Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
CULVER CITY, Calif. — Lauren Gentile has been watching “Wheel of Fortune” since she was 12 years old, tuning into the game show with her late grandma Clemetina.
Gentile, who until this month lived in Wake Forest and was a fourth-grade teacher at Royal Elementary School in Louisburg, had the chance of a lifetime and appeared as a contestant on the show earlier this year. The episode featuring Gentile will air on New Year’s Day.
“It was on my bucket list of things to do before I died,” Gentile said
But Hurricane Matthew almost spoiled her chance. After making it through the first round of auditions, the mother of two was scheduled for a closed audition in October 2016. The storm came and the “Wheel of Fortune” casting crew had to cancel.
“I was devastated,” Gentile said. “They said ‘Don’t worry. We’ll come back,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, right.’”
But in March this year Gentile finally made it to her second audition, and in September the show contacted her to invite her out to California for a taping in October.
“Fastest 22 minutes of your life when you are actually taping,” Gentile joked.
The game she played was taped weeks before host Pat Sajak underwent emergency surgery and co-host Vanna White filled his role. Gentile was glad she didn’t miss her chance to meet Sajak.
“It was awesome. It was surreal,” Gentile said. “I couldn’t believe I was standing on that stage.”
After the taping, Gentile moved to Georgia.
Gentile believes her grandmother would have loved to watch her granddaughter on the show.
“I don’t know what she’d do,” Gentile said. “I think she’d be so excited, she’d be jumping up and down.”
The episode will air 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on WTVD ABC 11.