Vanna White (born Vanna Marie Rosich on February 18, 1957 from Conway, South Carolina) is the co-host of Wheel of Fortune, best known for her role as the letter-turner (letter-toucher since February 24, 1997). She has been with the show since late 1982, and first appeared as a temporary co-host after original co-host Susan Stafford left. White's first "official" episode was December 13, 1982.
When Vanna was a child, her biological father (Miguel Angel Rosich) left the family. During the closing chat on September 6, 2004, White wished a happy birthday to former South Carolina real estate agent Herbert White, whom she had treated as her father following Miguel's departure.
On May 19, 1980, Vanna appeared as a contestant during a taping of The Price Is Right; while she was the fourth player called down (and the first to bid that day), she never left Contestant's Row. In an amusing coincidence, her episode (#3575D) was scheduled for and aired on June 20, 1980, considered by some fans to have been a sad day on another network.
White also appeared in the 1981 horror movie Graduation Day.
Wheel of Fortune
Following Susan's departure, Vanna was selected among hundreds of hopefuls to do on-air auditions. According to White, she and Vicki McCarty did a week each, and Merv Griffin chose her due to her chemistry with Pat Sajak.
In a 1987 interview, Susan stated that she taught Vanna how to turn the letters and told her that "she should be grateful for this opportunity".
Vanna's role was expanded greatly in September 1996, when she began doing the closed-captioning plugs. She also appears in locally-shot footage on road shows, most often at the start of the show, and sometimes in the plugs for the Jackpot and Mystery Rounds. On some occasions, she has read the copy for a Wheel Prize and/or Prize Puzzle.
White is also known for the large number of outfits that she wears on the show, most often elegant gowns and dresses. These are provided by rotating manufacturers, with Caché being one of the leading ones in the late 2000s. She has also worn suits or pants/shirt combinations several times, including maternity suits during and shortly after her two pregnancies. Generally, she returns the dresses to the manufacturer or donates them to charity, although she occasionally purchases those she particularly likes.
She and Pat also traded places for a Bonus Round in November 1996 so Pat (who had laryngitis for the entire week) could rest his voice. In most video games based on the show, she performs Pat's hosting duties.
In November 2019, White hosted the show for the first time, due to Pat recovering from intestinal surgery; as the first two taping weeks happened to fall during the Secret Santa Sweepstakes, they could not be rescheduled. During the first two weeks, the board was operated automatically, although various costumed Disney characters stood at Vanna's usual spot and gestured at the board anyway. For the third week taped with Vanna as host, the show intentionally withheld who would take her place, only indicating that the person would be a "surprise". For all three weeks hosted by Vanna, the show taped without an audience.
Disregarding the episodes with Vanna filling in for Pat, she has touched the Wheel at least eight times:
- The first known instance was on a January 1984 nighttime show (Lloyd/Linda/Debbie), where she spun it at the end of the show.
- She also spun on the November 14, 1989 nighttime episode, where she played a round for charity while Pat turned the letters. Her first spin landed on Bankrupt, and her second on $250 (until Pat convinced her to move it to $900).
- Vanna did the Final Spin on a Bob Goen daytime episode after he became frustrated over repeatedly hitting Bankrupt.
- She spun on April Fool's Day 1997, where she and Pat competed for charity while Alex Trebek and Lesly Sajak hosted. Alex mentioned on this episode that Vanna spun the Wheel once before, although it is unknown which of the above incidents he was referring to (if any).
- Vanna's also spun in April 2013, in a segment of a tour of the studio during her appearance on Katie.
- Vanna spun for her final spins during her fill-in episodes in December 2019 and January 2020
Unlike Susan, Vanna almost never turned a letter until it was lit (and stated as much in the August 24, 1985 issue of TV Guide) and didn't turn letters that were accidentally lit (as happened in a late-1984 episode and a Season 6 Bonus Round). This said, according to one recollection she turned a wrong letter during the Goen era.
During the 1980s-90s, Vanna made several guest appearances on TV and movies. One of the earliest was the week of May 7, 1984 with Pat on earliest was th, playing for the first week of a two-week All-Star Charity Tournament against Jamie Farr and Kari Michaelson. When the week ended, she and Pat won $9,450 for the American Cancer Society.
In 1988, White starred in the NBC TV movie Goddess of Love, which was critically panned. Pat referenced the film on a December 2011 episode, but Vanna's reaction suggests that she does not think highly of this role.
In 1989, Vanna made an appearance on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode "Cyrano de Mario" playing Roxanne, an old love interest of Mario.
One memorable appearance was an episode of Full House ("The Test", aired January 14, 1994) where she first played herself in a nightmare DJ Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure) had about taking the SAT, then a teacher named Mrs. Moffat when DJ took the test for real.
Vanna also appeared on a seventh season episode of Married... With Children ("The Proposition", aired May 16, 1993) playing an old high school girlfriend of Al's.
Vanna was also a guest of The Pat Sajak Show (1989-90) at least twice. One of these included a montage of aired Wheel clips (including Vanna's audition, Pat's first day, and various bloopers), which were removed from the episode's June 19 repeat because Merv Griffin Enterprises claimed the clips were used without permission; unfortunately, only the repeat copy of the episode appears to circulate.
Her autobiography, Vanna Speaks, was published in 1987 and also released as part of Warner Audio's "Books on Tape" line.
On April 22, 2002, Vanna appeared in a segment of the ABC special Contact: Talking To The Dead, which also had segments with wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart, actress MacKenzie Phillips, and relatives of murder victim Bonnie Lee Bakley.
White has taken three short breaks from Wheel:
- For a short time in 1986 after a plane crash killed her then-boyfriend John Gibson, she took time off to recover and Susan returned for that timespan.
- In January 1991, White was unavailable because of her wedding to George San Pietro, so Tricia Gist (then-girlfriend and now wife of Merv Griffin's son, Tony) filled in for her during the two weeks Vanna was away on her honeymoon.
- Gist returned for one week that March due to Vanna having a cold.
As she did not yet do much talking in-show outside the closing chat, Vanna was present for the week of June 8, 1998 despite having laryngitis.
In January 2011, the show held a Vanna for a Day contest which allowed home viewers to submit videos for a chance to fill in for Vanna on one episode. The winner, Katie Cantrell, took Vanna's place for Rounds 2 and 3 (with Vanna watching from backstage) on March 24, 2011; the other four finalists appeared in the audience for that show.
In 1993, Vanna sued Samsung Electronics, claiming her rights were violated after the company used a parody of her in its ads. The company countered, saying their use of the parody of her was protected under the 1st Amendment right to free speech, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Vanna.
- The Evening News, February 24, 1987