Allyson G's Blog Post
February 24, 2014
Since I was a little girl, my parents and I tuned in and played along to see who could solve the puzzles the quickest. More recently, we played Wheel of Fortune on the PlayStation 3. One time, a PlayStation Network user messaged that I must be cheating because I answered the puzzles too quickly. I did well with puzzles but never imagined I could actually end up on the show. After applying online for 6 years with no success, I had my chance when the Wheelmobile visited Jackson Rancheria in August 2013. My mom called me the same day to make sure that I was going to the audition.
Although my fiancé and I had plans to train with Martial Artist Legend, Dan Inosanto, I knew I could not pass up on Wheel of Fortune. While my fiancé went to train, I called my parents for help. My parents picked me up and just like watching and playing together, we made our way to Jackson for Wheel of Fortune. There were hundreds of people in that packed room hoping for the opportunity to play. We filled out short applications to be randomly drawn from, my biggest obstacle, the Wheel of Fortune Gold Drum. Only five people are chosen per group and only 6-8 groups get called for an hour-long mock show. The first show, while fun to watch, came and went without my name called. We went right back in line, filled out another application, and filed our way back into the same room for the 2nd show. And then we did the same for the final show of the day. At this point, I felt the odds were tipped against me. I felt that I had a better chance here than online but I wasn’t having the best of luck up to that point.
For the last show of the day, it was “by-the-book movie suspenseful” as they finally called my name. Our group gets on stage and it’s time to introduce ourselves to the very entertaining traveling host, Marty. When it’s my turn, I say that I like to sing and I also practice martial arts. I thought he would ask me to demonstrate my singing, as he had done with a lot of other contestants, but he asks me to show him some martial arts moves instead! I show him a flowing arm lock drill and Marty tries to punch me, playfully of course. I counter with my own “kick” and he falls down. I end the demonstration and stop the “fight” with a flurry of punches. Marty gets up and demonstrates a few moves of his own as I back off. While unexpected, this fun opportunity settled my nerves as we move on to the puzzle. While I didn’t solve the speed-up puzzle, I had an amazing time. In my defense, there is a large population of “Sea Divers” as there are “Sky Divers.” Hopefully, I did enough to get the email invitation for the final round of auditions. Marty let us know that we would get an email within the next three months if we are chosen for the final round.
Selection processes can be so nerve-wracking. I checked my inbox and spam every day for two months until I got the email! Once again, my fiancé and I had plans, but he told me to go for it. The audition was 10 days away, so we had to rearrange our plans in a hurry! My fiancé and I share my car so I could not go to final auditions on my own. Learning of the news, my parents were ecstatic and more than willing to take me back to Jackson. I arrived along with about 70 other hopefuls in the room. They called out names one at a time to call out letters and solve the puzzles. I called out an “R” and solved the puzzle, “Chocolate Labrador Retriever.” With this small victory and its thrill, I jumped up and down and even won a Wheel of Fortune tote bag! After I solved the puzzle, there was an announcement by the contestant coordinators. They asked that we make the most out of our turns so they can see how we play. I thought I ruined my chance because I solved it after calling just one letter. Next was the timed written test. We had five minutes to solve as many of the 16 puzzles as possible. It had to be the fastest five minutes of my life. I was confident in 10 of the 16 but wasn’t sure that would be enough. We took a short break and I spoke with my parents in the lobby. I told them that I hope they didn’t see me again too soon because the cut was coming after the break.
The contestant coordinators came back and started calling out the names of the people that made the cut. After about 12 names, I heard mine and let out my most enthusiastic “Woo!” We then played a more intense game in smaller groups of 5. We spun a pretend wheel and introduced ourselves to the coordinators, who by the way are truly amazing at what they do. After the audition, they let us know that if we are selected, we will get a letter in the mail in the next two weeks.
