It takes a certain kind of toughness to survive in showbiz – and a whole lot of magic to make it last. Hear how game show legend Vanna White solved the biggest puzzle of all, turning her career into a ‘wheel’ of a deal, and becoming the face of ‘fortune’ we all admire.
CAT: We are so honoured to have the beautiful (and I do mean beautiful inside and out) and delightful celebrity, Ms Vanna White, co-host of Wheel of Fortune fame, with us here today. Thank you so much for joining us.
VANNA: Thank you for having me.
CAT: You’re here today supporting some very special charities, including Variety, the Children’s Charity and others. But we’re going to talk about you first. Vanna, how did it all begin? We all want to know. Did you get a phone call? What did your agent call up and say? Did you jump up and down and go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my big break.’ Take us back to that moment and tell us where it all started.
VANNA: It all started on Dance Fever, which was a Merv Griffin show. Janet Jones at the time, who is now Janet Gretzky, is a friend of mine. And I heard they were looking for a replacement on Wheel of Fortune. And I knew it was a Merv show, so I said to Janet, ‘Hey, can you introduce me to somebody?’ And she introduced me to someone there that day, and he said, ‘If we haven’t made a decision on a Wheel of Fortune Hostess, you give us a call on October 5th.’ I called him on October 5th at 10 am, and they had not made a decision. So I went in for the audition – and got it.
CAT: So, did you know? Did you say, ‘Oh my God, this is my big break?’ Because you had done some acting, you were modelling, and you are a showbiz person. Did you know what had happened at that moment?
VANNA: Well, I knew that I was going to be on TV, so I was thrilled – and I was going to have a paying job. And at that point, the nighttime version wasn’t on yet. It was only the daytime version. So I didn’t know where it would go. So Pat Sajak and I are sitting in the makeup chair one day, and I said, ‘I wonder where we’ll be in 10 years. And it’s been 40.
CAT: She admitted that out loud, ladies and gentlemen. She admitted that out loud. (laughing)
VANNA: Let me add that I was 11 when I started. (laughing)
CAT: I was going to say – you started when you were six. So, you now have this glamorous job – and I’m going to get this one out of the way first because my listeners would never forgive me if we didn’t ask you. It’s a glamorous life. It looks like a glamorous life. And I think one of the things all of us girls go for is the clothes. Tell us about the clothes. Where do you get them? Do you get to keep them? Have you ever worn the same outfit twice? Let’s talk about the clothes.
VANNA: Great question. The clothes come from designers that send their clothes to the studio. I wear them, and then they take them back – so I do not get to keep them. And I’ve worn over 7,500+ dresses – and I’ve only repeated one – and that was by mistake.
CAT: You’re kidding. What one was it?
VANNA: I don’t remember. I was traumatized. (laughing)
CAT: Now, I don’t know about you, but when I do red carpets, and the dress is all sequins and beads and bits – between you and me, I kind of hate them. Because if you twist wrong or a bead pops and you hear it popping, or you’re breathing wrong – it’s kind of traumatic when you wreck a designer dress. Am I right? It’s kind of upsetting.
VANNA: You know, some of the dresses aren’t the most comfortable. They look gorgeous on, but you know, you’re squeezed in there. They’re tight, and you can hardly move – but they look good. So that’s the most important thing.
CAT: Well, accessories are an important part of fashion and show business. But maybe one of your better accessories is your co-host, Pat Sajak. (laughing) You guys are like peanut butter and jelly. Nobody wants to see you by yourselves. They want the team. They want Pat and Vanna. It’s not Pat by himself. That’s no good. But you guys are stuck together whether you like it or not. So are you friends? How have you made it work? Why do you think the team is so popular?
VANNA: We have been together for 40 years – and we have only gotten in one argument, and that was over putting ketchup on a hot dog.
CAT: We want to hear about that!
VANNA: No, seriously. (laughing) He was just adamant about never putting ketchup on a hot dog. Anyway, kidding aside, we get along great, and we have for all these years. We ‘are’ peanut butter and jelly.
CAT: That’s hard to do. You ask anyone. You can be a co-anchor, and the public just assumes you’re together. The romantic rumours swirl. But you have your own family. It’s just a working relationship. And boy, does this one work! So speaking of this kind of success, none of this is easy, is it? You make it look easy, but give us some advice. How hard is it to live up to the expectation of the media world these days – the show business world and the world of being a model and being beautiful every day? This is hard work. How have you survived so long?
VANNA: Well, how can I say this? I’m so lucky with my job because we have such loyal fans. I wouldn’t be here without them. And they have taken me in, I guess. And you know, they don’t judge me. And I love them. I do. The hard part is staying in shape because I wear the dresses, and I have to fit into those sample sizes. So I have to work out, and I have to stay in shape. I’m used to it after all these years, you know, it’s part of life, and it’s fine.
CAT: Are the expectations too high for women working in media and in acting? Is there a lot to live up to?
VANNA: Well, there is. But for me, in my job, it’s not that difficult. I have to say, I have a great job, you know. I don’t even have to turn the letters anymore. I just touch them. (laughing) I want to tell you something else. With this new season, I didn’t even have to touch the letter. It’s now on laser – so just the movement of my hand lights up the letter. Can you believe it?
(both laughing out loud)
CAT: Let’s talk about that. Because I was wondering – a long time ago, we didn’t have the technology. We really needed somebody up there to twiddle the box around and show the letters. Nowadays it’s a touch screen – so as you say we don’t really ‘need’ you anymore . . .
VANNA: Shhhh! It’s a secret. They really don’t need me. They can do it without me – but don’t tell them that.
CAT: And isn’t that the point here. This is a testament to your success. And I don’t think people understand that. You could have been done away with a while ago. But you are here because of your talent – and because of what you bring to the job. Where did you get that? You have a certain magic. Tell us about that.
VANNA: I am just who I am, and that’s the good thing. I don’t play a character. I play myself on TV and what you see is what you get. It’s me. Take it or leave it.
CAT: Once again, an incredibly hard thing to do for anybody. Be yourself. Be true to yourself. So in a wrap-up question, what would you say to the young girls today who are bewitched by show business fame, Instagram filters and that pursuit of unrealistic beauty. What do we tell young girls today is the key to success?
VANNA: I would just say be yourself. Don’t be intimidated by anyone. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Follow your heart, follow your dreams. Don’t give up.
CAT: Ms Vanna White – thank you so much for being so wonderful and so special. And on that note, to everybody listening, thank you for tuning in. Please stay in touch – and save me a smile.