What You Probably Don't Know About Vanna White

We've seen Vanna White flipping (and then pressing) letters on Wheel of Fortune in her trademark sparkly gowns for decades. But who is the person behind this lovely television personality? We'd like to solve the puzzle: things you didn't know about Vanna White.

She wasn't the original letter-turner

Although her name is now synonymous with Wheel of Fortune, White wasn't always the show's letter-turner. In fact, up until 1982, the job was held by Susan Stafford.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune in 1987, Stafford quit her gig after the job made her re-assess her priorities in life. "I mean, for seven years I stood there and turned letters," she told the paper. "I had to ask myself if that was any way for a grown woman to live her life."

Reflecting on her replacement, Stafford didn't seem too impressed by White one way or the other. "She's got a good body and wears pretty dresses," she said. "She's a harmless, sweet girl who doesn't mean anyone any harm. When I was showing her how to turn the letters, she was real grateful. Her eyes got real big. She was so happy to be there. It reminded me of how I was at the beginning. But let's face it, no matter how much money you make or how famous you become, you're still just the girl on the game show turning letters."

Stafford didn't seem all that impressed by the show, either. "I've never felt nostalgic," she confessed. "I'm surprised that they haven't changed the format. Actually, when I've watched the show I have felt a sort of relief. Relief that I don`t have to do that anymore."

We believe that's now what they actively refer to as "shade."

She owes her career to Wayne Gretzky's wife

As she told Fox News in 2016, White is where she is today all thanks to knowing the right person, in the right place at the right time.

"Back in 1982, I went to a taping of Dance Fever, which was one of Merv Griffin's shows. Janet Jones, who's now Janet Gretzky, was one of the dancers. She introduced me to Merv's right hand man ... He gave me his card and said, 'Call me on October 5th and if we haven't made a decision, you can come in and audition.'"

White continued, "So 10 a.m. on October 5th I called him. He tells me, 'Come on in and audition.' I was probably the last one that they saw. They narrowed it down to me and one other girl, who happened to be a very good friend of mine, who's now a successful writer. I found out I got it the day before Thanksgiving 1982 and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was sitting in my apartment when I suddenly got a phone call. I think I literally screamed out loud."

Later on, White said she asked Griffin and asked him why he picked her over the other women auditioning. "I asked Merv. I said, 'So why did you choose me?'" White said in a 2013 interview with Katie Couric. "And he said, 'Because you turned the letters better than anyone else."

Vanna's Playboy scandal

In 1987, White appeared on the cover of Playboy after an ex-boyfriend allegedly sold some risque lingerie photos she'd taken before she became famous to Hugh Hefner. White didn't want to be featured on or in the magazine and regrets it to this day. "What happened was when I moved to Hollywood, I was too embarrassed to ask my dad for money for rent. I did some lingerie shots...and Hugh Hefner bought the pictures. Hugh was my friend and he said, 'Vanna, we are going to put you on the cover.' I said, 'If you put me on the cover, my career could be ruined,' and they did it anyway," she told Entertainment Tonight. "I don't talk to him, I feel bad, it was a long time ago but that really hurt my feelings."

Her personal life has been a roller coaster

White was engaged to model and soap opera actor John Gibson in the 1980s. Tragically, Gibson died in a plane crash in 1986.

A few years later, White married restaurateur George San Pietro. Early on in their marriage, White suffered a miscarriage after announcing she was pregnant on Wheel of Fortune. They would go on to have two children, a son and a daughter, before White filed for divorce in 2002.

Two years later, White announced her engagement to businessman Michael Kaye; however, the two split over a year later, according to Closer.

But she's since found love again

Although her personal life has been filled with ups and downs, White appears to have found happiness again with her current beau, contractor John Donaldson, whom she met through friends in 2012.

"He is kind, understanding and lets me be me," White told Closer magazine in July 2017.

"He's awesome. He's tall, dark and handsome," White added in a separate interview with Closer published earlier that year. "We travel and hang out, go to sports games ... things in LA, just the normal stuff."

She once turned the wrong letter

To the passive eye, one might assume that White has the easiest job in the world; after all, how hard can it be to touch (or turn, as she did before 1997) a bunch of letters?

But, as it turns out, White's gig isn't entirely fool-proof. In fact, as she revealed to TIME magazine in 2016, there was one episode in which she actually turned the wrong letter.  "I was so traumatized, I don't remember if it was a D or an M that I turned," she said. "The puzzle was either Doctor Spock or Mister Spock. Whenever they called it, I just turned the—we'll say D—I turned it and it was an M. I was mortified. They had to throw the puzzle out."

Fortunately for White, they didn't throw her out, as well.

She doesn't get to keep her dresses

Remarkably, White told Fox News in 2016 that she has worn over 6,500 dresses on Wheel of Fortune since 1982, and never the same one twice. Even crazier, she said she doesn't actually get to keep them.

"They have to go back to the designer, but I certainly enjoy wearing them," she said. "I've gone through all the big styles, [including] the big shoulder pads. You name it, I've done it."

"My favorite dresses happen to be the comfortable ones," she continued. "A lot of them are so skin tight and don't budge. I feel like I'm wearing a corset and I'm walking for 30 minutes in five inch heels. It looks great, but it can be uncomfortable. I still do it, it's part of my job. But if I had the choice, I would prefer stretchy gowns. And I honestly love the cocktail length."

She's dabbled in acting

White starred as Venus in Goddess Of Love (1988), an NBC television movie. It was critically panned, so she never really had any major acting roles afterward. Still, White had bit parts and cameos in other projects over the years, including L.A. Law, Married With Children, King of Queens, Full House, the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Captain Planet, and the third Naked Gun movie.

She loved being name-dropped by Nelly

As most Millennials will recall, White was name-dropped in Nelly's smash-hit song, "Ride wit Me," during which the rapper sings, "And can I make it? Damn right, I be on the next flight. Paying cash; first class, sitting next to Vanna White."

While White was "very impressed" to be mentioned in the song, she was also curious to know how it all came about. The answer, she would later find out, was relatively straight-forward.

"I was at an Easter party, and Nelly was there, and I went up to him and I said, 'Did we sit together on a plane?'" White recalled to Wendy Williams in 2016. "And he said, 'No, it just rhymed.'"

Fair enough!

Her life is pretty low-key

Although she's achieved fame and fortune for well over 30 years in Hollywood, Vanna White insists that she doesn't lead a glamorous, out-of-this-world lifestyle.

"The biggest surprise to my fans is probably how simple I live in real life," the South Carolina native revealed to Closer magazine in 2017. "I'm a real down-to-earth girl. I usually spend my days without makeup, wearing tennis shoes. I love the outdoors. I love waking up early when it's quiet, going out on the balcony to hear the birds sing."

Given that she has worn thousands upon thousands of dresses for work, we can't blame her for preferring tennis shoes when the cameras stop rolling.

She has no plans to retire

Considering she's been doing the same job since 1982, one would forgive White for wanting to consider trying something new.

But, as she told Closer magazine in 2017, she has no plans of retiring anytime soon.

"I'm sure I will one day, but I'm enjoying my job so much," she said. "I don't want to retire. I hope to continue doing it for as long as I can."

And with that, millions of daytime TV fans just breathed a collective sigh of relief.