With that, I checked that mailbox every day on the dot. Junk mail, bills, flyers, but no Wheel of Fortune. That familiar despair came every day I didn’t get it. Then, on the last day of the second week, I looked in the mail and saw one single envelope with that familiar Wheel of Fortune logo in the corner. I couldn’t believe I was going to be a contestant on my favorite game show! I emailed Alex, one of the contestant coordinators, the dates that I wouldn’t be available. I gave the month of my wedding in 2015 because I figured it fell within the 18 months to be a contestant and I had no idea how long it would take to get on the show. But I got an email four days later with a taping date! I booked my flight and in one month, my fiancé and I would be on our way to Culver City. I practiced my puzzle-solving skills every day on the mobile app; I wanted to be ready. I played so much that the puzzles were beginning to repeat themselves. I called my best friend and we practiced word associations. I studied songs, classic TV shows, anything, and everything that could be used on Wheel of Fortune. On the plane to LA, I couldn’t use my phone, so my fiancé looked through the in-flight magazine to make puzzles for me to solve.
Maybe it was the trip, but I slept soundly through the night. In the morning however, anxiety rolled over me as I realized that I would be playing on “America’s Game.” To find out what happened next, watch me spin on Monday, February 24th!
February 27, 2014
The shuttle to Sony Pictures Studios was waiting outside of the hotel at 7:15 am. I boarded the shuttle and quickly made friends with my fellow Wheel of Fortune contestants. When we arrived, we were greeted by the contestant coordinators. We gathered in the contestant meeting room, stocked full of snacks and drinks, to go over all of the paperwork and legal details. Next, we went on the set to practice spinning the wheel and calling out letters. I heard that the wheel would be heavy from reading previous blogs. I thought I could prepare by lifting barbells while waiting for callbacks. Even with prior knowledge and those preparations, it was still tough to spin that wheel. You learn something new every day, right?
During rehearsal, we got to meet the lovely Vanna White! She was so sweet to visit and wish us all luck. She reminded us to have a good time and not to be nervous. Seeing her made the experience feel much more real and made me that much more anxious.
As we reviewed the rules of the game, we took turns getting our hair and makeup done. I was so grateful for their wonderful team of hair stylists and make-up artists because I would have been a mess without them! In addition, I felt more at ease with great conversations and great company. Next, we found out who we would be playing with. I had the pleasure of playing with Barbara Jean and Lane. The whole morning I was hoping, “Don’t be the first show of the day. Really, please don’t be the first show of the day.” I wanted to at least watch one show to see how it would flow. As I was with the make-up artist, Lane picks the first show of the day. “Of course I’m on the first show of the day,” I said out loud. I then drew the third position on the podium, unfortunately, the furthest from Pat.
Disclaimer: the events came and went so fast, my memory is hazy. I think it was time for lunch. I remember holding a sandwich 18 inches away from me while attempting to eat. As if I was going to risk spilling all over my shirt! Let’s just say I had to clean up the floor a little. We taped our “Hometown Howdies” for our local stations to air. Afterwards, it was time to practice with toss-up puzzles and go through the actual rounds. Gary was a fantastic fill-in for Pat! Our group was the first one up and I didn’t buzz in first in either of the two toss-up puzzles. I felt a bit dejected, thinking this is how it’s going to be on the actual show. We rotated with our fellow contestants and the “money” from the practice rounds accumulated. At the end, there was about $28k on the blue spot. My name was already set up there for the show. I just looked at how pretty those two looked together. Michael, one of the alternate contestants, and I joked that it would be great if they rolled that amount over!
Soon it was time for our final touches and to get mic’d up before walking onto the set. I can’t believe how fast they ushered the studio audience in. It was surreal walking onto the set ready to go. We stepped up onto the podium and did our last minute practice spins, letter-calling, and buzzer checks. Thankfully, my legs were covered by the podium, because my knees were beginning to shake. Then the music started, prompting Pat and Vanna to enter.
