We’ve seen Vanna White flipping letters on Wheel of Fortune in her parade of gowns for decades. But who’s the real person behind this lovely television personality? We’d like to solve the puzzle; here are some things you didn’t know about Vanna White. Consolation prize Although her name is now synonymous with Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White wasn’t always the show’s signature letter-turner.
In fact, up until 1982, the job was held by Susan Stafford. Stafford quit her gig after the job made her re-assess her priorities in life. As she told The Chicago Tribune, “I mean, for seven years I stood there and turned letters. I had to ask myself if that was any way for a grown woman to live her life.”
Stafford added that when she first trained Vanna White to step into her role, she wasn’t envious of her successor, saying, “Let’s face it, no matter how much money you make or how famous you become, you’re still just the girl on the game show turning letters.” While White has since held the job for 35 years, the only thing Stafford feels when she catches an episode of Wheel of Fortune on TV is relief that she doesn’t have to do it anymore. Ouch. Wheel watcher Before she hit the small screen, Vanna White was a beauty pageant contestant who’d competed in the 1978 Miss Georgia pageant. Although her original career path was in modeling and professional acting, she was also no stranger to game shows, having appeared on an episode of The Price is Right in 1980.
Two years later, she dropped in to see a friend in another show, and got an unexpected surprise. “I was at a taping of a Merv Griffin show and Janet Gretzky — who was Janet Jones then on ‘Dance Fever’ — introduced me to Merv’s right-hand man.” Luckily for her, Griffin hadn’t yet chosen a replacement for Stafford and auditions were still ongoing. “My audition consisted of just what I do, basically.” “I asked Merv, I said, why did you choose me?
He said, ‘because you turned the letters better than anyone else.'” Before and after In 1987, White appeared on the cover of Playboy after an ex-boyfriend allegedly sold some risque lingerie photos she’d taken to Hugh Hefner. She’d agreed to the photos when she first moved to Hollywood in order to earn some cash, rather than asking her father for money, but they came back to bite her in a big way. “I said Hef, if you put me on the cover my career could be ruined. And they did it anyway.”
Fortunately, her career was not damaged by the display. The toss up Vanna White may always keep her sunny disposition in place on-screen, but behind-the-scenes she’s endured some pretty massive heartaches. White was engaged to model and soap opera actor John Gibson in the 1980s, but sadly, Gibson perished in a plane crash in 1986.
A few years later, White married restaurateur George San Pietro. Early on in their marriage, White suffered a miscarriage after announcing she was pregnant on Wheel of Fortune. They would go on to have two children, a son and a daughter, before White filed for divorce in 2002. Two years later, White announced her engagement to businessman Michael Kaye; however, the two split over a year later. Although her personal life has been filled with ups and downs, White appears to have found happiness again with her current beau, contractor John Donaldson, whom she met through friends in 2012.
White told Closer Weekly of her jackpot marriage, “He is kind, understanding and lets me be me.” Sounds like she finally found a wheel winner. Bonus round Although White’s career on Wheel of Fortune has not been without hiccups, and she surprisingly does not get to keep all those beautiful dresses she dons on the show, she has no plans of leaving the show any time soon.
She told Closer Weekly, “I’m sure I will one day, but I’m enjoying my job so much. I don’t want to retire. I hope to continue doing it for as long as I can.” And with that, millions of wheel watchers can breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks for watching! Click the Nicki Swift icon to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
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