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The Personal Tragedies of Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune

For almost four decades now, Vanna White has been strutting her stuff and revealing all those vowels and consonants on the board as the hostess of the iconic game show Wheel of Fortune.

Even though she’s been carrying out her duties with a smile for 38 years now, that cheery disposition of hers has in many ways been an effective disguise concealing a great deal of inner turmoil and heartache that the viewing audience has been largely oblivious to.

That was especially true in the years she was grieving the sudden loss of her fiance who died in a tragic accident = and that was just the beginning of Vanna’s troubles. Despite her many setbacks, trials, and tribulations, White has managed to push through the pain and darkness and come out on the other side as a stronger woman, but she wouldn’t have been able to do so on her own. White’s ever-reliable support system has been her saving grace.

Vanna White’s Fiance Died In A Plane Crash

Vanna told People Magazine that the second that she heard about her husband-to-be’s death she immediately fall to her knees. It was one of the most devastating moments of her life.

White’s world turns upside down on May 17, 1986. But before fate handed her such a difficult hand, the South Carolina native’s life had finally started to look like it was coming together. After spending years waiting tables while struggling to find meaningful work as an aspiring actress all the while dealing with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent death, she finally started to land some higher profile roles. She had a couple of significant breaks in the early 80s when she landed roles in 1980s Gypsy Angel and 1981s Graduation Day.

In 1982 she rose above the 200 other applicants and landed her iconic position as letter-turner on Wheel of Fortune – taking over the honor after former hostess Susan Stafford’s departure.

Before she found out that she got the job, the network had narrowed down their choices to just two girls. The other applicant hoping to get that life-changing callback, Vicki Mccarty Iovine, happened to be one of White’s good friends – and even though she missed out on the career opportunity, she wound up becoming a successful writer.

The Day Before Thanksgiving

Vanna wanted the job more than anything else. According to that same People interview, White recalls that her knees were shaking and her mouth was quivering while she waited to hear back from the producers. She couldn’t even talk. Waiting on the call back felt like an eternity.

White got the good news the day before Thanksgiving and she touts it as one of the happiest ays of her life. She was sitting in her apartment at the time that she got the phone call. When she picks up the receiver and heard that she selects, she excitedly screamed out loud. Her life path had just taken a momentous turn. It was the big break that she had spent years anticipating.

White and Wheel host Pat Sajak immediately hit off. The show’s creator Merv Griffin described their relationship as being built upon strong ‘brotherly and sisterly chemistry.’ And the viewing audience immediately took a liking to their on-screen interplay. The stars were beginning to align and soon Wheel of Fortune would become an incredible game show success story.

$100 Million A Year

By 1986, Wheel was bringing in a hefty $100 million a year in advertising revenue and had amassed an audience of over 30 million viewers. To put that into perspective, that was nearly twice the viewers of the second highest-rated syndicated TV show, M*A*S*H.

Yes, things were looking up for Vanna and her personal life was also full of magic. She and longtime boyfriend Josh Gibson had gotten engaged and were planning out a life with each other. Gibson was a man of many talents. Not only had he starred in soap operas like One Life To Live and The Young and the Restless, but he was also a talented carpenter, helicopter pilot, exotic dancer, and sculptor.

Vanna’s hopes and future plans came crashing down when Gibson’s French manufactured single-engine Trinidad TB20 crashed during its final approach at California’s busy Van Nuys Airport. He was killed on impact and was burned beyond recognition.

You won’t find it in the dictionary, but the word Vanna-Mania was coined to describe White’s unfathomable popularity during the mid-80s. White was gracing the covers of numerous magazines, she had her own fragrance and even had her own fashion line that she marketed on the home shopping network.

She was on top of the world when she received the heart-wrenching news about Gibson. Vanna-Mania was in full swing when that tragedy struck, turning White’s life and emotions upside down. It was a devastating blow – something no one should have to go through. And, White wouldn’t have been able to deal with the resulting heartache if she hadn’t had a strong support web to catch her as she fell.

Wheel Fans Made Vanna Feel Supported

Dealing with a personal tragedy juxtaposed with experiencing tremendous professional success was a bitter reality that Vanna found especially difficult to face. There is something about being a celebrity that can be quite alienating and lonely at times- especially when someone is going through intense heartbreak. Fortunately, there proved to be one group of people that stepped up to the plate to lend White a helping hand when she needed it the most – Wheel of Fortune fans.