We grab our buzzers and it’s time for the first toss-up. This is where my studying of spa terms helped! I buzz in with “Mineral Springs” and hit my goal to solve at least one puzzle. I get to talk with Pat Sajak first. Backtracking to our plane ride, I asked my fiancé how he wanted me to introduce him. With an opportunity like this, we wanted to shake up the process by using pseudo-superlatives. I decided to use his suggestion of “spectacularly average” but a close second was non-superlative “lovably gullible.” I get the second toss-up - “I’m in the zone” and Pat exclaims that I must be! I start the first round and I immediately hit bankrupt. And then I hit it again. And then again. I didn’t gain control of the wheel again that round, and I’m quickly losing the momentum I’ve built.
During the break, we step off the podium. The contestant coordinators tell us that we’re doing great and they keep us focused and energized. They tell me not to worry and that maybe I was just getting the bankrupts out of the way. They give us water bottles to rehydrate. Hair and makeup do some touch-ups and I remind myself to just have fun with it.
Barbara Jean starts the second round and I get control of the wheel eventually. I spin the wheel and break my bankrupt streak! Yay! I call a couple of letters, pick up the ½ car wedge, do the wave with the sign, and solve the puzzle. To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to spin the wheel because of the luck I had in the first round.
On my first spin of the third round, I land on the ½ car wedge and call a correct letter. I think I forgot to hold it up for the camera because of this focus, this zone I found myself in. Next, I land on the $3500 wedge and call out “N.” Ding. Ding. Ding. Three N’s. $10,500. I didn’t know the first word of the puzzle, there were two vowels available to choose from, and I knew there was a “G” in the last word. But, I had to spin. Again. Bankrupts aside, the Lose a Turn wedge was just as bad. I didn’t want to risk calling the wrong vowel so I reluctantly spun the wheel to get the “G.” There happens to be two and it clicks. “Soothing, serene, setting.” Pat comes up to me and I know I must look shocked. I had no idea how much money I even won in the round because I knew it would all be moot if I didn’t solve it. He asks me which prize I want to hear about first. He mentions something and I just say “Sure!” Turns out, I won a Chevy Sonic and a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands!
I step off the podium not believing what just happened. Everyone is congratulating me and I’m already so overwhelmed even though the game isn’t over. We step back up after I’ve calmed down a bit and I get the last toss-up! Unbelievably, I’ve racked up almost $42,000 in cash and prizes! I don’t solve the last two puzzles and I’m okay with that. I’m very happy that Barbara Jean and Lane get to solve them. In retrospect, I definitely agree with the coordinators. It isn’t you against the other contestants; it’s you against the wheel. In the end, you really do root for the people you play with and hope that they do well.
Next thing I know, I’m going to the bonus round. I see them lead my fiancé, Alex, and our friend, also named Alex, to the middle of the audience. They ask me if Pat can hold my hand leading me to the puzzle and I say “Of course!” I make sure I don’t trip on the wires, and I spin the bonus wheel - which is much lighter! We walk closer to the puzzle board; the category is Thing. “R” is the only letter that comes up. I call C, D, P, and O. Four more letters light up and I’m pretty sure I know it. I will always remember “Body of Work.” Pat opens up the envelope and it has $40,000! My fiancé runs onto the set and lifts me up and spins me around. I remember telling him that I was getting dizzy; we went around for what felt like 8 rotations, it might have been 10.
I taped the credits segment with Pat and Vanna. I can’t even remember everything I said to them; it’s all a bit of a blur. I know they asked about the wedding and said I was going to have an exciting life with my fiancé. I told them how it was so great to meet them and they were both so very nice.
All in all, I won $81,999 in cash and prizes! Most of it will go into savings for the future. At 25 years old, I have no idea what this kind of money even looks like.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to be on Wheel of Fortune. The entire staff was incredible and it takes a lot of great people to make the show what it is. The contestant coordinators are truly dedicated to making each and every one of us feel at ease and making sure we’re all having a good time. Because of the dedication of the Wheel of Fortune team, I felt like a celebrity that day. Thank you Alex, Jackie, Shannon, Gary, and everyone else who makes this show possible! This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget and will forever cherish!