Camille H's Blog Post
Like many contestants, my three sisters and I grew up watching Wheel of Fortune with my parents. My parents are both quite good at solving puzzles, so each night we would all watch intently and try to be the first to shout out the answer. Because of those memories, Wheel of Fortune has long been one of my favorite shows, and it has always been a sort of far-fetched dream of mine to one day appear on the show.
In mid-December, just as I was headed back to San Antonio from Austin where I’m a graduate student, my mom informed me that the Wheelmobile was coming to San Antonio, and she asked if I wanted to go with her to audition for the show. So, one Saturday morning, my mom and I went and lined up with other Wheel enthusiasts, hoping to be called onto the stage. While at the event, my mom and I met up with my Godfather (or Godpoppy, as my sisters and I call him) who always said Wheel of Fortune was one of his favorite shows, and he too deeply hoped to make it onto the show. We stood in line and listened as the announcers called the names of the people who were being drawn out of the huge basket of entries. I remember I was wearing heels, but I’d brought some back-up flats just in case, and at one point I said, “I think I’m going to change into my flats.” My mom said, “As soon as you take off your heels, they’ll call your name.” Sure enough, no sooner had I put my flats on did I hear, “Camille Hall!” I was so excited! I ran up to the stage, got to introduce myself, sang a few lines of a Christmas song (having listed singing as one of my hobbies), and I got to play a version of the speed round of Wheel on stage with a few other people who had been picked. I called a few good letters, but I wasn’t the one to solve the puzzle. It was a blast! My mom and Godpoppy’s names didn’t get drawn, but they were both unbelievably happy for me.
Next came the waiting game. After the Wheelmobile audition, I wondered if I would be chosen for a callback. Toward the end of February, I got just the news I’d been awaiting. I had been chosen for a callback in San Antonio! I was elated. Devastatingly, just five days after I received my email about the callback, and just a week before the callback was to take place, I got the earth-shattering news that my Godpoppy, Jodie, had passed away very suddenly from a heart attack. His family and mine were beside ourselves, as he was an amazing man and like a second father to my sisters and me. It was from that time on that I felt I was no longer striving to be on Wheel just for myself. I would be playing for my Godpoppy too, and it all meant so much more because of that.
The audition was certainly a bit nerve-racking, to say the least. It took place at a downtown San Antonio hotel, and there were about 50 people in my callback group. After taking turns playing the game and completing a timed written test, I was pleased to make it through the first cut. There was lots to remember, smiling, excitement/energy, projecting, keeping the flow of the game—just lots! It’s definitely a lot tougher than playing at home. Toward the end of our time at the callback, the contestant coordinators told our group that they had three open slots for tapings the next week and that they would take a few minutes to choose three of us that would be flying out to be on the show in just one week’s time. When the coordinators came back a few minutes later, I couldn’t believe that they called my name as one of the three! I was on cloud nine.
I was blessed that my mom, Cathy, and two of my sisters, Cabrielle and Chelsea, were able to travel with me to Los Angeles for the show. The night before the taping, I played the Wheel of Fortune game on my phone, and I truly think it helped with my preparation. One of the most memorable things about my experience was how great it was to meet and interact with all of the other contestants (there were 20 of us together in total, as Wheel tapes six shows in one day). I first met some of the contestants when I got on the shuttle from our hotel the morning of the taping, and I just loved hearing all about their audition experiences and their lives back home. It was tons of fun!
When we arrived at the studio, it was sort of surreal. Seeing the Wheel and the puzzleboard in person was super exciting! We even got to meet Vanna early on as we toured the studio, and she was kind, smart, and even more beautiful in person! What struck me as the day went on was just how amazing all those who work on the show truly are. From the contestant coordinators, Gary, Jackie, and Alex, who encouraged us and helped us practice throughout the day, to Shannon who helped us go through lots of paperwork and reminded us of the rules, to John, the awesome stage manager, and the amazing make-up artist who cheered me on during each break, they were all unbelievably kind, and I’m so grateful for their hard work.
Mine was the last taping of the day, so it was good to get to watch my fellow contestants play and to root them on. Meeting Pat was great too! He was funny and very witty, just like the Pat I’ve watched on TV for so many years. It was all a bit of a whirlwind, going by much faster than I could have ever imagined, but everything about it was wonderful. To those who think like I once did, that getting onto the show is a long shot, I say, go for it! You have nothing to lose!
I had the time of my life, and although the phrase is overused, my experience on Wheel of Fortune was nothing short of a dream come true. I am unbelievably grateful for it all. Throughout the day, and when it was all over, I thought of my Godpoppy. I knew he would have been in the audience cheering me on if he could. I felt confident that I’d made him very proud playing the game he loved, and there’s nothing better than a feeling like that!