Vanna White (born Vanna Marie Rosich on February 18, 1957) 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; according to her, she and Vicki McCarty were put on-air for a week each, and Merv Griffin chose her due to her chemistry with Pat. 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".
Prior to Wheel, Vanna's only other television role was as a contestant on The Price Is Right (coincidentally, the show of June 20, 1980); while she was the fourth player called down (and the first to bid that day), she never left Contestant's Row. White also appeared in the 1981 horror movie Graduation Day.
Vanna's role was expanded greatly in September 1996, when she began announcing the closed-captioning sponsor. 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.
Vanna has touched the Wheel at least five 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 most recent spin was seen on April 2013, in a segment of a tour of the studio during her appearance on Katie.
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.
Unlike Susan, Vanna 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, resulting in a mid-round break and a "turn your backs" moment.
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 Dream House, playing for the entire 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.
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. The 1992 "Changing Keys" was used during both the study scene and the nightmare scene, which had a puzzle board that looked similar to the one in use at the time. A special "Test-O-Matic" machine was used to determine the test results and the board was used to determine the "prize" for DJ and her rival Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber): Kimmy passed (with a perfect score) and got a scholarship to STANFORD, while DJ failed (with her test answer sheet in shreds, and a sound similar to "Bankrupt") and got a scholarship to CLOWN U(niversity). In addition, Andrea also won the heart of DJ's boyfriend Steve Hale (Scott Weinger, also the voice of Disney's Aladdin).
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.
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. Gist returned for at least one episode that March due to Vanna having a cold. As she did not yet do much talking in-show outside the closing segment, Vanna was present for the week of June 8, 1998 despite having come down with 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.