By Ashley Hall
PORTLAND, Ore. — Being a television host used to be a man’s job. When it came to game shows, the woman who broke through first was Vanna White. In 1982, she became the first female co-host of a game show on Wheel of Fortune.
Vanna White, the woman so many Wheel of Fortune fans would love to get just a few seconds with, is just like any other mom when it comes to her two children, Nicholas and Giovanna.
“My daughter is 14 and she won’t go to the movies with me now,” says Vanna. “I’ve been ‘Vanna White’ their whole life…or on TV their whole life, so to them it’s just normal, it ‘s like ‘that’s my moms job’ you know, it’s real normal for them. It’s funny because I’ve been on Wheel of Fortune so long, but if I’m on Wheel or they see me on, I did one of those sitcoms they watched and I came out playing this character, they go, ‘Mom, oh my gosh, look you’re on TV!’ It’s like that was completely different from Wheel of Fortune.”
But that could be because she’s been a part of the hit game show for 29 years, and in that time, she’s done enough clapping to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most frequent clapper. She’s said to put her hands together for contestants more than 140,000 times a season – that averages out to 720 times per show.
“I always have so much fun up there, you know, the work is getting ready for the show. They do your makeup and hair and that sounds glamorous, but when you’ve done it umpteen times, thousands and thousands of times, it like ‘BORING!’” Vanna says. Though Vanna is naturally beautiful, it does take some work to get her camera-ready.
“I have a makeup artist, a hair stylist and a wardrobe person,” Vanna explains, “2 wardrobe people actually, so at least 4.”
Of all the things that have stayed constant on the show, one of the most notable changes is the board. These are no longer flipped, but rather touched.
“They’re TV monitors turned on their sides, they are touch screen so on the right side of each of those monitors there is a touch sensitive panel that Vanna touches to reveal the letters,” explains Wheel of Fortune Executive Producer Harry Freidman. “It used to be that all of the individual letters were on sheets of plastic and they had to be dropped into frames. And after the puzzle was solved, we had to stop tape, pull a curtain in front of the puzzle board, replace all those, so nobody could see them on the other side of the box.”
Whether the letters are flipped or touched, they’ve always been complimented by Vanna’s style.
“What happens is I bring a stylist who has about 100 dresses in, I try them all on and we pick the top 20,” she says. During each day’s taping of 5 shows, Vanna changes dresses in-between each one.
“I’ve worn 5,400 gowns; so no, I have not loved them all,” Vanna tells NewsWatch12, “But I’ve loved at least half of them, if not more.” And, no, she does not get to keep the dresses she wears. “I have bought a couple of them,” she says.
Throughout all the shows taped in Portland, Vanna’s dresses were eco-friendly “green” dresses, which fits right in with her personal style.
“You know, I kind of go for the comfortable ones. Easy to wear, and slip in and out of, you now, the ones that are really big, I don’t wear a lot of anymore.” and as soon as the taping is over, don’t expect to see her in a fancy dress.
“I live in comfortable clothes,” she says, “You know sweats, tennis shoes, ponytail, no make up; that’s who I really am.”
You can see Vanna in her eco-friendly dresses starting Monday night on Wheel of Fortune, at 7:30 on NewsWatch 12. The episodes taped in Portland, at the Oregon Convention Center, will be on during the next four weeks. So be sure to tune in to see Oregon featured from the set, to the prizes, and even the contestants and studio audience.