This Week's Contestant
The day of my taping came, and I have never encountered nerves like I did that morning. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. because I was ready to get the show on the road! My Aunt Sheri is a makeup artist, so I was lucky to just relax while she put on what I called my "HDTV makeup."
My dad was paranoid we would be late for the 7:45 a.m. arrival time, so we arrived an hour early. We ended up hanging out and playing a few more games of Wheel of Fortune on my phone, in his words to "get my mind right." I went in 15 minutes early and I was one of the last to arrive. I was shocked, but everyone was just as excited as me.
There were six tapings scheduled on my day and we had quite the lively group. It helped to just joke around with everyone, especially the amazing contestant coordinators. To my surprise, before we taped Vanna came in to wish us all luck. She is absolutely gorgeous! Vanna had jeans on, no makeup, her hair pulled back and was still stunning and so friendly. After Vanna left, it was time to test spin the wheel. I was shocked when I saw the set; it is MUCH smaller than you would imagine it to be on TV. Also, the wheel is HEAVY, it takes a lot of effort and I imagined myself toppling over onto the wheel in an attempt to spin it harder (fortunately, that didn't happen).
After a few practice spins, we were put into our taping groups of three. I was selected to be the person to randomly pick what show number we would be on. Lucky for us, I selected show number one. At that moment, I was speechless, which is rare. I thought I would be on show two or three and have some time to calm down. That wasn't the case. We went back out for some more spinning practice, and my feet went immediately numb. It wasn't just some figment of my imagination anymore; I was actually going to be taping Wheel of Fortune in less than 15 minutes!!
The signature music began and I was behind the blue, third position on the wheel ready to go! Well, at the time I was ready to go, but looking back on it, I blacked out. I don't remember how I acted or what I said, because it flew by. One of the only things that sticks out in my mind is the second toss up that I solved. I remember the letters coming up and I knew the second word was squirrel so I buzzed in and in a puzzled manner said "Red Squirrel?" Let me tell you, it is MUCH easier to solve puzzles sitting at home versus being on stage with lights in your face, Pat to your right, Vanna in front of you, and a live studio audience. Before the taping I kept telling myself not to buy too many vowels, but when you need a few extra seconds to figure out the puzzle, it's necessary!
I was ushered to the bonus wheel thinking to myself, "Wait, what?! I made it to the bonus round??" Next thing I know, Vanna and Pat were wishing me good luck. I was in a dream and it was completely surreal. I completely forgot I had to introduce my family and friend, and it makes me laugh to think about when the stage manager said, "Are you ready?" and I nodded my head and thought "Yeah put the puzzle up, let's go!" Then the stage manager said "Introducing your family in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.." I'm lucky I remembered their names.
In the end, I was lucky to have the experience of a lifetime. The money will help pay off my school loans and I plan on starting a college fund for my nephew. I was honored to be selected as a part of such a fine and bright group of contestants and thankful for the support of my family, friends, professors, and work colleagues in Naperville and Chicagoland. Given the challenging nature of the entire process from start to finish, I am especially humbled with the outcome and just happy to have been a part of this well respected program that is/was enjoyed by so many (especially my Grandma Flo)!