This Week's Contestant
POSTED on Monday, September 30th, 2013
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Shelly, from Denton, TX. She was a “Wheel Watcher” for as long as she could remember. There were many times that she would get frustrated with her father whenever he would shout out the answers as they watched every evening...she wanted a shot too! Some of her favorite childhood memories with her Grandmother were Wheel memories. Once, she even told her Grandmother that she was going to go on the show and win her a hot air balloon ride! Little did she know that one day her fairy tale would become reality and she would have a shot at standing behind that railing and reaching to spin the heavy Wheel!
I was that young girl with dreams of standing next to Pat and Vanna, and YES, my fairy tale did come true!
I am a teacher with a 40 minute commute. I do lots of thinking, singing, lesson planning and have lots of interesting phone calls on that drive. One day during my drive, I noticed a billboard announcing the arrival of the “Wheelmobile” to Dallas just before Thanksgiving. I thought, “Why not? I could at least give it a try!” So my daughter and I showed up to Southfork Ranch (yes, the one from “Dallas” the TV show) on a beautiful Saturday in November. I wasn’t exactly sure how the process would work, but soon realized it was a lottery process. They simply picked names out of a huge drum. If you were lucky, you had a shot with four others to solve a puzzle on stage. There were three sessions that day. During the middle of the second session, my daughter started getting restless...she is only 9. I promised if I didn’t get called, we would go and not stay for the last session. 10 minutes later, I heard my name, jumped out of my seat, screamed at the top of my lungs and hit the guy next to me in the head (on accident)! Everyone working the event gave very specific instructions...be energetic, be loud, speak clearly, have fun, so that is exactly what I did! We were told that we would receive an e-mail within 4-5 weeks if we were chosen for a closed audition. I really didn’t think much of it until I opened my e-mail on Christmas Eve and there was my gift! I had been invited to a closed audition!
The next month, I prepped...playing word games (not only Wheel) on my smartphone, interviewing myself in the mirror, reading anything I could find on the internet about what a closed audition would be like and what was expected. Everything I read said the same thing...be prepared to play a game, take a written quiz and if you make it through that stresshave something clever to say about yourself. I also found a recurring theme, “Do exactly what the contestant coordinators say!”
So I showed up for my audition feeling fairly prepared...until I saw the other 70 or so people that were there with the exact same mission I had. I survived the first round of game play and even won a cool shirt for solving a puzzle. Now time for the quiz! Let me say, that was the fastest five minutes! I solved several puzzles and had several partial answers (the coordinators said to fill in as much as possible, so I did). After a short break the staff made the big announcement...If your name was called, you were supposed to stay. If not, thanks for coming and keep watching our show. I knew from all of that internet prep work that they would only keep about 20 people for the final round. So as the names started rolling, I started counting. The closer we got to 20, the faster my heart raced. Finally at number 17 (I think), I heard my name! In the final step of the audition we played rounds of the game. We were also asked to do a mock “Pat Chat”, what we would say to Pat Sajak during our introduction. I mentioned that I was a mascot in my earlier years (which explained my exuberant enthusiasm) and that in Texas we like to wear our hair big. You know... “The higher the hair, the closer to God”. I definitely felt like I needed God by my side at that moment! I was so excited when my spin landed on $5000 and I got to call a “Z” to solve Twilight and Parking Zone! I did exactly what I read in my internet studiesI acted like I just won real money!
We were told that we would receive a letter within two weeks if we were chosen as a contestant. Even more waiting...
After 12 days, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was not chosen. After all, there were lots of great people at my audition. We all wanted the same thing. The worst part was going to work at my school day after day and having to hear “Did you get the letter?” every time I turned a corner. Then, on the thirteenth day, I went to my mailbox and I am sure every neighbor within a mile radius looked out their window to see what crazy lady was screaming at the top of her lungs! I ran in the house, and completely out of breath whispered to my daughter, “Look what came today.” There were crazy dances of joy, lots of jumping and hugging and giggles. A picture immediately went out to social media networks letting all of my friends know that I finally got my letter! The next day at school, I found a magnificent cake congratulating me (thank you Mrs. Lucy). Everyone wanted to know what was next. I proudly told them, “I wait!” My letter said I could be called anywhere between the next few weeks up to 18 months! Luckily, my wait was only going to be about four months.
I received a call from Alex from the contestant department. They wanted me to appear on Teachers’ Week! AAAAGGGGHHHH! “Can you fly out in three weeks?” My reply, “OF COURSE!” From that point on, everything went so fast. What was I going to wear? After reading through my packet, my wardrobe choices were terribly limited. And although, I was told “no crazy or bold prints”, I went for it anyway.
The morning I arrived at Sony Studios, I was surprisingly quiet and reserved. Yet again, everyone was there for the same reasonto make dreams come true. I was terrified that I would let my family and friends down and not be a big winner or maybe not a winner at all! I couldn’t embarrass myself! As we walked through a hall of Wheel memorabilia, I could NOT believe that I was really here! It was truly an indescribable feeling. Once all of the legal housekeeping was complete, we had a chance to spin the wheel, have hair and make-up done, practice calling letters, and had some incredible pep talks from the contestant coordinators! One of the make-up artists told us, “Don’t ever give up. Even if you think you are out of the game, remember that this game can change in seconds with a spin of the wheel.” I really took that advice to heart.
Before I knew it, I was behind that railing wearing a blue oval nametag and waiting to spin that wheel. I felt so prepared after all of the morning’s activities that I wasn’t nervous at all...just truly, beyond belief excited.
Be sure to watch me on October 2nd to see if my fairy tale ends with a “happily ever after...”