Jessica R's Blog Post
The local newspaper mentioned the Wheelmobile was going to visit Las Vegas, so I marked it on my calendar. When the day arrived, I debated attending. Even though I live in Las Vegas, I am not a gambler. I didn’t think the odds were in my favor, but the tiny voice in the back of my brain kept urging me to go, so I decided to release any expectations and just let events unfold. I am still shocked at the big adventure that resulted from my seemingly small choice!
When I walked into the ballroom at Green Valley Ranch, I saw hundreds of people. I really didn’t think I had a shot, but I deposited my name into the raffle drum anyway and sat down in the audience to watch those selected play. I mentally practiced an introduction, just in case I was called, and after about 20 minutes, I heard my name announced. I jumped out of my seat in disbelief! It was thrilling to walk on stage, introduce myself, and play a round. I didn’t solve the puzzle, but I scored a Wheel of Fortune hat and a blinking pin. I figured that was the end of my journey and I was pleased with the experience—I had a story to tell and some swag!
About a month later, after the Wheelmobile audition was just a memory, an email appeared in my inbox, with a heading all in caps: WHEEL OF FORTUNE CONTESTANT AUDITIONS. I had to read the email three times to fully comprehend that I was being invited to a second audition. I didn’t hesitate to RSVP. Regardless of the outcome, it would be another unexpected chapter in my Wheel of Fortune story.
The second audition was a much smaller affair. I appreciated how the casting directors shared information and strategies to be successful. When it was my turn to play, I was presented a fresh puzzle. I called out a “T,” knowing that it was the most common consonant in English—but it wasn’t in the puzzle. Another fresh puzzle was displayed during my second turn. Thinking that it would be unlikely that I would strike out a second time, I called “T” again. No “T” appeared in this puzzle either! As I sat down, I realized I was the only one in the room who hadn’t had substantial time to demonstrate my skills.
Luckily, there was a written test. I felt it was my only hope of showing I could play the game. When I glanced at the pink paper, the answers to the puzzles just appeared before my eyes! I felt on fire! I scribbled in as many solutions as I could and wrote down my best guess for a few others before time expired. After the tests were graded, I was one of a handful of people who were asked to stay a play a few additional rounds. I felt I put forth my best effort. We were told that if we were accepted to be a contestant, we would receive a letter in about one week.
Exactly one week later, I received a letter in the mail with the Wheel of Fortune logo. I ripped open the envelope and couldn’t contain my excitement as I jumped up and down outside my mailbox. The letter mentioned that I could be called anytime within the next two years, so I decided to practice patience and carefully file my letter away. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long. Only a few months passed before I received my invitation to appear on the show.
My friends lent much-appreciated moral support prior to my appearance. One dug out her old-school Wheel of Fortune video game, complete with a mini wheel. During our lunch break, we plugged it into an ancient TV in our office and played to help me prepare. Two other wonderful friends agreed to accompany me to Culver City, to cheer me on if I made it to the bonus round. I adopted a cautiously optimistic attitude. Even if I didn’t solve a single puzzle, I would at least receive a $1,000 consolation prize to pay for our trip. If I won more than that, it would be a delightful surprise.
The preparation and information we received from the Wheel of Fortune staff the day of the show was invaluable. I entered the studio a nervous wreck but felt confident and primed by the time it was my turn to walk on stage. I appeared on the fifth show recorded that day, which gave me plenty of time to watch others play and practice from a distance.
I solved the first Toss Up Puzzle, which was THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Ironically, I had just watched that movie for the first time with the friend who lent me the Wheel of Fortune video game. Solving that first puzzle really boosted my confidence, and from there, the answers to the remaining puzzles just popped into my brain.
My biggest windfall occurred during the Crossword Puzzle Round. I landed on $3,500 and picked a consonant that appeared twice. Pat was helpful and reminded me that I had a Wild Card, and I used that to select another consonant that appeared twice in the puzzle, which revealed the answer to me. I took a breath, read the solution slowing and clearly, and felt a wave of emotion when I saw the dollar amount I had just won. During the break, I glanced at my friends in the audience, who seemed to be as mind-blown as me!
I made it to the bonus round, but not enough letters were revealed to help me solve it. I wasn’t disappointed though! Overall, I won almost $40,000 in cash and prizes, including a trip to San Louis Obispo (my late father’s favorite spot) and Aruba—a real treat for a person who values travel as much as I me. My favorite pair of Maui Jim sunglasses just broke, and ironically, I won a gift certificate for their online store. When I reflect on the experience, it’s as if everything I won was tailor-made for me. Now, I have just enough funds to complete my home renovation. When I look at my new bathroom, I will be reminded daily of Wheel of Fortune!
Even if I didn’t win anything, the experience of appearing on the show is a highlight in my life story (so far!). Before I left the studio, I hugged the casting directors and thanked them for allowing me such a special opportunity that only a few will ever receive. I am forever grateful. If you are debating auditioning, I hope my experience encourages you to try. You truly have nothing to lose!