Michelle Z's Blog Post
There are no words that could ever fully capture the extraordinary experience of being a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawai`i. It was AMAZING!!! Everyone who watches Wheel of Fortune already knows how fun it is to solve the puzzles at home and to watch Pat and Vanna as they interact with each other and the contestants. So many of us have dreamt of being on the show for decades, since the day of the contestants’ heads in the little circle floating around as they choose prizes with their winnings. I never in my lifetime could have believed that I would be afforded this opportunity to be a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune on my home island, The Big Island of Hawai`i!!! Aloha, and welcome to my experience….and like the entire Wheel of Fortune experience, it just keeps getting better!
I applied to be a contestant online. This included the application, in addition to a video submission. For the video submission, I wanted to wear something comparable to what I wear daily, professionally, or would wear on the show. We did a few takes on the video, as I was not sure what I wanted to share. Do I talk about completing the Honolulu Marathon with a plate and 9 screws in my ankle? My music cd? The details of my family history watching The Wheel? All of the amazing things about our island? I wondered what would set me apart from anyone else. In the end, it was relatively short, I smiled, articulated my name, job, perhaps something else, and that I enjoy playing disc golf….ending the segment with me tossing a disc towards the camera. Application complete and submitted!!!
When I received notification that I was chosen for an interview for the Wheel of Fortune that would be taping at The Hilton Waikoloa Village, I happy danced my way around the house. Of course, I immediately called to confirm that I would attend, and was certain to annunciate in my message! Wow!!! Wow!!! Wow!!!
Audition day arrives, and it was great to arrive a little early and have some moments outside of the Hilton Waikoloa Ballroom to sit in the hallway and “talk story” or chat with other people auditioning. There were people from all around the island. Some people were there as couples or best friends, and others auditioning as individuals. The audition process was everything that I expected it to be. If you read Wheel of Fortune Contestant Blogs, you can see that the audition process is the same everywhere, (as is that feeling of wondering if I did well enough on the written test, wondering if I would make the cut to the next round, and replaying the experience over and over in my head on my drive home?). I was ecstatic for this opportunity!!! While I did not share with many people that I auditioned, I did have two of the cards from the Wheel of Fortune playing card set (yes, they are the circular wheel) placed in my home where I could see them each day. These are cards that I won during the audition by answering a question correctly.
As time passed, I held on to hope that I might make it on the show, but was unsure since I did not hear back for a couple of months. Yes, every day I checked the mail. I kept checking to see if our local news KHON2 had posted anything about contestants being selected. There was nothing. This left me with some hope that I could still be chosen. A few weeks later, I was seeing the packages for the Wheel of Fortune Tickets and hotel room being advertised on television. I had hoped I would have the opportunity to be on the show, but I knew and expressed to my spouse that there were many great people who would also be great contestants on the Wheel of Fortune. I would be happy for them, and remained happy that The Wheel of Fortune was being taped on our Island.
Enter irony-Just when I accepted that it was okay that the contestants were probably chosen, and that I felt I did the best audition I could have done….I receive an email that I was chosen to be on the show!!!!!!!!!! Yes!!! Yes!!! What????? Wow!!!! I am soooooo grateful!!! Wow!!!! Wow!!!! *pause* Is this for real? I then call the producer, and yes, it is for real!!!! Wow!!! Wow!!! I am so grateful!!! I made a few phone calls, but decided I was not going to share about it with many people until the package came in the mail with the tickets, paperwork, rules, etc…. FedEx delivers the package…. Wait, let me make sure this says that it is from Culver City……YES!!!! YES!!! YES!!! Wow!!! Yes the package, the tickets, I will be a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune at the Hilton Waikoloa Village!!!!!!
My friends and family that I told were ecstatic!!! I was ecstatic!!!! I read and re-read (okay, and re-read a few more times, and by a few, I mean probably at least once daily until the actual taping) all of the contestant rules and the information packet. I called to reserve a Contestant Room at the Hilton Waikoloa Village……and the excitement steps up a few notches!!!
