This Week's Contestant
|Hometown:||New York, NY|
I grew up watching the Wheel with my mom, more often than not on a tiny television set on the kitchen counter. The Wheel is always on around dinnertime, so we always seem to catch it while we're cooking, eating, or cleaning up. Although never a formal tradition, it's a habit that's continued from childhood, through my college years, and even now as an adult when I come home to visit.
My mom and I have been known to get really into the game. We're particularly quick to shush anyone talking to us when a puzzle first leaps onto the board. The secret goal, of course, is to guess the puzzle before any letters are called, using just the category and the spaces provided as hints. (It doesn't happen for us often, but it does happen.) Assuming neither of us has one of these moments of divine inspiration, the puzzle continues on, and so do we cooking, eating, cleaning but obviously ogling the puzzle like hawks out of the corner of our eyes, eager to be the first one to shout out the answer.
There are no points in our play-at-home game. There are no penalties for shouting wrong answers, and we don't keep track of who solves the most puzzles (although I'd wager it's about 50/50). It isn't us against each other, but us against the Wheel and for years, we've been dominating. My step-dad just smiles and shakes his head at us. "You know one day," he says, "you should stop playing in the kitchen and actually go win some money."
I was born and raised in San Diego, but I moved to New York City about a year and half ago. This is the longest I've ever lived more than an hour's drive away from my family. Of course, I still watch the show by myself in New York, but it isn't quite the same. Surprisingly, it's not the subway, the weather, or the busy streets that make me the most homesick for suburban San Diego life it's these familiar moments, sitting at home, eating dinner and shouting the answers at the Wheel... only to realize that no one's trying to beat me to it.
It was during one of these slightly melancholy moments, sitting on my sofa in New York, that I finally heeded my step-dad's advice. I pulled out my laptop, went to WheelofFortune.com, and entered my information as a prospective contestant. The application was surprisingly quick and easy, but (not surprisingly) it made no promises that I'd actually be contacted for an audition. I'm from New York (via southern California), so I know how these things work "don't call us, we'll call you." I'd done everything I could do at that point, so I put it out of my mind. Honestly? I completely forgot about it.
Fast-forward to about six months later. I was in London for work, standing in the kitchen, chopping vegetables for dinner. My laptop was open next to me, as I was chatting back and forth online with friends back in the US. I happened to glance over just as a new email popped into my inbox. The sender was "WOF Auditions."
"WOF?" I thought. "What the heck is WOF?" I selected the email in my inbox and hovered over the SPAM button, ready to click this seemingly unsolicited message into oblivion, but I hesitated. Curiosity got the best of me, and I opened it instead. Thank goodness for small miracles.
The email informed me that I was being invited to an invitation-only Wheel of Fortune audition, just a few blocks from where I live in New York. The date was less than two weeks away. My call time was 11am, and the audition could last upwards of three hours. There were other instructions how to reserve my spot, what to wear, fair warnings to keep my expectations realistic but I couldn't read anything past the date and time of my audition. I had less than two weeks to ready myself for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
The audition was held in a large seminar room of a huge hotel in Times Square. As people started trickling in, we were immediately greeted by a team of Contestant Coordinators, one of whom was keeping a large seating chart. She would point at us as we shuffled in, filling in every seat from the front of the room. "Hi, what's your name!" she shouted in a clear, friendly voice. As we responded, one by one, she'd write our names down on our seating chart. I'd guess there were about 100 of us in the room. After about an hour, that number would be cut by more than half.
I'll spare you the nitty-gritty details of what actually happens during the audition, because I know that's already widely covered in this blog and other places online. Basically, if you just show up ready to play some friendly games of Wheel of Fortune (including a LOT of polite clapping for other people), you won't be surprised.
In fact, when it came to the audition, there really weren't any surprises, tricks, or gimmicks. The Contestant Coordinators told us EXACTLY what they were looking for from the very beginning. The list of qualifications was simple:
- Loud, clear voices.
- Obvious knowledge of game play when to buy vowels, what to do if you land on a Free Play, etc. (Basically, it should be evident that you've watched the show AT LEAST a few times.)
- And last, but FAR from least: Personality! You didn't have to act like a crazy person, or dress like a hot-dog... you just had to look "happy to be here!" Not too hard, right?
If I could give one piece of advice to people auditioning for the show, it would be to have fun with it. Dont be so wound-up trying to be a good puzzle-solver that you forget how to be a good contestant. Smile! Clap for your fellow players! Get excited when things are going your way, and stay optimistic even when theyre not. Anyone who watches the Wheel knows that its a game that can change in a single round -- and even if you dont win it all, everyone can go home a big winner.
After three hours of auditioning flew by, all of us who hadnt been cut after the first hour were told to go home. If they wanted us on the show, theyd send a letter in 2-3 weeks with instructions, and wed be on the show sometime in the next 18 months. This is how it works for most people. BUT...
We happen to have two open spaces on the show next week, announced one of the Coordinators. He explained the time-commitment we had to be willing and able to fly from New York to LA on a weeks notice, which (for me) would mean missing three days of work the next week. So, raise your hand if you CANT fly to LA next week? the Coordinator continued.
My boss is going to kill me, I thought to myself, keeping both hands firmly in my lap. The Coordinators took a quick note of who couldnt make it, excused themselves from the room for about two minutes, then re-entered looking satisfied. Okay, everyone head on home, except for... Jenny and Justin, youre going to LA next week! Jenny and I jumped up and hugged each other -- which was only a little weird, considering wed never met. Jenny was fierce competition during the audition, so while I hoped that wed both win big during Weekend Getaways week on The Wheel, my fingers were crossed that I wouldnt have to face-off against her!
I hope youll tune in and watch me spin on Tuesday, March 20th! And be sure to read my post-game blog after the show!