Vanna White Talks ‘Celebrity Wheel of Fortune’

ABC/Ricky Middlesworth

Who’s going to be asking to buy a vowel is yet to be known, but the dynamic duo of Pat Sajak and Vanna White will be hosting a new version of the classic game show during primetime in Celebrity Wheel of Fortune (Thursdays on ABC, beginning Jan. 7). A slew of celebs will spin the iconic wheel for their chance to win up to $1 million for their favorite charity. After 38 seasons of watching Wheel of Fortune, it’s about time we get a spinoff (no pun intended)! We caught up with Vanna just hours before filming, where she was getting ready to greet the celebrity contestants and give them some helpful hints like “be sure to buy vowels” and “concentrate on the puzzle board, don’t worry about the wheel.” Here she shares a bit more.

After 38 seasons, what did it take to get this spinoff going?
Vanna White: I don’t know how it came about — I just show up when they tell me to show up — but I think because of all the stuff that’s going on, the network probably wanted some happy times to put on the air. It gives people a chance to have fun in primetime, because we’ve never done it in 38 years. It’s going to be fun!

What has changed in the show’s format?
It’s going to be all cash, so there are no prizes on the wheel. But there are going to be several million-dollar wedges on the wheel, so they have the chance to win up to a million dollars for their favorite charity within the hour.

We know you can’t share celeb names on who is playing, but anyone who will have you a little starstruck?
Of course, yes. There are some that I’ve never met so I’m looking forward to meeting them, and most of the time I don’t get starstruck. But watching a TV show with them in it, it makes me feel good to meet them in person because I feel like I know them because I’ve been watching them on TV.

Having had celebs on the show in the past, are their nerve levels higher than the average contestant?
I put myself in their position, and I would be very nervous to mess up or look stupid on TV. You’re also put into a different situation when you have a script in front of you. You’re an actor and you do what you do, but when you are in a position to play a game on TV, that’s totally different than what you are used to, so if it was me up there I would definitely be nervous. I’m sure we’re going to have a little of everything. … Hopefully it will give people at home a chance to see their real personality.

Is your wardrobe going to be different now that you are in primetime?
It is. They actually hired another stylist (I already have one) to come in and pick specific outfits. [She’s never worn the same dress twice!] I’ll have some different outfits on than normal. I was thinking they were going to put me in glittery evening gowns every show, but, no, they have it mixed up. We have a little bit of everything.

Do you have a favorite color for your dresses, and do you get to keep any?
I really like bright colors and pastel colors — warm colors like a flower. Pink. Baby blue. Bright orange. But my favorite is comfortable. I don’t get to keep the dresses but I do get to borrow them if I’m going to a charity event or a Good Morning America segment or something like that.

If you got to pick the celebs to be on the show, and what charity would you be playing for?
Mine would range from feature films to HGTV. I watch a lot of HGTV so I like Chip and Joanna, the Property brothers, Home Town and then there are singers, just so many different people. I’d like to see a variety. I have my own line of yarn [Lion Brand Yarn, Vanna’s Choice] and I donate half of my proceeds to St. Jude [Children’s Research Hospital]. I’ve donated, which I’m very happy, honored and proud to say, over $2 million to them. It warms my heart. It’s one of the best things I ever decided to do.

When you’re not filming, how have you been keeping yourself happy these days?
I’ve been staying home and crocheting a lot. I’ve made so many baby blankets over the past nine months, that’s my passion, I just love doing that. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and then cooking, which is my least favorite thing to do but I don’t have a choice.