While my spouse had the joy of listening to me annunciate letters over the course of months (which is very much appreciated now, as I tend not to mumble at all anymore), I also continued playing the Wheel of Fortune App on a family member’s Ipad, and became very attentive to different details of the Wheel of Fortune as we watched it on television. It was no longer about just solving the puzzle on the couch, but also about the process. I watched the reach and spin of the wheel, I was cognizant of calling more vowels, the annunciation, logical letter choices, etc…
Now we get to the amazing experience of being a contestant. It begins with being a guest at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort. This property is amazing, filled with activities on land and water, multiple pools, incredible art, and spectacular views! The opportunity to enjoy the Kona/Waikoloa Sunset in the evening, see the magnificent seemingly endless Pacific Ocean outside from our lanai, and having the opportunity to enjoy a morning breakfast followed by a swim in one of the pools. It was a great way to take in the beauty of the resort and relax before reporting for the Wheel of Fortune experience of a lifetime. As we met other contestants, we continued talking story about where we were from in the islands, our wardrobes, and our excitement. I kept taking it all in and experienced this tremendous sense of gratitude for this opportunity.
The Wheel of Fortune team members are AMAZING!!!!! From the second I showed up, I felt like I (and all of us) there had an entire crew working to cheer us on, pump us up, and help us all to do well. We reviewed paperwork, had our makeup applied, did hometown howdies for our local television stations, practiced spinning the wheel, etc…. They cheered us on! I felt immensely grateful for everyone who was there and supported the contestants (the audition crew, the make-up crew, sound crew…..the hotel staff, and everyone who prepared us for this moment in time!!!
……and after a day and evening of anticipation….
We walk to the set!!!!!! Wooooooooow!!!!! This is just so amazing. I am a contestant on the outdoor set of Wheel of Fortune at the Hilton Waikoloa Village!!!!!!! I see the amazing crowd filling the bleachers, take in the fresh island air, and think of how grateful I am to have this opportunity. A few times I just looked to the sky with an inside voice thanking God for this. I am ecstatic…..grateful….so ready to enjoy this night! None of us can lose!! We are all here, outdoors on the Wheel of Fortune set at the Hilton Waikoloa with the audience, fellow contestants, palm trees, ocean in the background…..and now enter Pat and Vanna!!!!!!
When the lights are on and the camera rolls, I just cannot believe how incredible this experience feels!!! Of course, the audience roars when a contestant is from the Big Island. I am feeling excited and again, just grateful beyond words!!! Wheel of Fortune Big Island!!!!
This is AWESOME!!!!! I was cheering for my fellow contestants to win, as much as I cheered for myself. There were hugs and high fives!!!! It was a blast!!! It did not matter who won the round. This was about Wheel of Fortune Hawai`i!!!!
In between rounds each contestant had makeup applied and water available. Everyone was so sweet!!! The staff kept telling us all that we were doing a great job!!!! Pat and Vanna, as we all know, are great! I have to say, I had the same experience as many, which is that there are many parts that are a blur. Just being in the moment, taking in and sharing the Aloha, living the dream, spinning the Wheel, calling letters, and oh yes, trying to solve puzzles…it moves quickly.
Mahalo to all of the Wheel of Fortune staff members, the additional local crew, the Hilton Waikoloa Village staff, fellow contestants, the audience, and my family and friends for providing what was one of the most incredible experiences of a lifetime!!!!!
Pat and Vanna, mahalo for being so down to earth and living Aloha. Mahalo for bringing The Wheel of Fortune to our island and sharing some of the diverse experiences and landscapes we have island-wide. Hawai`i is a dream for many, as is being a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune and meeting Pat and Vanna. I appreciate living in paradise and extend a heart-felt mahalo for sharing our home and affording me the opportunity to live the dream!!!
If asked to share words to hopeful contestants, for me, I had to take a chance on a dream. I showed up as my authentic self and had fun. I enjoyed talking story with people at the audition and other contestants on the day of taping. Whether it was during the audition process or prepping the day of the show, I listened to what was being shared. Smile, enunciate, make good letter choices, and have fun!!!!!