West Teays teacher appears on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ episode
West Teays Elementary School ESL teacher Rachelle Williams took a few spins on the oversized wheel, bought a few vowels, deduced some puzzle solutions and won runner-up honors on the long-running television game show “Wheel of Fortune” recently.
Williams’ “Wheel of Fortune” appearance was telecast Dec. 4, locally on WSAZ-TV. She came in second to episode winner Angela Pinkas, a Virginia woman who netted a grand prize of around $36,000 in cash plus a trip to France.
The third contestant (who failed to solve a single puzzle during the half-hour show) was New Orleans concert photographer Zack Luther.
Williams lives in Hurricane with her husband, Justin. She said her recent “Wheel of Fortune” appearance was her second “go-round” at endeavoring to be on the game show.
“My journey to ‘Wheel of Fortune’ started way back in 2012,” she said. “I heard that the Wheelmobile was coming to my area, and, being the game show lover that I am, I had to be there. Not long after that Wheelmobile event, I received an email invitation to a final closed audition. I made it through the written tests and final cuts that day and was told I would receive a letter within two weeks if I was picked to be a contestant. Sadly, I never received a letter.”
Earlier this year, Williams saw a Facebook posting that the Wheelmobile was returning to the area to audition potential contestants.
“I called some family members,” she said, “and we made a beeline to the casino where it was being held, to get another chance. Plus, the first Wheelmobile event was so much fun I knew it would be a good time regardless of the outcome.
“Luck must have been on my side, because I got another final closed audition date after that Wheelmobile event. Again, they told us we would receive a letter in the mail in two weeks if we were picked to be a contestant.
“Two weeks came and went and I didn’t receive a letter,” said Williams. “Toward the end of the third week, I went to get the mail out of the mailbox and sticking out of a bunch of junk mail flyers was a little white envelope with a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ logo in the top corner. I completely flipped out. I made the cut this time and was actually going to be a contestant on one of the most legendary game shows of all time.”
She said her entire time from arriving at Sony Studios in California during the second week of November for the taping of the show until she left was “completely surreal.”
“I got to have my make-up professionally applied by the studio make-up artists in a real dressing room. While we were going over rules and getting ready, Vanna White came in to greet us and wish us luck. She was in her jeans with no make-up on and her hair pulled up in a ponytail, and she still looked gorgeous.
“I got to shake [host] Pat Sajak’s hand and spin the iconic wheel. The contestant coordinators did a phenomenal job getting us ready for our big moment. They made sure we were comfortable calling out letters and spinning the wheel. During our taping, they encouraged us and really pumped us up in between each round while they were changing out wheel prizes. They truly wanted everyone to have fun and win.”
Being a longtime game-show buff, Williams said her on-air experience was a dream come true for her.
“The actual taping went by so fast,” she said. “Most of it was just a blur of excitement. I knew the first toss-up puzzle almost immediately but didn’t ring in fast enough. I would get into a rhythm spinning and calling letters and then I would call a wrong letter or get a bankrupt, but, through it all, I continued to smile and giggle from the pure joy and excitement of just playing the game.
“On one of the last puzzles, the stars finally aligned and I managed to solve it.
“I walked away with $2,700 and the experience of a lifetime. I may not have been the big winner on my episode, but the way I look at it, I hit the jackpot just by getting the opportunity to be a contestant on ‘Wheel of Fortune,’” Williams said.