenier has been enjoying her “mini” celebrity status ever since the Fallbrook woman appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show, Friday, Feb. 22.

Dressed in a yellow blouse, the energetic first-grade teacher was shown in a YouTube video that attracted more than 3 million views excitedly jumping up and down and screaming as she is called out from the audience and brought onstage to meet Ellen.

Little did she know, the Walmart grocery run Ellen sent Grenier on would lead her to an unexpected reunion with her 29-year-old daughter, Addie Duffy, who lives in Brisbane, Australia. Because of expensive airfare, the two – both huge Ellen fans – hadn’t seen each other in over two years.

“I was totally surprised – absolutely dumbfounded,” Grenier, 57, said. She is a California native who moved to Fallbrook in 2010 and has taught first grade at Murrieta’s Avaxat Elementary School for 23 years.

In the video, it takes Grenier a few seconds to realize the young woman with beautiful long auburn hair bringing out the groceries in a Walmart parking lot is really her daughter.

“I’ve never had that moment before.” Grenier said. “That was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events I will never forget.”

DeGeneres generously paid for Duffy to fly out to Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank and surprise her mother on the show. The young woman was able to spend four days with her family in Fallbrook, where they hosted a party for her, before she was flown back to Australia Sunday.

On the show, DeGeneres also doled out stacks of cash for $10,000 to each lucky lady.

“When Ellen gave us the money, I thought, ‘We get to go on a trip,’” Grenier said.

She plans to spend her money on a combined honeymoon and family vacation since she and her husband haven’t been able to do either.

“I am thinking we will meet somewhere in the middle,” Grenier said. “Maybe Hawaii.”

Tickets to Australia, where Duffy works as a dental assistant and dates her filmmaker boyfriend, range between $1,500 to $3,000.

So how exactly did the Fallbrook teacher wind up on DeGeneres’ show?

Grenier said it’s kind of a long story, but started back in September when her son’s girlfriend got tickets to see Ellen and invited Grenier to join her and the young woman’s family.

While waiting for the show to start, Grenier said DeGeneres’ staff will pull people from line and interview them, “if they think you look or sound interesting.”

“They ask why you love Ellen and they make a short video and at some point they may contact you for an audition,” she said.

Grenier returned home and didn’t hear anything back until January, when she got a phone call from someone at Ellen’s show.

“They said, we met you back in the fall and are interested in interviewing you for possible participation in DeGeneres’ hit NBC show “Game of Games.”

“I was super excited,” Grenier said. “We are all super nerdy, huge fans – the whole family.”

Grenier was asked to return to Burbank for another taping, Feb. 7, where she was again interviewed. This time they asked about her family and her daughter in Australia. She received another phone call the day after Valentine’s Day, inviting her to do a “screen test” for “Game of Games.” Grenier agreed to go one more time.

Grenier said when she showed up Feb. 22, Ellen’s crew had her sit in the VIP section. Then she was asked to come behind the curtain where she met the show’s head producer.

“The head producer said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here – are you ready to audition?’ I said ‘yes, yes,’ and then they sat me back down in the audience. This whole time I was thinking I was going to be playing a game.”

So for the last three months, Grenier thought she was auditioning for a game show while DeGeneres’ producers were planning to fly out her daughter for the surprise meeting.

Grenier said she and her daughter are very close and talk almost every day.

However, the two hadn’t talked for about a week and a half leading up to Friday’s show.

“She told me she broke her phone,” Grenier said. The mother was worried and had her 27-year-old son, Jake, checking her daughter’s Instagram to make sure she was OK.

Finally, she spoke with Duffy, who told her mom she was fine and to relax.

Leading up to the final show, Grenier said she had a ton of support from her friends in Fallbrook including all those at the local gym who were following her story.

She said she wouldn’t have had the chance to meet Ellen without the lovely Tunnel family who invited her originally and celebrated with her after the show.

She praised DeGeneres and her production crew.

“Ellen and everyone who works there are authentically happy and kind, and there to make your day great. It was so uplifting and a reminder that, there are good people in the world who do good things, and I think the way things are going, we all need that right now,” Grenier said.

Grenier said ever since the first-grade students at Avaxat Elementary School saw their teacher on TV, they have been treating her like a celebrity, and parents have been calling to say nice things.

“I am on my 11th minute of 10 minutes of fame. I’m just laughing and enjoying,” Grenier said.

She said despite how she appeared on the show, she is actually more reserved in person and very busy with her job.

“I finally said yes, and don’t normally,” she said.

She was completely star struck to be sitting in front of DeGeneres, she said.

“The Ellen show gave me the gift of my daughter for four days and I am forever grateful. I love her and miss her very much. The whole thing was so much fun,” Grenier said.


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