Jackie D's Blog Post
One of my earliest and best memories is visiting my great grandparents and watching Wheel of Fortune. We enjoyed playing Wheel together from home and venturing guesses at the puzzles with only one or two letters showing. From the time I learned to read, I have loved puzzles, word games and game shows. When I heard that the Wheelmobile was coming to a nearby town in search of contestants, I knew that I wanted to try out to be a contestant.
The Wheelmobile was in Concho, Oklahoma on September 21-22, 2013. The Contestant Team from Sony Pictures and CBS selected lucky contestants from the audience, five at a time, to appear on stage, give a short interview and play a puzzle-solving game. I arrived on the second day of the event. I knew they were looking for contestants with a lot of energy, so I arrived with great enthusiasm, dressed up, and smiling. I spoke with everyone I met during the wait for the entrance to the audition. Within the first hour of arriving, I was selected to be a contestant on stage. During my interview, I talked about a children’s book I am writing, engaged in a playful banter with the host, Kevin (?), and talked about fun things that I do with my son. Kevin(?) then asked me to sing a song to the audience. I was a little thrown by this, since I am not known for being a good singer. However, I realized that he wanted to know if I was brave enough to do it, not whether or not I could hit the high notes. So, I launched into a pretty bad rendition of “Happy Birthday”, and even received some audience participation. When all five contestants were on stage, we played a mock game of Wheel. When it was my turn, I knew the puzzle, which was “Jumping Jacks” and I solved it to win my round. I then did several jumping jacks for good measure to demonstrate what a fun contestant I would be if chosen for the show. Following the Wheelmobile event, the audience was advised that some of the contestants would be selected to return for a final audition and that those lucky contestants would be notified within about three months.
On January 15, 2014, I received an invitation to attend the second audition. This audition was held on January 23, 2014. Approximately 60 hopeful contestants gathered at the audition for 3 hours to compete for the coveted contestant slots on the show. We were asked to do a short interview, take a written test, and compete against one another in puzzle-solving games. The Contestant Team was looking for enthusiasm, clear speaking voices, smiles, and intelligent letter calling. Most of the contestants were sent home after the written test. I was one of the 20 remaining contestants at the end of the final audition. Of the 20 finalist, we were told we would receive a letter in approximately two weeks if we were chosen to be on the show. I did not receive a letter within the first two weeks, but I continued to hold out hope and to race in unbridled enthusiasm to the mailbox each day in anticipation of the letter.
On February 17, 2014, almost three weeks later, I received the official letter in the mail, stating that I had won a place in the contestant pool. The Wheel of Fortune show tapes 4-5 days per month and schedules are not confirmed until 14 days prior to taping. The letter stated that I would be notified two weeks prior to the taping date, which could be anytime within the next 18 months.
To prepare for the show, I did a lot of shopping in pursuit of the perfect outfit. I also read every contestant blog I could find and I downloaded the Wheel of Fortune app on my iPhone and played enough games to amass over $10,000,000 in player points. I went through every puzzle on the entire app, playing for at least 2 hours per day. My family and friends were incredibly excited for me. My grandpa put an article in his hometown newspaper to announce my selection as a contestant and my husband told every single work associate and client from coast to coast the news.
In mid-April, 2014, I got a phone call from the Wheel asking if I would be available for taping on May 2, 2014. I couldn’t believe how fast everything was happening! Oh the shopping, shopping, shopping! After all the shopping and botox injections, I determined that I better win BIG on the show to justify my upfront expenses.
The night before the taping, I tried so hard to get a good night’s sleep, but I was still staring at the clock watching the minutes tick by when the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. I was so excited about the big day that I didn’t even feel tired. I finally settled on my outfit and went downstairs to meet the other contestants and wait for the shuttle that would take us to the studio. When we arrived, we met with the producers, the contestant coordinators, hair and makeup stylists, and the legal and accounting team. We were taken on a tour of the studio and while the producer was showing us the used letter board, Vanna walked in! She was dressed in jeans and a casual top, with her hair in a bun and little or no makeup on. She was so beautiful, friendly and warm and she greeted all of us with a cheerful smile and funny stories. We continued our studio tour and even practiced playing a few puzzles and spinning the wheel. I was surprised by how difficult it was to spin the wheel. It looks easy on television, but in real life, it was very heavy and awkward. I was so thankful that we practiced, because when the actual show began, there was a lot more to think about!
During the hair and makeup session, I felt incredibly lucky and so thankful to have talented ladies taking care of my appearance. I resolved not to look in a mirror all day long so that I would not get nervous about my looks. I wanted to focus on being smart and I figured that the hair and makeup professionals were amazingly talented and would do a good job.
We were divided into six teams of three for the six shows being taped in the studio that day. Then, one person from each group drew a number to determine which of the six shows we would appear on. My group drew the fourth show of the day. Out of the three contestants, we then drew numbers out of a bag to determine which order we would stand on stage. I drew the number one, so I stood in the first spot, next to Pat Sajak. During the first three tapings, the other contestants were allowed to sit in the audience and watch the show. I was thankful to have a chance to relax and study how the other contestants played the game. Finally, it was time for my show to begin.
We all stood on stage and began with two quick toss up puzzles. It was much more difficult to solve a puzzle on the stage, with two other contestants next to you, a studio audience watching, Pat Sajak within arm’s reach and Vanna smiling from the stage! That’s a lot to think about at once! Once the toss ups were finished, the Pat Chat began. I had a carefully scripted introduction that I planned to follow. However, once I started talking to Pat, it all fell away and I still can’t remember everything we talked about, but I know that it was funny. I had planned for weeks to introduce my husband without using the word “Wonderful” because it seems to be overused by contestants when describing their significant others. However, when Pat asked about my family, guess what popped out of my mouth? I said: “I’m married to my wonderful, wonderful husband Ricky.” I said it not once, but twice! I was so nervous that I thought the pounding of my heart would break my ribs! The puzzles flew by, one after another at an incredible rate of speed, and before I knew it the game was over and I was listening to the audience cheering and enjoying a long chat with Pat and Vanna.
This was the most exciting, memorable experience of my entire life! My advice for future contestants is to have fun, relax, take good care of yourself before the show, play the Wheel of Fortune handheld game on your phone as much as possible before the taping, smile, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience! Please tune in on October 9, 2014, to watch me play.