To learn more about Cycle 2’s Jenascia Chakos, visit her bio page here.  Photo credit: Jhon Catano-Betancur.

To learn more about Cycle 2’s Jenascia Chakos, visit her bio page here.

To learn more about Cycle 2’s Jenascia Chakos, visit her bio page here. Photo credit: Greg Cunningham.

To learn more about Cycle 2’s Jenascia Chakos, visit her bio page here.

Jenascia became a contestant on Wheel of Fortune in January of 2010. She documents her experience on the Wheel of Fortune Contestant Blog here. She initially won $14,000, but the bonus round pushed her total winnings to about $50,000.

She writes:

Posted on 1/15

In the weeks leading up to the show, I tried waking up earlier. I knew I would have to be up and ready by 7am the day of the show and I didn’t want to blow it because I was overly tired. I got up at 6am, got ready and was down in the hotel lobby waiting with about 15 other contestants. As we got acquainted I had a Redbull and ate tuna from a snack pack. I needed my “brain food”. As we boarded the shuttle, everyone was very excited, sharing audition stories and background info. We all had one very noticeable trait in common, none of us were shy. There was a lot of cheering and laughing. It was the most energy I’ve felt from a group of people that early in the morning.

When we arrived at the studio, we were briefed, signed papers and got our makeup done. The contestant coordinators did an amazing job sharing every tip possible to help us win. I soaked up every bit of information. I knew that in order to perform the best I could, I had to remain relaxed and keep my head. I also ate a banana and other healthy food to keep my energy up.

They were to tape 6 shows that day so we drew numbers to determine who was going to play when. I was relieved when I picked the 4th show. I would get to watch 3 shows before my turn. It was extremely exciting being in the studio. We practiced spinning the wheel, which is a lot smaller than it looks on TV, but is a lot heavier than it looks also. My arm was sore the next day. Before the first show started, we all played a practice game together. We took turns trading out 3 players at a time. We did the Toss Up rounds, called letters and solved puzzles. I was one of the last to go up. During my turn, I solved my puzzle and got to practice the bonus round. I was super excited but managed to solve the bonus round puzzle and I got to pretend that I won the Mini Cooper. I was hoping I was going to be able to do that for real during my show.

Once the first show started taping, my stomach was in knots. I couldn’t believe I was there. It was a dream. I cheered on the other players but could hardly wait for my turn. After the 3rd show was done taping, it was about 3pm and I was sure it was my turn next. I went to my purse and drank another Redbull to get a burst of energy. Then they called an hour lunch. I could hardly eat from the excitement but I managed to eat a piece of pizza. I was in the greenroom, with about 9 other contestants but I decided to take a 15 minute power nap before I got behind the wheel.

Then, it was finally my turn. I stood in the first spot closest to Pat. It was surreal. If my grandma could see me now! He strolled up and announced the first Toss Up Round. By some miracle, I solved it. He introduced me and asked me about myself. Then he talked to the other two contestants and announced the 2nd Toss Up Round. I solved that one too. So far so good. I got to spin the wheel first. My strategy was to not let the wheel distract me. I only looked at it to spin it, after that I was all eyes on the puzzle at all times. Somehow, after solving a few puzzles, not being able to figure out the word “backyard”, getting a Wild Card and winning a trip to Cabo San Lucas, I made it to the Bonus Round! I was extremely nervous because I have problems with the Bonus Round at home. Pat had me introduce my mother, my boyfriend, my best friend and her husband. I got to spin the bonus wheel for the 2nd time that day but this time it was for real. The puzzle came up, it was a phrase. As Vanna turned over the R-S-T-L-N-E, I started smiling. I knew immediately what it was. I wanted to yell out the answer right then but I picked my letters. As soon as the timer began, I yelled out “The plot thickens!” I was right and I will never forget that phrase for the rest of my life. Pat opened the card and told me I won $35,000!!! My friends and family came running towards me. I’m pretty sure I teared up from the excitement and being emotionally overwhelmed.

