This Week's Contestant
|Hometown:||New Orleans, LA|
I remember my hand shaking so much as I picked up my buzzer for the first Toss-Up that I was sure everyone at home would be able to see it. As the letters started to appear, the puzzle (Atlanta, Georgia) just clicked - I had just visited my best friend in Atlanta two weeks earlier! After Carlton solved the next toss up and first round of play, I was afraid that he was going to dominate the wheel for the rest of the game. After that puzzle (and every time you see a commercial break on the show), we came down from behind the wheel for some makeup touch-ups, water, and quick pep talks from the crew.
As soon as it was my turn again, the game became a blur of nerves and the Wheel knowledge I had stored in the back of my mind from all those practice games I'd played over the last two weeks and episodes I'd watched for so many years. Future players: do your best to just concentrate on the game as it happens! I totally mixed up the rules of Wild Card and Free Play, but it was an honest nervous mistake. Thankfully everyone at Wheel really does want to see you win and gives players the benefit of the doubt. Another tip: if you get the opportunity to gamble on the Mystery Wedge, go for it - as long as you don't have much to lose in that round. In my situation, why wouldn't I go for 10k?! I'm so glad my risk paid off, because that was the motivation I needed. After that big boost, I tried to just have fun and play along with the game as it progressed - and that really paid off! To this day I still cannot believe how lucky I was to win $10,000, a Wild Card, and the 1/2 Kia all in one round... And the rest of the game only got better!
I had told myself at the beginning of the day that when I got to the Prize Puzzle, I had to solve it. I was keeping that in mind until I got the other 1/2 Kia - after that I definitely needed to solve this puzzle! After winning both a Kia Soul and a trip to Hawaii on the same puzzle, I didn't think I could get any luckier. I just had to play smart for the rest of the game to stay ahead. I never would have imagined that I could solve a Toss-Up and three puzzles and win so much before even getting to the Bonus Round! I didn't solve every puzzle, but that's more than fine with me - I'm so glad that everyone on my show solved something and that Carlton and Rachel won some money too.
The Bonus Round was more unreal than I could have imagined. I was insanely nervous all over again, wobbling in my lucky leopard heels (which I knew would only be seen if I made it to the end). I almost mixed up my parents' names and I bet Pat could sense my nerves as he took my very shaky hand to guide me to my mark. I watched an N and a T appear on the board. I asked for the same letters I used every time I'd played the Bonus Round in practice games - C, B, M, and A. This routine clearly didn't include a Wild Card, so I hadn't thought of my extra consonant. I decided on G, but even an extra letter couldn't help me. My heart dropped when Vanna didn't move toward the letters, and I panicked for about half of my time. How could I possibly solve with only two letters?! Then all of a sudden the last word clicked and the puzzle solved itself in my mind. I couldn't tell you why or how I got there. Pat was surprised and I was in utter disbelief at myself; however, I think my Mom was the most excited person in that studio. Before I realized I had just WON Wheel of Fortune, and before Pat could open the prize envelope, Mom appeared next to me ready to celebrate! I think this surprise even caught Pat off guard, but it was such a funny moment. I barely had time to process what I had won, but it didn't really matter - this whole game, culminating in amazing celebration and applause, had been a lifelong dream come true! As the show closed, I told Pat and Vanna how thankful I was to be there, after being so crushed about not making College Week months before - we all agreed that things worked out pretty well for me despite the delay.
Keeping my show success a secret since September was tough but it's great to share with all of you now. The excitement has me more wound up than... well... a WIND-UP TOY!