Times change, but for more than 40 years, television viewers could rely on Pat Sajak and Vanna White’s upbeat and comforting presence every weekday on Wheel of Fortune. “You turn on the TV today and everything is so negative,” Vanna told Closer. “It’s nice to have 30 minutes of fun with Wheel of Fortune.”
Pat’s announcement last month that he would be retiring after the beloved game show’s 41st season left viewers speculating about Vanna’s fate as cohost. “It would be weird having somebody else turn my letters,” admitted Vanna, 66, who is expected to remain on Wheel after Ryan Seacrest takes over the podium next year. “She’s just not ready to retire,” explains a friend of the star. Vanna admits it will be hard to not see Pat, with his jolly disposition and silly dad jokes, on the set every day.
“I cannot imagine doing the show without him,” she said in December 2022, adding that she and Pat have never exchanged cross words ever. “We’ve been together so long it would be strange doing it with someone else,” she said.
Vanna felt a little slighted not to be considered for Pat’s job. After all, she did a stellar job hosting the show for three weeks in 2019 when she unexpectedly was told to fill in. “To be asked almost on the spot, ‘How do you feel about hosting the show?’ Like, what?! I was very nervous,” said Vanna, who rose to the occasion. She believes it would be good if more women were given the opportunity to host.
“It would be fun to see more women up there doing that.” Yet she took the news with grace when Ryan was named as Pat’s replacement. “A part of her thought the job would be offered to her, but she doesn’t have any hard feelings. She doesn’t hold grudges, and she understands how showbiz works,” explained the friend.
In light of Ryan’s reported $28 million salary for hosting Wheel, Vanna is asking for a raise — her first in 18 years! “The 18 years of not getting a raise is true, but she’s gotten many bonuses,” confided the friend. “The thing is, Vanna is not greedy. She knows she has a sweet deal, but hiring Ryan at the salary he’s getting has made her speak up. She feels that it’s only fair, and she’s confident that the producers will do the right thing.”
Of course, in this age, Wheel of Fortune doesn’t really need a live letter turner, but Vanna’s not worried. “Wheel of Fortune may be old-school, but it works,” said the friend, who noted that longtime fans would be furious if Vanna’s role was eliminated. “The letter turning, her outfits — it’s all part of what makes the show so special. The die-hard fans would flip out if she was replaced by a computer or, worse, a robot!”
While the set won’t be the same without Pat, who became a personal friend as well as co-host to Vanna, she’s confident that she and Ryan will continue the crowd-pleasing tradition of Wheel of Fortune. “She likes Ryan and thinks they’ll work great together,” said the friend.
South Carolina-reared Vanna, who had aspirations of becoming a model or actress when fate intervened with her role on Wheel, feels grateful for all her blessings. In addition to a job she loves, she has two happy, well-adjusted adult children, son Nikko, 29, and daughter Gigi, 26, and a happy relationship with partner John Donaldson since 2012. “I’m still having fun,” she said. “I’ve had ups-and-downs, but my life is just very smooth and easy today.”