Not too many people can say they’ve had the same job for over three decades and still love it — except for Vanna White.
The 60-year-old letter-turner and co-host of “Wheel of Fortune” is gearing up to celebrate its 35th season this September. She spoke with Fox News about what the audition process to host "Wheel" was really like, the thousands of gowns she’s worn and the important lesson she learned after appearing in Playboy.
Fox News: What’s the secret behind the show’s lasting success?
Vanna White: For almost 35 years I’ve been asked that same question and I still don’t have an answer! I really don’t. It’s just one of those things that every once in a while, everything falls into place... it’s just a half hour of family fun with no bad news… it’s an escape.
Fox News: What was the audition process like?
White: Back in 1982, I went to a taping of "Dance Fever," which was one of Merv Griffin's shows. Janet Jones, who’s now Janet Gretzky, was one of the dancers. She introduced me to Merv’s right hand man... He gave me his card and said, "Call me on October 5th and if we haven’t made a decision, you can come in and audition."
So 10 a.m. on October 5th I called him. He tells me, "Come on in and audition." I was probably the last one that they saw. They narrowed it down to me and one other girl, who happened to be a very good friend of mine, who’s now a successful writer. I found out I got it the day before Thanksgiving 1982 and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was sitting in my apartment when I suddenly got a phone call. I think I literally screamed out loud.
Fox News: You’ve mentioned in past interviews you regret posing for Playboy. Do you still feel that way?
White: Here’s the thing. When I first moved to Hollywood, I was too embarrassed to ask my dad for rent money. I was young and I wanted to do it on my own. So, I did these lingerie shots and from the moment I said I would do them, I thought, "I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m not going to ask my dad for money, so I’m just going to do it!" Once I got "Wheel of Fortune" and some fame, Hugh Hefner then bought those pictures. He’s the one who put me on the cover of the magazine. I didn’t do it for Playboy.
I did not want them on there, but it happened. I was very thankful that I had such support behind me. I remember going on "Johnny Carson" and saying, "I’m so sorry, this is what happened." And this is a lesson that applies today: Never do anything that you don’t want to do. Listen to your instincts and follow it. I said, "I made a mistake, I’m sorry and I just hope I don’t lose my job over it." Fortunately, I didn’t. I could have, you know? It was a great lesson to learn, but what can I say? I did something I shouldn’t have done.
Fox News: You’ve worn over 6,000 outfits, right?
White: That is correct! Actually, over 6,500 dresses. Never the same one twice. Nor do I get to keep them. They have to go back to the designer, but I certainly enjoy wearing them. I’ve gone through all the big styles, [including] the big shoulder pads. You name it, I’ve done it. My favorite dresses happen to be the comfortable ones. A lot of them are so skin tight and don’t budge. I feel like I’m wearing a corset and I’m walking for 30 minutes in five inch heels. It looks great, but it can be uncomfortable. I still do it, it’s part of my job. But if I had the choice, I would prefer stretchy gowns. And I honestly love the cocktail length.
Fox News: Would you call Pat [Sajak] your work husband?
Fox News: And what are some of the pros of having a work spouse?
White: We don’t see each other every day! We tape on the average of four days a month… so we get together, ask how have the last few weeks been say it’s great seeing you, do our two days of work and go on with our lives. And it’s nice.
Fox News: When did you realize that you, Vanna White, made it big?
White: There’s one time that still sticks out to me. I remember standing in line at the grocery store and I was on the cover of Newsweek. I looked at the cover [while waiting in line] and went, "Wow, I think I made it!" That was the moment for me. The other one was when I got my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When I first moved to L.A., I went walking down the Hollywood Walk of Fame and I would tell myself, "One day I’m going to have my own star."
Fox News: Do you ever see yourself retiring?
White: 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.
Fox News: When did you realize that one of the goals you wanted to accomplish was to also help children in need?
White: When I had my own children. I lost my mother to cancer. She was only 44 years old, and that was in 1980. That was before I got "Wheel of Fortune." So when I had my own children, I started my own line of yarn because I wanted to give back.
I went to Memphis and visited St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and I saw these children that had cancer... That really touched me because I had two healthy children, but so many other people were in need. And this hospital also does a huge amount of research to help. When I started my yarn line, I decided to donate half of the proceeds to St. Jude. I’ve been very fortunate in my life and giving back was very important to me. This is my way of doing it.