This Week's Contestant
|Theme:||Wheel Around the World|
|Hometown:||Kansas City, MO|
I could not believe I was entering the gates at Sony Studios to film for Wheel of Fortune! Once we got to the WOF studio, we went into the Contestant Room where we met the phenomenal contestant coordinators. They gave us some tips for the game, went over paper work with us, and brought us into the studio. I was shocked at how small everything was, because it looks so big on TV. After we practiced for a few rounds, it was time to start taping! Because I was the sixth show in line to film that day, there was plenty of time to work up anxiety, but I also had plenty of time to practice.
By the time it was my turn to play, I was more nervous than I had ever been. I know a lot of contestants say this, but it cannot be emphasized enoughit felt so surreal to be there. There are so many things going on at once: the lights, the audience, trying to look at the puzzle, the letter board, the score board, and the wheelthe pressure of it all! And I was worried about sweating too much on national television. It was extremely hot in the studio. Being that it was the first taping day of the new season, I think they were having problems with the air conditioning.
Pat and Vanna came out from behind the puzzle board; it was time for the first toss up. The category was "Place," and two letters came up: a V and an E. I knew it must either be Venice Beach or Venice Italy. Considering the theme for my show was "Wheel around the World," I guessed Venice Italy. I was right! $1,000, wahoo! Because there with so much going on around me, I really had to focus. I had to forget that I was standing right next to Pat Sajack, that there was an audience of people staring at me, that there were fourteen cameras all pointed at me, and I had to focus on the puzzle board and keep in mind the theme of the show and the category of the puzzle. I also had to know what letter I would choose on my turn. Memorizing the alphabet according to the percentage each letter is used really helped me in these moments.
Then it was time for the second toss up, and I guessed that one as well! I was feeling good, but still cautious. Because I won the two toss ups, I earned the right to spin first in the first round. I kept in mind the category, I bought vowels, and I was constantly considering what the word could logically be. I didn't concentrate on the dollar amount that I was landing on; I didn't want any distractions. When I solved the first puzzle and Pat walked over to me to tell me I had racked up $19,300 from the two toss ups and the first round, I was shocked and blurted out, "Holy crap!" I can't believe that I said "Holy crap" to Pat Sajack . . . really classy. Apparently, I had landed on $2,500 a few times. I remember looking out at my pals, Nicholle and Melissa, in the audience, and they were both crying their little eyes out. I had to look away because I started to get a little emotional as well. After composing myself, I remember thinking, "No matter what happens, I'm walking out of here with $19,300. And I got to accomplish a life goal!" My life goal was to clasp my hands and raise them in the air like a champion on national television.
When the prize puzzle came around, I was very nervous. I knew that if I didn't keep control of the round, someone else could solve it and pull ahead of me. In hindsight, the answer to this puzzle seems so obvious, but when I was up there I just couldn't think of the answer. I kept spinning the wheel and buying vowels. I think my nerves got the best of me in this round. I ended up landing on bankrupt, which caused me to lose my Wild Card, a trip to Spain, the cash I had accumulated, the prize puzzle trip to Belize, and possibly the lead. I was sick to my stomach. Thom solved the puzzle and accumulated about $14,000. I remember thinking, "It's still anyone's game; focus."
Then it was time for the third toss up. I rang in, "Skilled Craftman," and I heard Pat say, "I'm looking for a little direction from the judges here." The buzzer rang. Tamara rang in, "Skilled Craftsman." I was off by one letter! The contestant coordinators' tip was ringing in my ears: "enunciate, enunciate, enunciate!" That was the most expensive letter S of my life.
By the time the Final Spin Round came, I was still in the lead. I don't remember what the puzzle was or who solved it, because all I could think was, "Oh my gosh! I am going to the Bonus Round on Wheel of Fortune!" Before coming to the show, I had picked out the letters I would call if I made it this far. When the puzzle came up, the letters I wanted to call did not fit logically with the puzzle. I made last minute changes to the letters I chose, and the puzzle looked like this: _HEM_ _AL _ _RM_LA Before the clock even started Pat said, "Well, I can tell by your smile you already know it, so just go ahead and solve it." Chemical Formula! I was in shock! I don't know what Pat said next, I just remember reading the inside of the envelope: I had won a 2010 Mazda Miata Convertible! I won a car! I vaguely remember my pals, Nicholle and Melissa, tackling me, crying again, and dragging me off to the car. All three of us were sitting in there. I remember looking at my best pals sitting in a car I had just won on the Wheel of Fortune, and thinking, "Remember this moment for the rest of your life."
I am so grateful to WOF for picking me and for giving me a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. I did not own a car at the time, so winning that car was perfect. I plan to pay all of my student loans and debt with my winnings, and then maybe I'll go on a trip somewhere. My spending plan doesn't sound extremely exciting, I know. But thanks to Wheel of Fortune, I don't have debt hanging over my head anymore. I am so grateful!