Who Is Vanna White?
Vanna White worked as a professional model before joining the game show Wheel of Fortune in 1982 as co-host. She's responsible for uncovering the letters on the show's large puzzle board and modeling an ever-changing line of designs. White is the mother of two and, as an avid crocheter, has her own yarn line called Vanna's Choice.
Early Life and Career
White was born Vanna Marie Rosich on February 18, 1957, in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Her parents divorced when Vanna was an infant, and she was raised by her mother, Joan, and stepfather, Herbert White Jr., in North Myrtle Beach.
After graduating from high school, White moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she attended the Atlanta School of Fashion and worked as a model. She headed to Los Angeles in 1979 to pursue an acting career, but in the summer of 1980, she returned briefly to South Carolina to see her mother, who was dying of ovarian cancer.
White returned to Hollywood with renewed resolve and earned a series of minor acting jobs in largely forgettable films, including the role of Mickey in Gypsy Angels (1980); a bit part in Looker (1981), starring alongside Albert Finney; and the small role of Doris in the high school thriller Graduation Day (1981). She also appeared in one episode of the TV series Star of the Family in 1982.
'Wheel of Fortune' Hostess
Later in 1982, however, White got the job that would make her career. She was chosen out of 200 applicants to join new host and former weatherman Pat Sajak on the NBC game show, Wheel of Fortune, created by entertainment giant Merv Griffin. The show met with tremendous success over the next several years, and by 1986 a syndicated evening version attracted 30 million viewers, twice as many as the No. 2 syndicated program, M*A*S*H, and grossed $100 million a year. In 1999, its 16th year in syndication, Wheel of Fortune was seen by approximately 40 million people.
White's position as hostess and chief letter-turner and model of an ever-changing line of designs on Wheel of Fortune quickly made her a huge star. Suddenly, "Vannamania" was sweeping the nation, and White soon earned a number of lucrative endorsement contracts and even starred in the NBC movie Venus: The Goddess of Love. While more skeptical media observers mocked White for her limited acting ability and her position on Wheel as a non-speaking clotheshorse, the majority of viewers developed a liking to her, due in no small part to her beauty, energy and constant charisma, and White became somewhat of an iconic figure in American pop culture. Her popularity peaked during the mid- to late 1980s.
In 1992, White was recognized in The Guinness Book of World Records as TV's most frequent clapper, with an average of 720 claps per show and over 28,000 per season. A ghostwritten autobiography of the game show star, entitled Vanna Speaks, was published in 1987.
Of her longtime career on Wheel of Fortune, White has stated, "It's not the most intellectual job in the world, but I do have to know the letters." She also once joked, "When I was having that alphabet soup, I never thought that it would pay off."
After more than three decades on air, White stepped in to host Wheel of Fortune by herself when Sajak was hospitalized for emergency surgery in late 2019.
White's personal life was marked by tragedy in 1986, when her longtime lover, John Gibson, a soap opera actor and Chippendales dancer, died in a plane crash.
In 1990, White married restaurateur George San Pietro. Their son, Nicholas, was born in 1994; a daughter, Giovanna, arrived in 1997. White and San Pietro divorced in 2002. A couple of years later, she was engaged to finance mogul Michael Kaye, but the two never married. White later became involved in a long-term relationship with real estate developer John Donaldson.
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