NIU student takes on “Wheel of Fortune”

With stressful news a recent staple in our world and community, we want to share a fun opportunity to tune in to something lighthearted. Even as Huskies are being smart and socially distancing, everyone had an opportunity to  connect with a member of our pack on Friday, March 20.

NIU senior Steph O’Malley was a contestant on “The Wheel of Fortune,” after enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Pat Sajak and Vanna White and compete against other college students.

Steph O’Malley, an NIU senior, was a contestant on “The Wheel of Fortune” on Friday, March 20.

“I was beyond excited (to be chosen) but super bummed I had to keep it mainly to myself,” said O’Malley, who lives in Campton Hills. “I wanted more than anything to tell everyone I knew!”

O’Malley said she tried out for the show in Chicago in August and was notified in February that she was selected. One could say she’d been preparing for the opportunity for years.

“I’ve watched every day since I was really young, so to prepare I just watched and played against my family,” O’Malley said. “Honestly, I had no idea what to expect.”

The show was taped at Sony Studios in Los Angeles with a live audience. While O’Malley was initially very nervous, she quickly settled in thanks to the “Wheel of Fortune” team.

“Once I got there they prepped us thoroughly and my nerves quickly subsided,” O’Malley said. “Vanna was so sweet and she treated everyone like close friends. Pat was nice as well; I was starstruck!”

O’Malley said the set is much smaller than it appears when you watch the show on TV, but that’s not the case for the actual wheel.

“The wheel was so heavy,” O’Malley said. “At 2,400 pounds, I had to put my whole body weight into it each time I spun.”

And being on TV versus playing the game at home was quite a change of pace for this Huskie.

“I’d say it’s a million times more difficult,” O’Malley said. “On my couch there is no pressure but in front of the cameras and under the lights is a whole different ball game.”

O’Malley said with so much to look at and remember – all while playing the game and trying not to embarrass herself –it was a day she will never forget.

“I actually had the time of my life and was bummed out when it was over,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley’s episode aired March 20 at 6:30 p.m. on ABC as part of the show’s College Week Spring Break.

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