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Notre Dame student competes on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

| Thursday, April 5, 2018

Nearly every night throughout her childhood, sophomore Kathleen Capella and her family raced to the living room television after dinner to tune into “Wheel of Fortune,” a popular game show in which contestants solve word puzzles to win money and prizes.

This deeply-embedded family tradition took on a new meaning in February when Capella competed and won over $20,000 and a trip to Aruba on one of the game show’s “College Week Spring Break”-themed episodes, which aired Monday.

Capella said her road to “Wheel of Fortune” began with a video application and a large audition in New York City with her family, where they participated in tests and practice rounds. Despite not being invited onto the show following the audition, she received an email in February to join the show as a contestant on its annual college week.

“It was pretty hush-hush,” Capella said. “I had to tell my teachers, obviously. They were really good about it. It was kind of crazy because when ‘Wheel of Fortune’ sent me the email, I had to respond to the invitation by the next day at noon, so I basically had to say yes to them first and then email my teachers.”

Because of the College Week theme, Capella met other students during her time at “Wheel of Fortune,” who she said were a mix of hardcore fans — fans who remembered every detail of specific episodes — and students familiarizing themselves with game rules for the first time.

As a lifelong fan, Capella said getting to see and experience the game show for the first time was a surreal experience. The stage was smaller than expected, she said, and she didn’t realize the contestants stand on hydraulic risers that level their heights.

“Also, the wheel is really heavy,” she said. “They have you do practice spins, and I was the first person that they had to ask to spin it again.”

Given that Capella had seen so many episodes of “Wheel of Fortune,” she said she entered the game with some strategy. Her strategy consisted of remembering what made past contestants successful, and the ways in which she critiqued other participants.

“You don’t want to lose control of your turn,” she said. “I really tried to get the toss-up questions so that I could feel like I had something. Once you get one or two of those, you’re feeling pretty good and it boosts your confidence.”

Overall, Capella’s experience on “Wheel of Fortune” was well worth it, she said.

“This was not something I had expected to be doing,” she said. “It was worth all the homework I was doing beforehand and everything else, it was definitely worth it. They made it really fun for me.”

When the time came to watch her episode Monday, Capella said she gathered with friends from her dorm, McGlinn Hall, as well as friends from the Pasquerilla East Music Company (PEMCo).

“It was so fun watching myself on television,” Capella said. “It was great how excited everyone was. Everyone kept joking they knew a ‘celebrity.’”

As for her plans with her “Wheel of Fortune” earnings, Capella said she has nothing specific in mind. She plans to pay back her parents for making the trip to Los Angeles for her episode taping, as well as put some of the money toward her summer study abroad program in Rome.

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