Christel Tucker was shaking when she received the letter in the mail. She dropped the other mail on the floor. After watching the show with her family her whole life, she would be on Wheel of Fortune.
Now the Renton resident, a flight attendant and graduate of University of Washington, is excited as her episode aired this week, where she won several thousand dollars and a trip to Southern Italy, a combined $27,398 valued prize.
Wheel of Fortune has always been a nightly routine with her parents, grandparents and siblings. She said they all try to be the first person who figures out the puzzle, and shout the answer. Tucker also told her college roommate and others that she’d always wanted to be on the show.
Over the summer, the Wheelmobile had an event in Tacoma. Tucker went with her grandmother on their day off, who both filled out forms and didn’t get called to try out. She thought that was the end of the road, and never imagined it would work out. Then she randomly got an invite-only audition in Seattle, and two weeks later was selected to be a contestant. During these auditions, you introduce yourself, spin a fake wheel, call letters out and attempt practice puzzles. Having watched it her whole life, she felt confident but was “very sure” they weren’t going to pick her.
Tucker was a contestant during the show’s “British Landscapes” week. The week will also be featured on a “Behind the Wheel” webseries that gives an inside look at how the shows came together, available to watch at youtube.com/user/wheeloffortune.
The set was really beautiful and colorful, Tucker said. The “British Landscapes” theme also made her feel oddly comforted and as if she was “made” for that theme, she said. She’s frequently vacationed to London, and enjoyed seeing the displays of scenic destinations. She also enjoyed getting to go through professional hair and makeup.
What most surprised her was the size of the puzzle board. Vanna White is tall, but even seeing it in person is double her height. Tucker said she felt she had to turn her head to see the whole board. The wheel is also heavy and required a few practice spins. Watching on TV, she said you don’ realize all the things contestants need to look at, like a used letter board, the puzzle board and the other contestant’s prize amounts.
Even though it’s a game show, Tucker said the contestants were encouraged to think of each other as possible winners instead of adversaries— what they really compete against is the wheel. But she was the contestant who ended with the most money and moved on to the bonus round. She was very close to winning a green Mini Cooper. She really wanted to win a car, and can’t believe how close she got.
She admitted most of time while filming she can barely remember, from excitement and shock, so she’s excited to learn more about what she won when she watches it at home this week. Tucker filmed her episode in late fall and had to keep her participation under wraps for months, so she’s purposefully not looked at her paperwork of her winnings to help her keep it under wraps.
She said she’s going to be moving soon from her family home in Renton to Austin, Texas, and will use the winnings to help with the costs. She is also excited about her trip to Italy— she’s visited Rome once briefly but this will be a new experience for her. Now she has to decide who to bring with her.
Tucker also said her grandma, the same one who auditioned for the show with her, is a lovely person, and hopes viewers know that even though she forgot to smile and wave when she gets introduced on camera. The show airs weeknights at 7 p.m. on KOMO 4.