Maxine H's Blog Post
My Wheel Of Fortune journey all started with my daughter. I had always been a fan of the show and watched it for years. My daughter, Jenny, noticed that I seemed to have a habit of solving all the puzzles well before any of the contestants did. She would always comment that I should try out for the show. I brushed it off as a far-fetched fantasy until Jenny excitedly came to me with the news of the Wheelmobile coming to town that weekend. She convinced me to go, insisted on dressing me for the audition and coming with me.
The Wheelmobile had come to a nearby town about 30 minutes away at the Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino. We got there fairly early, but hundreds of people were already lined up ahead of us in front of one of the large nightclub facilities onsite. Once we got inside, the line of people snaked all the way up to an enormous stage and audience area. Standing in the line with Jenny, I really enjoyed watching others have their turn onstage solving puzzles and interacting with the folks from the show who played “Pat and Vanna” for the day. I’d mentally prepared myself to wait for several hours just hoping my name would be picked, so I was FLOORED when my name was called in just the second round!! I expected to be nervous, but I was pretty comfortable onstage in front of hundreds of the other Wheel hopefuls in the audience. I chose a few letters but did not solve the puzzle. I was then called to the microphone with the “Pretend Pat” to do a little interview. I must have done something right because fast-forward to four months later, the email came: I had been selected for the final auditions!
The final auditions were VERY different; only about 50 finalists were invited to a nearby hotel in Downtown Miami. We were all encouraged to arrive early, which ended up being wonderful for me, because while we waited, I made friends there that I am still in touch with to this day. The group audition was run by the AMAZING production staff, who were friendly, professional and kept us energized throughout the day - I probably never clapped so much in my life and my cheeks were actually sore from smiling so much! We played a few rounds of puzzle-solving before they gave us a timed, written test. Based on our test scores, they eliminated about half the room. I was thrilled to make the cut. Hearing my name called every time there was an elimination gave me hope and kept me motivated to do my best. Eliminations continued until we were down to only a handful of people. We were told that if we’d been selected for the show, we’d be notified.
Soon, I got an email inviting me to be a contestant on the show in a couple of weeks! It wasn’t much time to prepare or practice, but I already had the Wheel Of Fortune mobile app on my phone, so I stepped up my playing time to get in some extra preparation. The night before the show taping, I packed my bags and got on a plane from Miami to Los Angeles. The morning of the show, I headed downstairs and met some of the other contestants. A driver was waiting to take us all to Sony Studios, on the way there, we all shared stories and bonded almost immediately. The production staff kept all of us together, the show records the entire week of episodes in one day.
For a lifelong fan of Wheel Of Fortune, being on the Sony lot and on set was nothing short of surreal. Seeing the famous Wheel, the puzzle board, the cameras and lights: I was EXCITED! We were gathered around the Puzzle Board when Vanna White herself walked by to greet us. She looked so beautiful in person and was very sweet.
As Vanna left to get into her wardrobe, hair and makeup, so did we. After a little more paperwork, some practice rounds at the Wheel (which is REALLY heavy), recording our Hometown Howdies and doing a quick photo shoot around the Wheel, we began to tape the show. We drew numbers for our spot around the Wheel and I got the first spot right next to Pat Sajak. I was so nervous at first, that I barely remember what I said during the on-camera introductions. Being on the show is so much more fun than watching it at home, but it goes by very quickly. The production staff: especially Gary, Shannon and Jackie, are a phenomenal team. They treated us really well between rounds, keeping us excited and handling any little thing that came up to ensure we were enjoying ourselves. I was so focused on trying to solve the puzzles and playing well, that the audience, cameras and lights really faded into the background, but I tried my best to enjoy every moment.
After I finished taping my show, I went into the audience to watch a few more tapings and cheer on my awesome fellow contestants. There was a break between tapings when Pat and Vanna were on set recording commercials and promo spots for different things. I was most impressed when they filmed a personal message for a Children’s Hospital that had won a large donation from a Secret Santa promotion connected to the show. I was proud to know that the show does so much to give back to the community.
If you decide to audition, whether you send in a video or go to a Wheelmobile casting, my best advice is to be yourself and just GO FOR IT! I encourage you to show your enthusiasm, energy and don’t hold anything back, standing out in a good way WILL get you noticed. If you do get chosen to be a contestant, it’s okay to just relax and enjoy the moment: buy vowels and SPIN, SPIN, SPIN. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience, you will make great memories, meet wonderful people and have a great and unique story to tell forever!