Monica P's Blog Post
To say becoming a contestant on Wheel of Fortune was a dream come true is an understatement. I originally auditioned back in 2012 and I made it to the second round of auditions, but never received a letter of congratulations to say I had been chosen. I was SO disappointed! But, fast forward to June 2018 when the Wheelmobile came back to Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes, WV, and THAT is where this wonderful journey began!
My mom and I both went to the audition, and she actually made it up on stage. I did not. Since I had been through this step before, I knew it was a waiting game to see if I was chosen for the second audition. Weeks passed, then the email arrived! I had been selected to participate in the second round of auditions. I was so excited! When I got to the audition, there were about 65 of us in the room, and the excitement was high. I made it through to the second portion of that audition, along with a small group of others. I felt pretty good about my performance but next came the excruciating waiting game. We were told if we had been chosen we would receive a letter in the mail in two weeks. TWO WEEKS!!! This is where the nerves kicked in. Did I make a good impression? Did I do well enough? I knew it would be a torturous eternity, I mean two weeks, until I knew. Surprisingly however, while I was at my son’s soccer practice later that afternoon, my phone rang. It wasn’t a number I recognized but I answered. It was Jackie from Wheel of Fortune! And guess what? She said I had been chosen to be a contestant! Wait, WHAT?!?! I was in disbelief!! She was offering me the opportunity to be on a show that was to be taped in two weeks. It was happening so quickly! I didn’t even know if I could make that happen. So, she told me if I couldn’t make that taping there would be other opportunities. I was torn. This was my dream! But it really wasn’t a good time for me. I was afraid though, that I wouldn’t get chosen again if I didn’t go. She reassured me that it was fine and that I would receive another request if I passed on this one. Afraid as I was, I trusted her and declined the offer.
About three weeks later I received an email offering me the opportunity to come for a taping, but due to my school schedule I couldn’t accept that offer either. Have I lost my mind?!? This is at the top of my bucket list and I’m declining the opportunity to go! I’ve definitely got a few screws loose, right?
Another two weeks go by and I received another email offering me yet another opportunity to fly out for a taping. The theme for the week was Secret Santa. Seriously? I LOVE Christmas and the idea that I could play not only for myself but to give someone else an opportunity to win was amazing! I checked my schedule and it worked as far as school was concerned, so after talking to my husband, we decided this was it! I emailed back and accepted the offer. Talk about walking on Cloud 9!! It was really going to happen!!
Things went by pretty quickly for the next two weeks, just trying to get everything ready. Then came the day we were to fly out, which was the day before the taping. I could barely contain my excitement! I had never been to Los Angeles, and I was going to get to be on the Wheel! I was worse than a young child at Christmas!
The morning of the taping began with a chatter filled shuttle ride from the hotel to the studio. Once we arrived, the whirlwind began. Everyone was super nice, but we had so many things to do the time just flew by. There were 5 shows being taped that day, so there were 15 contestants, as well as 1 alternate. The contestant coordinators coached us on everything they could in order to help us do well on the show. We had lots of information being thrown at us, but one thing that they continued to repeat to us was, “it’s not over until it’s over,” so that if we weren’t doing well, we wouldn’t get discouraged. They also repeatedly encouraged us to buy vowels and keep an eye on the used letter board. We had a surprise visitor when Vanna stopped in to say hi and wish us well! I’m not one to be star struck, but I thought that was extremely nice of her, and it was very exciting to meet her.
When the time came to go learn to spin the wheel, we filed out into the studio and oh my gosh! It was so beautiful! It was almost overwhelming to me because it became so very real in that moment. I was standing in front of the Wheel! The same Wheel I had watched since I was a little girl and here I was, preparing to get on that stage and play the game I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. We taped our hometown howdies, had our pictures taken for our announcement photos, and of course, learned how to spin. We were coached to speak loudly, watch the used letter board, and watch the wheel. It’s so different from watching at home, when you only watch the tv. There was so much going on!
During the course of the morning, we also found out which show we would appear on, and in which position we would stand. I was going to be on the last show of the day, the fifth show, and my position would be red, which is the first position – right next to Pat! No added pressure there!