I fulfilled a lifelong dream and did it well. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the money but my New Year’s resolution is to help other people. Some of that money will definitely help me do that and treat myself and my family. I’m kind of sad that it’s all over, but it was an amazing experience that I’ll cherish forever.

Posted on 1/11

I was 2-years old when the first Wheel of Fortune aired and I’ve been watching since I can remember. I used to spend a lot of time with my grandmother and we’d always watch Pat and Vanna together. We would yell out letters and try to solve the puzzle before the contestants on TV and talk about how we’d love to be on the show someday. Neither of us thought it would ever happen. Unfortunately for my grandmother, it never did and she passed away when I was 13.

I was about 22 when I applied to be a contestant online. I never heard anything. A few months ago I was watching Wheel of Fortune with my boyfriend, Evan, and I was telling him about my dream to be a contestant. I said, “I have to get on Wheel of Fortune. It’s number one on my list.” My list consisted of many life goals, most of which you can pay to do (i.e. swim with dolphins, ride an elephant, parasail, etc.). He just said, matter-of-factly, “You can do it babe,” as if it were that easy. The next day I went on their website and applied again. I entered my work email that I check 10 times a day from my phone. If I did hear back, I’d know right away.

A couple weeks later, after I’d long forgotten about my application, I was at the mall with my son. We were in the play area, and while he was having the time of his life, I routinely checked my email for the 3rd time that day, and because reception is terrible in that mall and I had to move around to get a signal. After a moment, my email popped up and there it was “Subject: WOF Auditions”. “What is WOF?”, I thought as I clicked the link. As I started reading I got so excited I jumped up and yelled, “Shut up!”

I immediately called my mom and then Evan. The audition was in 12 days in LA. I told them there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity even though the email recommended not coming from out of state. Evan and I had $100 off airline tickets from a previous vacation so we were good to go. With my audition time at 2:30pm, we booked our flights to arrive that morning and leave that night.

Evan’s brother picked us up and I took a 15 minute power nap at his house before we left for the audition at the Radisson. There were about 30 of us in a room. We yelled out our names to make a seating chart. They called out our names and we played enough rounds of Wheel of Fortune for everyone to get a couple chances to play. When it was my turn, I made sure I was loud & clear, and remained calm. I knew if I faltered at all my chance was over. I solved my puzzle and won a t-shirt. Then they gave us tests and a pencil. Every other person had a different test so we couldn’t cheat. We were given 5 minutes to complete as many of the 15 or so incomplete puzzles on the other side. They were divided up into categories with some of the letters filled in. I worked as fast as I could and got all but two finished. They took them, scored them and then asked 10 of us to stay & play. I did pretty well, but landed on “Lose A Turn”. They told us they’d contact us by mail within 2 weeks if we made it. I set my alarm on my phone to go off in a couple days to remind me to check the mail. I put it on repeat so I wouldn’t miss it if they sent a letter.

Two days later I was back at the play area in the mall with my son. My phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number so I assumed it was for work. I answered and they told me they wanted me on the show in 3 weeks! I was so excited I wanted to jump and scream and dance but I couldn’t move a muscle for fear the call would be dropped due to the bad reception. I immediately called my mother, boyfriend & best friend. They all wanted to be there to support me. I wasn’t really nervous about being on TV, I was anxious about blowing my one opportunity to fulfill my dream. I spent the next 3 weeks playing my Wheel of Fortune video game, playing Wheel of Fortune on my computer, playing Wheel of Fortune on my phone and playing Hang Man with my friends. My friend Mackenzie had me stumped with the word “Xerox”. Even my 2-year old was getting better with his letters from playing with me. I played Wheel of Fortune in my dreams. It was all up to the luck of the wheel after that.

To learn more about Cycle 2’s Jenascia Chakos, visit her bio page here. Photo credit: Jean-Marcus Strole.