White heard from so many people who reached out to her to share their own uniquely painful experiences of losing a loved one in an unexpected accident. Knowing that there were people out there that knew what she was going through helped her tremendously. She no longer felt like she was alone. There was a sizable community of empathetic souls fighting alongside her.

Speaking of support systems, if you’re enjoying this video so far, show us a little support by giving this video a like and subscribing to our channel. And make sure you keep watching to find out what Guinness World Record Vanna White was honored with in 2013. We’ll give you a little hint. She deserves a round of applause for her achievement. But before we get to that, it’s important to know the rest of White’s story. She certainly is a trooper.

Not Long After Gibson’s Death Tragedy Struck Once Again

Even though the news of her fiances passing was a cruel and devastating blow, White eventually managed to start picking up the pieces and put her life back together. She wouldn’t have been able to make it through that dark chapter of her story if it weren’t for her supportive base of loyal fans.

In 1990, White was ready to give love another try and got married to restaurateur and director George Santo Pietro. Shortly after tying the knot, the couple decided they were ready to start a family. White excitedly announced her pregnancy in 1992.

She announced the good news in true Wheel of Fortune style with a puzzle that spelled out the phrase ‘Vanna’s Pregnant’. The public was just as thrilled as she was. White had always dreamed about having a baby, so when that dream became a reality she could hardly contain herself. Once again, things were starting to come together for White. Unfortunately, that happiness would prove to be short-lived as well.

Suffered In A Miscarriage

A week after making her on-screen announcement, she suffered a miscarriage. It was an agonizing loss for her – especially since she had just gone out of her way to tell the world about the pregnancy on live television. There is very little that is more painful than losing a child and White was immobilized with sorrow.

Once again, White leaned upon her fans and support system to get through this ever-so-painful period. She did her best to stay strong – to hold on. White also attributes some of her strength navigating through these turbulent times to her personal relationship with God. She’s been a Christian her whole life – and even though she doesn’t like to come across as preachy, she found comfort in the hope she had in her faith. Prayer got her through the darkest moments.

There was some good news after dealing with these two upending calamities. White went on to get pregnant again and had two children. Her son Nicholas was born in 1994 and her daughter Giovanna was born in 1997. Her kids have been another crucial piece of her support system. Niko and Gigi, as she lovingly calls them, attend quite a few tapings of Wheel Of Fortune. In fact, Gigi has appeared as a guest with her mom more times than anyone else on the show.

Vanna’s Wheel OF Fortune Family Has Never Left Her Side – And Never Will

Despite all of the curve-balls and unexpected twists and turns that her life has thrown at her, White has been able to power through the hard times and achieve milestones that few have been able to reach. She got her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame back in 2006 and on May 10, 2019, she filmed her 7,000th episode of Wheel of Fortune.

In 2013, Guinness World Records awarded her with a certificate recognizing a rather unorthodox accomplishment. White had appeared in all but 10 of Wheel’s 5,754 episodes at that point. Seeing as she claps an average of 606 claps per show, her career clapping total equaled out to nearly three and a half million claps throughout the show’s 30 seasons. That made her the world’s most frequent clapper.

Honestly though, we should be the ones giving a round of applause on her behalf. White has stood tall and strong even through the most crippling of circumstances. She has been a beacon of hope to her legion of adoring fans that have stood by her side through thick and thin.

Wheel Of Fortune Fans

To White, her Wheel of Fortune colleagues and fans have been the most effective support system she has ever had. She truly looks at that network as an extension of her own family and she wouldn’t give that up for anything.

Well, hopefully, Vanna White doesn’t have to deal with any more unexpected tragedies. She’s gone through enough in her life and deserves a break. We’re also looking forward to seeing her on Wheel Of Fortune for quite some time. The show wouldn’t be the same without her and Pat Sajak.

Speaking of, it’s going to be really weird watching new episodes of Jeopardy without Alex Trebek. When someone has been a part of a show for so long, they become somewhat synonymous with it.

Anyways, we’d love to hear from you. What’s your favorite game show? Are you A Jeopardy fan or will Wheel of Fortune always have a special place in your heart? Post your favorite in the comments section below.

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