It was finally time to begin taping, so the 3 people who were chosen for the first show went out to their positions and the rest of us went up to be seated in a designated area of the studio audience. It was great to be able to watch the taping take place. Pat and Vanna came out, all the lights were on, cameras were moving, and 3 of my new friends were in the spotlight. We collectively cheered on our peers and were upset for them when things didn’t go well. As the day and the shows continued, it seemed that the person who had been standing in my position, red, had not been doing as well. Once that became apparent, my nerves kicked into overdrive. Three shows were taped, then we broke for lunch. Only one show stood between me and my opportunity. As I sat in the audience for the fourth show, I was nervous and anxious, but I tried to stay focused and not let those get the best of me.
Finally, it was my turn! They touched up our makeup, reassured us, reminded us of things that would help us, and onto the stage we went. Even though I had watched Pat and Vanna come out for each of the previous shows, it was exciting to watch them walk out towards us. Within seconds, Pat would be standing right next to me!
The first toss-up did not go my way. I knew the second word, but had not figured out the first word in time to be the first to ring in. That’s ok. More puzzles to come. We did our introductions and although I had rehearsed mine and sailed through it in practice, when Pat was actually speaking to me, I forgot to just continue speaking. I answered his questions but that didn’t go quite as planned. So much for not letting my nerves get to me.
Time for the second toss-up. This time I was the first to ring in and just like that, I had $2,000. Whew. That’s better. Now comes my first opportunity to spin. I did as I was taught, and I am pleased to say I didn’t fall over or screw it up in any way! During that first puzzle I was able to secure the Wild card, but I called a letter that wasn’t in the puzzle and it didn’t get back around to me.
The second and third puzzles also didn’t go well for me. The third toss-up comes and after a few letters I know it and buzz in. Unfortunately, I was a split second to slow, so I didn’t get to solve it either. So, here we are, rapidly approaching the end of the regular rounds and I was doing exactly what we had been coached not to do – I was getting discouraged. There is only time for one more puzzle and the bell sounds to let us know it will be a speed round. But then something wonderful happens. Pat spins the wheel and lands on the $5,000 space so consonants will be worth $6,000! My mood lifts. I could possibly wind up with more than the $2,000 I currently had. On my first turn I found a letter that appeared twice! $12,000! I didn’t know it yet, though. It was way too early. I figured it wouldn’t get back to me because my opponents were good, but I hear Pat again telling me to call a letter. I found two more letters! But I still wasn’t sure what it was. Three seconds isn’t much time, but a light bulb came on and I called out “Spicing things up.” He said that was right and Vanna filled in all the letters! I did it! I won more than my $2,000! What I didn’t realize at that moment was that I had actually won enough to go to the bonus round. When I looked at the board and the realization hit, I don’t remember exactly what I did, or what noise I made, but I do remember Pat asking if I was ok. Yep. I’m way more than ok! I have $26,000 now and I’m going to the bonus round!!
I got to introduce my family, spin the tiny wheel, hold Pat’s hand, and walk to my designated spot. Once all the R, S, T, L, N, and E letters had been filled in, I had to call my choices. I had no idea what the puzzle was at this point, so I called 4 random letters. Nope. Still no idea. The clock is ticking and my heart is going to explode. I kept looking from the puzzle to the used letter board and out of nowhere I say, “Worlds apart.” Once again, Pat tells me I’m right and all the remaining letters get filled in. I’m overwhelmed. Now the anticipation of what’s on that little card… Pat opens it and it’s $45,000!!! I just won a total of $71,000!!! I remember seeing my husband run toward me and I know we hugged, and then I hugged the rest of my family, but it’s kind of a blur. I know I had tears streaming down my face and I just couldn’t believe it! I had done it! I was so proud of myself!
They gave me a few minutes to pull myself together, then it was time to stand and talk to Pat and Vanna. I was still in disbelief. Pat talked about how quickly I had gone from only $2,000 to $71,000, and it definitely seemed surreal. This whirlwind adventure ended better than I could have ever imagined! It was such an amazing experience and I am forever grateful to everyone who was involved in this process, especially the contestant coordinators who constantly reminded us to check that used letter board and not get discouraged. You made all the difference in the world!