It's a good thing Aimee Seligstein watches reality television.
On the high school algebra teacher's recent Wheel of Fortune appearance, she correctly guessed the name "Wayne Brady," host of TV's Don't Forget the Lyrics, to solve the puzzle in the $30,000 final bonus round. As a result, Seligstein left the show's Hollywood studio $47,150 richer.
The show aired Tuesday, January 15th, and Seligstein and friends gathered at the downtown Flying Saucer for a viewing party.
"They usually only show sports on the TVs at the Flying Saucer. It was funny when people would walk into the bar and look at the TVs like, why are they showing Wheel of Fortune?" Seligstein said. "They then saw me and understood. Everyone in the bar started booing the other contestants."
The Wooddale High School teacher joined her father to audition for the show at Sam's Town Casino in Tunica last summer. More than 3,000 people showed up to audition on a mock Wheel of Fortune set, but only a handful were chosen that day. Seligstein and her father were never called to the set.
However, another round of auditions was held at a Memphis hotel a few weeks later, and a couple hundred attendees of the Sam's Town event were randomly selected to try out at that audition.
Seligstein's father received an audition invitation in the mail. Contest rules allow the passing of such invitations to friends or family members, so he gave the spot to his daughter.
At the hotel audition, Seligstein competed against about 60 others on written tests and solving puzzles aloud.
"On the written test, there were puzzles with some letters filled in and some blank. You had to try to solve the puzzle based on what letters are there," Seligstein said. "You don't have much time to do it. I only answered about half of them."
But that was apparently good enough. Seligstein received a letter two weeks later informing her that she would be an official contestant. The letter said she should expect a call with more information some time within the next 18 months.
"That letter got filed away in the back of my closet, and I tried not to think about it," Seligstein said. "It was five months before I got the call."
When that call finally came, Seligstein and her sister went shopping for the perfect game show outfit.
"They told me there were certain colors I couldn't wear, like solid white, black, or red. And they don't want you to wear a pattern," said Seligstein. "I decided on a turquoise shirt and a black sparkly sweater vest."
On the big day in mid-December, Seligstein's family cheered her on in the audience. Six games were filmed, and Seligstein was chosen for the second one. She stayed ahead for most of the game, correctly guessing phrases like "White Chocolate Mousse" and "Like Heaven on Earth."
What will she do with her winnings?
"I'm going to buy furniture for my house and pay for graduate school," she said. "And I'm going to pay back the money I spent on my trip to L.A. [Wheel of Fortune] doesn't pay for that."