Can you guess today’s puzzle? It’s a place: Los Angeles. It’s a person: Erica Labile. What are you doing? Being a publicist for “Wheel of Fortune!”
There’s no bankrupt space for Labile in the world of success. The Kingwood High School graduate lives in Los Angeles and works as the manager of publicity and promotion for the hugely popular television program, “Wheel of Fortune.”
Labile, a Kingwood native and Kingwood High School graduate, Class of 2012, didn’t count on luck to land such a nifty job. She earned it with a combination of a great education and taking advantage of as many volunteer positions and internships as possible.
After leaving Kingwood, she headed to Austin to study journalism at UT for a year and then switched to PR and advertising. She knew the dual fields were her preferred career, but for fun, she dabbled in Austin’s creative arts and theater world. She volunteered with various theatrical efforts, including a group called Texas Tower PR, where she did in-house marketing and was an account manager helping to promote nonprofits in the Austin area.
Teatro Vivo, a nonprofit promoting bilingual arts in Austin, was another endeavor and again she volunteered her time to run their social media and website.
And in her senior year, she did an internship with an advertising agency in Austin.
About to graduate, she discovered that UT offered a remote learning program in Los Angeles for students interested in the entertainment industry.
She was accepted and moved to LA in the fall of 2016. Classes focused on how Hollywood works, how to pitch a story and offered even more volunteer opportunities.
In addition to a full course load, Laible took on two volunteer internships, one at NBC Universal, where she worked in publicity on scripted shows like “This Is Us,” “American Ninja Warriors” and “The Good Place.”
“The internships are what you want to make of them. They had me doing small tasks like monitoring press coverage and archiving the publicity notes,” she said during a recent Father’s Day trip back to Kingwood. But there were nearly unlimited opportunities to take on more responsibility.
“You can make it what you want,” she said, emphasizing that she took every chance given to her to learn about as much as possible about the entertainment business.
Her second volunteer position that semester was doing international publicity at Paramount.
“It was a great way to figure out if I liked film or TV more,” she said.
When the semester was over, she flew back to Texas and spent several months applying for jobs back in LA.
By March of 2017, she had landed a few interviews but no firm offers. Eventually, a friend told her of an assistant position opening at “Wheel of Fortune.” Laible sent in her resume and within a few weeks, they called for a phone interview. They asked to see her in person and it was another flight back to LA where she met with the person who is now her boss. A week later, they called to offer her the job.
“I loved the show and had watched it forever,” she said. “It is just a wonderful place to work.”
“I had to find a place to live and found an apartment within walking distance to the studio. No commuting in LA. Can you believe it?” she said.
Laible has a second family at “Wheel of Fortune,” she said. “Everyone has been there so long, many for years. My job became open because of a promotion.”
“The staff is tight knit and almost everyone started at the bottom and worked their way up. One of the great things about the staff is that they really encourage you to grow within the company and they give you opportunities to shine,” she said.
In the entertainment field, she commented, it is unique to find a crew and staff that has been together so long. “Wheel of Fortune” is about to celebrate its 40th season.
Pat Sajak and Vanna White, the hosts, are great, she said.
“Vanna is just the sweetest person. They never take a day for granted and are super thankful for the fans. Both are just very warm people,” she said.
In a season, which runs from Sept. to June, about 600 contestants appear, although the show gets up to 1 million inquiries annually.
She is on the set during all the taping of the shows, which happens every other Thursday and Friday.
If you watch quickly, Laible’s name is in the credits that roll at the end of the show.
Laible keeps track of the hundreds of stories written about the show, its hosts and the contestants each year. “My main job is to monitor press coverage of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and about Pat and Vanna.”
“I also help publicize the contestants,” she said.
In fact, Laible was recently promoting a resident of the Lake Houston area, Tajj Badil-Abish, who appeared as a contestant last May.
And now back to the puzzle for the Bonus Round!
It’s a thing: Erica’s dream job.
“It’s just a wonderful place to work and I am just so lucky,” Laible said. Guess you can consider her a winning Wheel Watcher.
Wheel of Fortune Fun Facts
• The puzzleboard contains 52 touch screen monitors, 12 across in the top and bottom rows and 14 across in the two middle rows.
• Since there is only one Wheel and one puzzleboard, they are both dismantled and reassembled whenever the show travels to tape in a different location.
• Off camera, contestants can see a “used letter board” that keeps track of all the letters called for each puzzle.
• The Wheel, including its base, is 19 feet in diameter (the Wheel itself is 7 feet, 11 inches in diameter) and weighs approximately 2,400 pounds.
• In 1997, the puzzleboard went from analog to digital so Vanna could begin simply touching a monitor to display letters. The update also allowed the puzzles to be reset in a matter of seconds, rather than taking several minutes to reset each letter manually.
• There are 73 stainless steel pins on the Wheel that fly past three hard rubber “flippers,” giving it an unmistakable sound.
• The Bonus Wheel, first introduced in Season 19, contains 24 prize envelopes.
• Since its syndication debut in 1983, “Wheel of Fortune” has awarded more than $250 million in cash and prizes to its contestants.
• The “Million Dollar Wedge” was introduced in 2008. Since then, there have been three contestants who have each won $1 million.
• “Wheel of Fortune” has given away over $11 million in cash and prizes to Wheel Watchers Club members just for watching at home.
• “Wheel of Fortune” tapes five to six shows in one day, with Pat and Vanna changing wardrobe between each taping to make it look like a new day.
• “Wheel of Fortune” is taped at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif., on Stage 11.
• The studio audience seats 160 people who watch two to three episodes tape during their visit.
• A random selection determines whether a contestant will be in the red, yellow or blue position at the Wheel.
• Since 1988, “Wheel of Fortune” has taped shows on location a total of 64 times, in 27 different cities.
“Wheel of Fortune” fans can submit applications at wheeloffortune.com /join/be-a-contestant for a chance to be invited to a virtual audition. There, potential contestants can show off their puzzle solving skills and potentially be selected to appear as a contestant on the show from the comfort of their own homes. If selected to be on the show, everyone goes home with a minimum of $1,000.