Wheel of Fortune Champ Amanda Fowler

wofSchool librarian Amanda Fowler already knows books. But she’s apparently a whiz at puzzles, too—as well as keeping a cool head in front of millions of TV viewers. In a Wheel of Fortune appearance on April 25, the Mooreville, MS, librarian flattened two opponents, correctly guessing puzzles that bore the movie title Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! and the name of the Italian delicacy “pasta primavera.” Speaking of pasta, Fowler won a trip to Rome as part of her $19,100 cash gross.

So! An all-expenses-paid trip to Rome! How are you feeling?
Yes, ma’am, I’m excited about it. My husband Lee is a huge history buff, and I am as well, so we’re really, really excited. 

Where is Mooreville, exactly?
It’s in northeast Mississippi, nine mines from Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Our [grades 6–12] school has about 1,000 students. 

How does a librarian from small-town Mississippi end up on Wheel of Fortune?
We had an event, which Wheel of Fortune does to pick their contestants—an event in Tunica, MS, a couple of hours from here. My mother called me one Saturday to say, “Are you going to take Lee”—that’s my husband—”to try out?” The reason she asked is he’s really, really good at Wheel of Fortune. [But Lee had a work conflict, so Amanda went instead.]

I get into this huge auditorium; there were about 3,000 people; and they drew my name out of this barrel, like a lottery. I got up on stage, and [the emcee] asked me about my hobbies and said, “Do you like to sing?” So I said “sure.” I sang Aretha Franklin’s Respect and did a little dance right there in front of 3,000 people. A couple of weeks later, I got an email saying I’d been chosen to go to a second audition, which I went to in Memphis. Thirteen days later, a letter showed up in my mailbox that I’d been chosen.

Where was the show filmed?
Culver City; in Los Angeles. They give you $1,000 whether you win anything or not—I guess that’s for expenses. But you go at your own [expense]. My mother and I actually went. The film date was the 28th of March.

What was it like?
It’s overwhelming beyond your wildest comprehension. You have so much to think about. You’re staring Pat Sajak and Vanna White in the face, whom I’ve seen since I was five years old. You’re got to watch a letter board, and you’ve got to watch a puzzle. And you’ve got to watch the wheel, and you’ve got to watch your total, and you’ve got to smile and clap and think about so many things at one time with those lights in your face, and it is extremely difficult.

What was the toughest puzzle?
Actually it was the one I got, that was “pasta primavera.” Of the ones I got, that was the toughest. Of the others I didn’t see, the one that was the Frank Sinatra song, “My Kind of Town” [was toughest]. I just couldn’t “see” it. Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t.

I noticed you got Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! in the movie titles category.
The fact was that I knew it was a book, and I had known about it for years because I am a librarian, because I’m familiar with titles. And I thought, “Well, if it’s Dr. Seuss, I’m bound to know it. I [also] drive a school bus. And a friend had asked me to drive a field trip for her sixth-grade class to go see Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!

Did your librarian background help overall?
Oh, yes. Knowledge of words, familiarity with certain letter combinations definitely played a major role in it.

Are we going to see you on any more quiz shows?
Well, if I get an opportunity to win some more money, yes you will!

Speaking of which, you won $19,150 in cash minus the $5,900 trip to Rome. How are you going to use the $13,100 left after taxes?
I have some remodeling to do on my house. [We’re going to Rome] probably around Thanksgiving.

What’d you think of Vanna’s red-hot dress?
She’s a beautiful person. She’s kept herself up.

In the end, looking back, was it fun?
Oh, yes. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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