This Week's Contestant
POSTED on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
I was out to eat with some of my co-workers when I got the call asking me to come to L.A. in two weeks to be on Wheel of Fortune. I think the term "flipped out" is an understatement to how I reacted. It was just as exciting as when I got my letter in the mail saying I was going to be a contestant. I immediately called my mom and said "WE'RE GOING TO LA!" The next two weeks flew by and before I knew it we were on a plane heading to California. On the way, my mom just HAD to tell everyone we spoke to about why we were going to Los Angeles. The excitement couldn't be contained, we wanted to shout it from the rooftops! When we arrived at LAX, we go on the wrong shuttle. Then we had to take a taxi to the right hotel, so already I'm starting to freak out. Once we made it to the RIGHT hotel, we got some dinner and it was time to try to get some sleep. My mom and I kept waking up throughout the night to make sure we didn't oversleep!
The morning of the show I was a wreck running around the room making sure I had everything I needed. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful mother who stayed calm for me and got me going. When I got to the hotel lobby where the shuttle would arrive, I immediately recognized a gentleman from my Florida audition. He was sitting with another woman all dressed up, so I knew I was in the right place! We introduced ourselves and discussed our experiences getting this far. Finally, our shuttle arrived and we were off to the studios!
Pulling into Sony Studios was such a thrill, I can't put it into words. We were taken to a green room where more contestants were waiting. It was really wonderful, they provided lots of snacks and goodies to keep us going until taping started. Right away, everyone in the room was all smiles. We were ready to spin that Wheel!
After going through some rules and regulations about being on the show, it was time for make-up. Being a woman, I LOVE having someone else do my make-up so I was super thankful for those ladies! As I was getting my make-up done, a lady walked into the room carrying her coffee, hair wet like she had just taken a shower. I glanced at her thinking she was part of the crew, until the make-up lady whispered, "That's Vanna!" She was standing RIGHT NEXT TO ME! I turned, grabbed Vanna's hand and started going a mile a minute! "Oh my gosh, Vanna, it's SO nice to meet you! I have watched you since I was a little girl! You are just as pretty in person!" Poor Vanna, ha! She just laughed and thanked me for the compliment with a big Vanna smile. This definitely got me ready and even more pumped up than I already was!
Next, we got to see the set where we would be filming the show. As I walked out, the first words out of my mouth were "HOLY C&@$!!!" to which the crew men sitting around got a nice chuckle. I couldn't believe how small the set was, because on TV it looks huge! The Wheel itself was a LOT smaller than I thought and heavy! Our theme for the week was 'American Heritage' so the set was done up as an old city or town. They had pictures of Presidents on the screen and photos of different US monuments. They let us go up and get a feel for the spinning the Wheel and yelling out letters. I felt so comfortable on the stage like I had been doing it my whole life.
After practicing a few times, it was time to pick what show we would be on. They taped six shows that day and all I wanted was to be on the second taping. This way I could watch the first show, see how things worked and then be ready to go without having to wait until the end of the day. Well, it was surely my lucky day because my group chose show number two and I chose ball number two which meant I got to stand in the middle onstage!
Then it was time to start taping the first show. Butterflies began flying through my stomach. As we watched the first taping, I got an idea of how things would go. It was exciting to watch the other contestants play because throughout the day we all became friends. We were like the cheerleaders in the stand, cheering on our team. One hard thing was to not talk during the taping, you wanted to whisper answers to the person next to you so bad! Then, they came out and called the people taping show two to come down and get ready. This was it.
I paced, checked my hair, checked my teeth, checked my outfit and paced some more. When it was time to go onto the stage my game face was on. Me and the other 2 contestants on my show wished each other luck and lots of money before taking the stage. After a last make-up touch-up, the music started and the cameras were on!
Pat and Vanna walked out onto the stage and my heart filled with joy. Again, the term 'HOLY C&@$' came to my head as I tried to take it what was happening. Pat greeted us and we immediately picked up our buzzers for the first Toss-Up round. As the letters started appearing, my mind just stayed focused. I hit my buzzer and ended up winning the first puzzle! I was just getting excited about my first victorious puzzle, when I realized I was going to speak first to Pat! As he asked me questions, I just tried to remember everything I wanted to say and made sure to send a shout out to my school where I teach 2nd grade. We each had our turn to talk with Pat and it was off to the second Toss-Up round. I didn't end up getting that one OR the Jackpot puzzle. I started to freak out a little in my head, but reminded myself to keep cool there was a lot of game left to play. Then - I rocked the show. Not only did I win every puzzle after that, I flipped over the $10,000 wedge AND won the Prize Puzzle! When Pat came to speak to me after that round, I had to fan myself because I was so overwhelmed. I remembered how people like to pat Pat's bum when they were excited, but I assured him I would keep my hands to myself :) When I won another puzzle, I remembered that I promised my students I would do the 'Totee-Tah' a fun song/dance we do in class. Little did I know that Pat would join in with me! When we made it to the final puzzle and I won, I knew I was going to the bonus round and then my heart REALLY started beating! One of the producers walked me through what I would be doing and where I would be standing. Then Pat came over, wished me luck and showed me that even if I didn't get the Bonus Round puzzle, I had done an amazing job already on the show.
The Bonus Round started and now I was really in focus mode. I was determined to get the Bonus Round Puzzle Solution so that I could pay off my student loans. When it was time to choose my consonants and vowel, I was excited because I had carried the 'Wild Card' with me to the end, so that meant I got an pick an extra consonant. Out of nervousness, I chose the same letter twice! Thank goodness that didn't matter and Pat redirected me calmly. So they say go to show what letters I had in my puzzle and ALL I got right was my vowel. I was thinking: Oh no. How am I going to solve this!?! Pat started his speech of, well it's going to be a tough one, talk it out and see how you do. In the meantime, I was listening, but also in full concentration mode trying to figure out the puzzle. The clock had JUST started and it came to me, like a little angel was sitting on my shoulder and whispered it in my ear. Then, it just came out "Fight Song." It stayed quiet for a few seconds, so I was about to guess again when Pat said, "How did you do that?" Right then, I knew I did it and I dropped down to the ground. I just couldn't grasp the idea I had solved the puzzle. Then Pat asked if I wanted to see what I won and he opened my golden ticket - it was $50,000 - I lost it. I was so glad my mom got to run on stage with me because I needed someone to hug and join in with me in my moment of glory. The first thing she said as she hugged me was "You can pay off your student loans!" Then I realized what I had set out to do 6 months ago happened. I just won Wheel of Fortune and made enough money to completely pay off my student loans. WHAT A BLESSING! This is something that has been a nightmare since I graduated college and with rising interest rates, I was falling behind on payments. To be able to get out of debt is going to be an amazing feeling.
Prior to going to L.A., I promised my kids if I won a lot of money I would give them twenty dollars. I work with children who are less fortunate than others, so to them that is a lot of money! After it airs though, I've decided to take them all to Chuck E. Cheese, my treat :)
Being on the show was the most amazing experience of my life (next to having my daughter, Annabelle). I am so grateful for the contestant coordinators, producers and all the people who made my day possible; my brother Brad who accompanied me to the audition, and my mom Lynn who was my rock while I was a nervous wreck.
I continue to be a regular Wheel Watcher and can't wait for everyone to see the show!