Vanna White has been gracing our screens for years as the famous letter-turner and co-host on the beloved game show Wheel of Fortune, alongside Pat Sajak. She has been the beautiful, charming television personality of the show since 1982! But before she ever hit the TV screen, she was actually a contestant in the Miss Georgia 1978 pageant. So no wonder her stunning outfits and grace have made her one of the most well-known game co-hosts for more than 30 years.
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Wheel of Fortune Vs. The Price is Right
Born in South Carolina, Vanna White was born Vanna Marie Angel, near North Myrtle Beach, in Conway, South Carolina, in 1957. She attended the Atlanta School of Fashion in Atlanta, Georgia after high school and worked as a model. Shortly afterward she moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and the red carpet. She landed a few minor acting roles in Gypsy Angels, Graduation Day, Looker, and Star of the Family in the early 1980’s.
Around this time she was also a contestant on The Price is Right. (Does it count as cheating if she hadn’t been on Wheel of Fortune yet? Either way, it just doesn’t feel right!) Sporting a blue shirt that read “Get Serious”, she charmed the crowd, contestants, and even Bob Barker. Sadly, she never made it off the “Contestant’s Row,” and bid way too high on prizes!
Vanna White auditioned against over 200 other hopefuls to land the gig of hostess on the NBC game show Wheel of Fortune in 1982. Within a short time, she struck stardom gold. Endorsements came, and she starred in Venus: The Goddess of Love, an NBC movie. Weird Al Yankovic wrote a song called “Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White” on his 1988 album Even Worse. She also appeared as a minor character on the Nintendo 64 game “Paper Mario” named Vanna T.
Vanna White Poses for Playboy
In 1987, some Wheel of Fortune viewers were shocked to see that White was actually staring back at them from the cover of an issue of Playboy magazine. To which yes, inside were some very intriguing seminude photos of White. While fans were very puzzled by her career choice, however, she didn’t actually agree to appear in the magazine itself. Hugh Hefner had bought the publication of the photographs that she had agreed to pose for in 1982. This prior to being hired for the game show. Why did she decide to pose for the magazine?
Well, according to the Washington Post, she needed to do the shoot to pay for rent. This after she left her hometown of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to pursue her career in Los Angeles. A 60-year-old at the time, she told Fox News, “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!'”
“I Made a Mistake”
With headlines that preceded her Playboy debut adoring her saying, “How much Vanna can we Stanna?” she had also expressed her concerns about being on the cover of the magazine to Johnny Carson, saying, ‘I’m so sorry . . . I made a mistake, I’m sorry and I just hope I don’t lose my job over it.'”
After Merv Griffin hired her to be the official letter-turner on Wheel of Fortune, she begged Hugh Hefner for the non-publication of the pictures. She wanted to stay away from turning into a centerfold. She even wounded up suing the magazine for $5.2 million for tarnishing her “family audience” image, suing Hefner personally. But of course, due to how big the franchise was and Playboy’s promotion efforts, she quickly decided to drop both suits.
Home Sweet Home
For her career, she has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has worn almost 6,500 dresses on-screen, and holds the Guinness Book of World Records for “Televisions Most Frequent Clapper” averaging over 700 claps per episode. Like several syndicated game shows, Wheel of Fortune tends to pack a lot of production time into short windows. While Sajak and White tape roughly six shows a day, they are only expected on set four days a month. Yes, a month! How wild is that! Despite it being more than 30 years, Sajak and White have both openly stated that they plan on doing Wheel of Fortune for as long as they can. Both have renewed their contracts through 2022.
It’s no secret that her life has revolved around the show throughout the years. During one of the shows, she even revealed her pregnancy on the puzzle board. During a taping in September 1992, a contest correctly guessed the board’s solution spelling out V-A-N-N-A’S P-R-E-G-N-A-N-T to announce the arrival of their first child with husband George Santo Peitro.
She married in 1990, to George San Pietro, a restaurant owner after her longtime partner John Gibson, an actor is soap operas and Chippendale dancer, died in a plane crash. They had a daughter, Giovanna (Gigi) and a son, Nicholas (Niko). She and George San Pietro separated in 2002. She later got engaged to, but never married, Michael Kaye.
Believe it or not, she has had quite a successful career being a game show host on Wheel of Fortune. She and Sajak have helped come up with several puzzles for the game show over the years, making it a fun group effort. How much is her effort actually worth? It is reported she has a net worth of over $50 million. This also includes her own line of yarn business called Vanna’s Choice. White once stated she is an avid crocheter, something she was taught by her grandmother in her youth. Surprisingly enough, she also loves to flip houses and claims she would be in real estate if she didn’t have the job flipping the letters on the puzzle board. So who knows, maybe after retirement? I’d sure love to buy a house from her!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 1, 2021.