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a spin with lady luck

Fortune has smiled on Alaina Pleatman.

On Tuesday, April 14, students will be able to tune in to watch the Pratt junior compete on Wheel of Fortune's Spring Break College Week.

"Since I was little I've always wanted to be on a show like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy," Pleatman said. She added that she was "freaking out" when listening to a voicemail two weeks ago inviting her to be on the show.

She won the coveted spot on the game show by submitting her name to be a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune Web site, followed by an arduous process filled with auditions and simulated Wheel of Fortune games.

"Last year over a million people requested the chance to audition for Wheel of Fortune. Fewer than 600 people were selected to appear on the show," the show's Web site states.

The game show coordinators recruit contestants through bimonthly "Wheelmobile" auditions, in which the large Wheel of Fortune bus drives through cities and serves as the preliminary screening process for the show. Pleatman said she received an e-mail invitation this past summer to attend a "Wheelmobile" event that was passing through Detroit, her hometown.

"At first I thought it was spam," she said.

Pleatman went to audition at an hotel ballroom with 80 other hopefuls, and participated in mock-Wheel of Fortune rounds, took a written test, solved some Wheel of Fortune puzzles and told the judges a little bit about herself.

"Since [the auditions] were in Michigan, most of the other people auditioning were from University of Michigan or Michigan State [University], so I definitely stood out being a student from Duke," Pleatman said.

As she was driving down to school in August, Pleatman received a phone call from her mother telling her a letter had come in the mail stating that she would be on the show.

She brought her friend, junior Karen Schroeder, to accompany her to Los Angeles for the taping.

"[Pleatman] knew that no matter what, she'd come home with some sort of prize," Schroeder said.

Schroeder added that she was excited to accompany Pleatman to the taping but was prohibited from providing support.

"They seated all the family and friends of the contestants in the far corner and said that if we even looked at our loved ones, then they would automatically be disqualified," Schroeder said.

Pleatman noted that she learned many fun facts about Wheel of Fortune by being on the show.

"The wheel actually weighs 4,000 pounds, so you really have to spin it," she said.

Additionally, Pleatman had the unique opportunity of meeting Pat Sajak and Vanna White, the show's co-hosts. Schroeder noted that because five episodes are taped in one day, White goes behind a curtain to change outfits between episodes.

Pleatman is prohibited from revealing results of the show, but she said she enjoyed the experience and is excited for all of her friends to tune in.

"I'm really proud of her, I think she did a great job. I hope lots of people will watch her represent Duke," Schroeder said.


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