Native to appear on Wheel of Fortune

Published 12:10 am Sunday, March 22, 2009

NATCHEZ — Plezetta West doesn’t just watch Wheel of Fortune because it comes on after the nightly news.

She watches it because she loves it, and Monday she’ll be watching herself.

West, a 2001 Natchez High School graduate, will compete on the game show at 6:30 Monday night on WAPT.

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She filmed the show in February after nearly a year of waiting and hoping.

“I watch Wheel of Fortune all the time, ever since I was a little girl,” West said. “I really wanted to be on that show.”

So when the Wheelmobile — essentially an RV — came to New Orleans, West was ready.

Currently a student at Loyola University Law School, West showed up for auditions, turned in her application and sat. Wheel of Fortune officials auditioned 40 people a day for two days. West’s name was never called.

Life went on, law school finals came and went, and West got an e-mail from Wheel of Fortune saying there would be a second audition on May 15 for those who attended the first one but weren’t called.

This time, West got serious. She researched auditions online and learned exactly what show producers were looking for in their contestants. She learned when to clap, where to sit and how to act. And she practiced puzzle after puzzle.

At the audition, she solved her first puzzle with no trouble — bicycle and cheese wheel.

She was rewarded with a tote bag and a five-minute written test of Wheel puzzles. The test was followed by a group audition, another puzzle to solve and some time in front of imaginary cameras.

“You gave a 30-second introduction of yourself,” West said. “I knew that; I’d read it online.”

Two weeks went by with no word. West was beginning to get angry and give up hope.

But in June, her letter came. She’d been chosen for the show, and at some point in the next 18 months she’d spin the wheel for real.

“I watched the show every night,” she said. “And I practiced with (a Wheel of Fortune game) on my phone. My goal was, I had to win the game on my phone and go to the bonus round and win at least $50,000 before I would go to sleep.”

Finally, her chance came.

After a flight to Los Angeles and being totally sequestered without a cell phone or outside contact for most of a day, West entered the studio to play.

“It was very fun,” she said. “It was my dream come true. And once people watch, they’ll see I wanted to dominate. It’s a competition.

“When you are out there, under the lights, with Pat (Sajak) right there, no matter how much you try to calm down, your mind is telling you, ‘This is for real money.’”

Wheel of Fortune officials have asked West not to reveal the outcome of her show until after it airs.

West, who was born in Natchez, is the daughter of Plez West Sr. and Josie Gilchrist Camper of Natchez. She is the niece of former mayor Phillip West.

WAPT is channel 13 on Cable One’s local listings.