A look back at Vanna White’s 40 years on ‘Wheel of Fortune’: Games, Fashion and ‘Vannamania’
Vanna White recently celebrated her 40th year on “Wheel of Fortune.” On Dec. 13, the
Vanna White recently celebrated her 40th year on “Wheel of Fortune.”
On Dec. 13, the 65-year-old TV personality marked her fourth decade of turning letters on the iconic game show with a heartfelt post that she shared to Instagram.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but 40 years ago today I taped my first episode of @wheeloffortune,” White wrote in the caption of her post, which featured two photos of herself with co-host Pat Sajak.
She continued, “It’s been a wonderful 40 years, too. I’m so grateful to those of you who watch and everyone behind the scenes who make us look good.
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“We wouldn’t still be here without all of you! (And the cake was delicious!).”
In her post, White shared a photo of herself with Sajak, 76, as they celebrated her major milestone on set during the taping of her 40th episode. The two beamed as they stood beside a table laid out with an elaborate “Wheel of Fortune”-themed cake, complete with a miniature money wheel and a letter board that spelled out “Happy Anniversary, Vanna!”
The cake was surrounded by several photo cutouts of White decked out in the beautiful gowns she has worn on the show over the decades. White’s post also featured throwback snap of the two longtime co-stars from their early days on the show.
The official “Wheel of Fortune” Instagram also shared its own tribute to White, posting a behind-the-scenes video of the moment the crew surprised her with the cake.
In the clip, White was seen wearing a sleeveless pink halter gown as Sajak and the crew clapped for her.
“Folks, it was 40 years ago on this very date that this young lady walked into the studio, trembling, and did her first ‘Wheel of Fortune,'” Sajak said.
“And here she is. Happy 40th, my dear,” he told White.
“Oh, thank you,” she said as the two shared a warm hug.
“Thank you all so much for celebrating with me,” she told the crew members who were gathered around her. “I cannot believe it’s been 40 years. I’m overwhelmed.”
The show captioned its post, “Take a look behind the scenes of Vanna’s 40th Anniversary Celebration! Only the best for our favorite fashion icon, letter-turner, and person with a soul as beautiful as she is!”
In the comments section, White reminisced, “It seems like only yesterday!”
The South Carolina native joined “Wheel of Fortune” in 1982, one year after Sajak made his debut on the show. After the departure of original “Wheel of Fortune” hostess Susan Stafford, series creator Merv Griffin conducted a nationwide search for her replacement with former Miss USA Summer Bartholomew, former Playboy centerfold Vicki McCarty and White emerging as the three finalists.
Griffin eventually chose White due to her skills with the letter board and her chemistry with Sajak. White was a hit with the show’s younger female demographic and gained a following of viewers who were fascinated by her daily wardrobe choices, leading to a nationwide pop-culture phenomenon known as “Vannamania.”
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Over the past four decades, White has worn more than 7,000 gowns on the show. In an interview with Yahoo! Life, she reflected on keeping up with the latest trends as fashion evolved over the years.
“Through 40 years, we have had many changes,” she said. “From the big shoulder pads to the skimpy dresses, I’ve worn it all. The designers send their latest clothes every year and I wear them. So it’s really up to them. It’s their style, and I’m modeling their clothes. So the pressure really isn’t on me.”
In a video featured on the “Wheel of Fortune” website, White gave fans a behind-the-scenes look at how she makes her daily wardrobe selection. She explained that she tries on 50 dresses the day before filming and then picks one on the day of the show.
“I don’t get to keep them, unfortunately. Designers let me borrow them, and then they take them back,” White said in the clip.
White told Yahoo! Life that her “Wheel of Fortune” wardrobe has motivated her to stay in shape, noting that she still wears the same size six as when she made her debut.
“I’m still wearing these clothes that I’ve been wearing for the past 40 years,” she said. “I have to do a fitting every couple of weeks, so I need to fit into these sample sizes. That keeps me encouraged.”
During the height of “Vannamania,” White appeared on dozens of magazine covers, launched her own fragrance, landed major endorsement deals and released her best-selling memoir “Vanna Speaks.”
In an 1992 interview with the Chicago Tribune, White admitted that she was stunned by her massive popularity in the mid-1980s.
”I never understood it, and I still don’t,” White said. “All I can guess is that it was the fans who watch and enjoy the show. They’re so loyal.”
During an interview with Good Morning America in September, White reflected on some of her favorite moments from her time on the show.
“The million-dollar winners are just outstanding,” she said. “I just love the reaction.”
The “Graduation Day” actress also recounted a humorous incident that occurred during the filming of a “Wheel of Fortune” holiday special.
“During Christmas, we had presents at the end of both [sides of] the puzzle board,” she recalled with a smile. “And one of the presents got stuck on my gown, and I’m going back and forth and back and forth.”
Throughout her 40 years on the show, Sajak and White have formed a very close bond, with White revealing a few years ago that they have only fought once in their entire working relationship.
White told Fox News Digital that the argument, “believe it or not,” was about “putting ketchup on a hot dog.” She felt that both ketchup and mustard go well on a hot dog, while Sajak only likes mustard on his hot dog.
White also acknowledged that the argument was strange, saying, “I agree, it is [weird].”
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During an interview with People magazine in December, the former pageant queen admitted that she never anticipated her role on “Wheel of Fortune” would turn into a career that spanned over four decades. White recalled an early conversation with Sajak in which they mused over their futures.
“I remember sitting in the makeup chair next to Pat when we first started, when I first started,” she recalled. “And I turned to him and I said, ‘I wonder where we’ll be in 10 years.'”
“It’s been 40,” White added. “It’s been incredible. I’m so lucky and so happy.”
White went on to say that she “cannot believe it’s been 40 years.”
“And honestly, I’ve loved every minute of it,” she added. “Who still says they love their job after 40 years? Me! I really do.”
“It’s a fun show. Everybody watches and enjoys it, and it changes people’s lives, and it makes people happy. So it’s a great job.”
White told People that she has never considered leaving “Wheel of Fortune.” Last year, both she and Sajak signed on to continue “Wheel of Fortune” through the 2023-2024 season.
“I mean, I’ve been happy,” she explained. “Coming to work, it’s a happy place and most of the people here have been here for a very long time. So this is really a family to me. We’re all kind of connected, and it’s a happy place to come to work. And I even like Pat Sajak.”
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“He’s my TV husband,” White said. “You know, we’ve been together… 40 years is a lot to be with somebody. We’ve been through a lot together.”
White told People that it was hard for her to imagine “Wheel of Fortune” being hosted by anyone other than herself and Sajak.
“I just visualize us just being there. I can’t think beyond that,” she said.
“We’ve been in everybody’s homes for 40 years, so it would be weird having somebody else turn my letters.”
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