Vanna White is known for her sparkly dresses and letter-turning capabilities, but she’s so much more than that — and Wheel of Fortune finally gave her the chance to prove what she’s made of.
While everyone loves Pat Sajak, it’s his sidekick Vanna who really makes the popular game show what it is. She started the gig back in 1982, replacing model Susan Stafford. While she’s acted a bit here and there, Wheel of Fortune has been her main gig since. The spot even earned her an honor on the Hollywood Walk of Fame back in 2006. Much like Alex Trebek is to Jeopardy, both Vanna and Pat are the heart of Wheel of Fortune.
So it makes sense that Vanna was the first choice to sub for Pat Sajak after the host underwent emergency surgery for a blocked intestine.
And who replaced Vanna? Minnie Mouse, which made it one of the most memorable shows in Wheel of Fortune history. Contestants were even understanding when Vanna flubbed a little bit. Hey, she may have been on the set all these years, but she hasn’t actually spun the wheel before.
One of those errors happened during the last puzzle, when Vanna had to give the wheel a signature final spin. She lost her place as to what the denomination was and initially thought she landed on Bankrupt, which would require her to spin again. “Oh no! I’m looking at the wrong arrow,” she exclaimed, joking, “How do you do this show?”
Vanna also commented on the heaviness of the wheel. It’s something that a lot of The Price Is Right fans can also attest to. That thing needs to last a long time, thus it’s much heavier and more complex than you might assume from just watching it on television. Still, the thought of Vanna never getting the chance to spin the wheel after a taping is a little disappointing.
Vanna had a lot of reasons to be nervous. For one, the audience knows her — but she mostly just speaks during the closing credits, chatting with Pat about the show and any sort of promotion ahead. This was the first time that all eyes were on just her, and there must have been a lot of pressure involved.
The show initially taped in November. While they had to cancel one show’s taping, Vanna felt comfortable stepping in to give it a shot. Vanna made sure to let her good friend Pat know that no matter what, his job was safe for when he felt healthy enough to return. (Well, probably.)
According to People, Vanna and Pat have only gotten into one fight throughout the entire time they’ve worked together. That said, the issue was pretty serious. The two couldn’t decide whether or not it was OK to put ketchup on a hot dog. Pat seems to be a mustard-only fan, while Vanna prefers both ketchup and mustard.
Vanna’s first show was definitely star-studded. It had a Disney theme, and aside from Minnie —who was trying her hardest to emulate the great Vanna White herself — some other notable characters showed up. Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald made sure to add some smiles to the set.
It makes sense to be a little curious about Vanna White. While so many of us grew up with her, not many of us know a lot about her. She has two children — a son named Nicholas and a daughter named Gigi. Both were with her husband George Santo Pietro, whom she ended up divorcing in 2002.
She was engaged again in 2004 to a businessman named Michael Kaye. But the relationship fizzled a few years later. The two never made it down the aisle. She’s very happy these days with boyfriend John Donaldson. While the two aren’t officially married, they feel like they might as well be. “At this point, I feel like I am married. Everything is so good, there’s no reason to change anything,” Vanna said to Closer Weekly.
That’s one of the reasons why Vanna is somewhat of a role model. She’s the type of woman who knows what makes her happy and doesn’t necessarily feel the need to change much — which is likely why she has no plans to ever leave Wheel of Fortune. In her eyes, the staff is like family.
Pat had a successful surgery, and he let his fans know what the Wheel of Fortune schedule would be like. Vanna will be in charge for a couple of weeks, which means that by the end of her run, she’ll be a pro. Spinning that wheel will suddenly become second nature.
Due to the show, she’s developed quite a fan base. Since many of us grew up watching her on Wheel, wearing a different dress every day yet looking lovely in every choice she made, it’s almost like she’s part of our family as well. In an interview with The Believer magazine, she made it clear that she was a big fan of the show before she even got the chance to audition for it.
“Before I moved to Los Angeles, I watched Wheel of Fortune. I even wrote in to be a contestant on the show,” she said. “And they wrote back and said if you’re ever in Los Angeles, give us a call and you can come in and audition. Little did I know that many years later I would be coming in to audition to be the hostess on the show.”
She also admitted that her dress choice is all on her. “The only decisions that I make are the clothes that I wear,” she said. “The designers send the clothes to the studio. I try on probably forty gowns at one time. And we do six shows in one day—two days, usually every other Thursday or Friday, so out of those forty gowns, we pick the top twelve that we’re going to wear and I wear them and then they go back to the designer.”
Who knows if she ever thought she’d get a chance to host? Even though it’s so great that Vanna has had the opportunity to step up and prove that she’s more than just a letter turner, surely the opportunity was a bit strange without Pat around. After all, their incredible chemistry was reportedly one of the reasons why Vanna got the job in the first place.