A Q&A With EKU’s Wheel of Fortune Contestant

Published on March 19, 2019

A valued member of the Colonel Community recently competed on Wheel of FortuneSusan Rice is an administrative assistant in EKU's College of Education. While she didn’t win her round, she says being on the show was worth every single moment.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I auditioned on a whim, never dreaming I would be picked!”

Her show was taped in November and finally aired on March 12. Over that time, many friends, coworkers and family members asked questions about what the show is like behind the scenes. These are some of the most popular questions and answers:

What was it like to meet Pat Sajak and Vanna White?

Susan Rice: “Vanna White is just lovely! She came into the contestant room early in the morning wearing no make-up, her hair in a ponytail, and yoga attire. With her hands in the air, she said, ‘This is me! The only time you see me ‘like me’ is on the show. Otherwise, this is who I truly am.’ She was very nice and so friendly. During the taping, she took the time to engage the audience and answer any and all questions they asked of her. We learned she drives a Toyota Prius and drives herself to work. Pat Sajak was very nice as well and it was a privilege to meet him. He just isn’t quite as friendly as Vanna.”

Tell us about your time at MGM/Sony Studios.

“We flew to Los Angeles and stayed at a hotel chosen by the studio. A limo arrived to pick me up at the hotel at 6:30 a.m. Driving through the gates of such a legendary studio was surreal. This is the same studio where ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ‘Men in Black,’ and ‘Spider-Man’ were filmed. s a matter of fact, Wheel of Fortune now occupies the same stage used to film ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ It was amazing to sit in the studio and think of all the famous scenes that had been filmed in that very location!

“The taping was a very long, 14-hour day. We began by meeting with an attorney who went over all the legalities, authorizations, non-disclosures and tax information. That was followed by a turn in hair and make-up. Then onto the sound stage!”

What was it like to play the game?

“The actual wheel is smaller than you may imagine. It’s approximately four feet around, but it weighs 2,400 pounds! There are four camera angles on each contestant and three monitors that must be watched during the taping. There is so much going on around you that it’s hard to stay focused on the task at hand — playing the game! I will never again watch the game from home and say ‘Why did that person pick that letter? It’s obviously this letter!’ It’s much harder when you have so much going on around you — nothing at all like sitting on your couch at home.”

What was your favorite part of the experience?

“The entire thing was an incredible experience from beginning to end. It was so much fun to see exactly how the show is run, especially the contestant selection process.

“People try for years to get a live audition to be on the show. I overheard a commercial one night asking people to send in an audition tape to be a contestant. On a whim, I literally pulled my phone out of my pocket and filmed a one-minute audition video and uploaded it to the website. I never thought I would hear from them and didn’t even think about it again. But two weeks later I received a phone call from the producer inviting me to a live audition in Charleston, West Virginia. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was real. But they sent me live audition information via certified mail.

“I took the day off and drove to Charleston. There were approximately 100 people from all over the country in that room — Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburg, Nashville, Atlanta and even Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They were so excited to finally get a live audition and were willing to drive a long distance to be part of it! Some had been trying for six years or more. When people asked me how long I had been trying, some were pretty shocked when I said, ‘Two weeks.’

“Three weeks later, I received another certified letter which began, ‘CONGRATULATIONS! You have been selected to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune!’ It was exciting and humbling at the same time. More than a million people audition each year. Less than 700 are selected.”

Would you do it again?

“Yes! This has been the most exciting and fun experience of my life. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my boyfriend of five years proposed! My friend said to me, ‘First Wheel of Fortune; then, a marriage proposal. What’s next? The lottery?’ I don’t’ know what’s next. I just know that I am extremely grateful and honored.”

You can watch Rice’s episode on YouTube.