The Cambrian

Coast Union grad cashes in on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

Melissa Moore competes on “Wheel of Fortune.”
Melissa Moore competes on “Wheel of Fortune.”

Coast Union graduate Melissa Moore took home $8,900 on Wednesday, Jan. 3, as runner-up on TV’s “Wheel of Fortune.”

Moore attended Santa Lucia Middle School and met her husband, Chris, at Coast. The former Melissa Dowdy recently moved to Visalia; she’s an author and mother of two young sons: DJ, nearly 3, and Oliver, 11 months.

“Thanks everyone for rooting for me!” Moore, 27, wrote on her Facebook profile. “I’m so in awe of the support and encouragement I’ve gotten from everyone.”

She called appearing on the show “one of my bucket list items. I have been watching since I was little. Being Vanna White (who reveals correct letters on the word-puzzle show) was one of my dream jobs and yes, she is as beautiful in person before makeup as she is on TV.”

Moore qualified for the show at an event in Paso Robles on March 11, less than a month after the birth of her second son. The show was taped a week and a half before Christmas.

In the end, she finished behind Andrew Locke, a technology company worker from Houston and assistant coach on the women’s rugby team in the 2016 Olympics. (Locke wound up with $15,320 and had a chance at a car or $1 million, but was tripped up in the final round by “Italian bakery.”) The other contestant was Youdinah Canel, a caregiver and at-home interpreter originally from Haiti.

I didn’t make it to the bonus round, but I still had the time of my life.

Melissa Moore on her “Wheel of Fortune” appearance

Melissa Moore with husband Chris and sons Oliver and DJ. Courtesy photo

Being on stage

Moore, who solved a puzzle for “downtown diner,” had a shot at the bonus round, but admitted in her Facebook post that she froze momentarily in front of the cameras.

“I have watched ‘Wheel’ 1,000 times from home and always was quick to guess the puzzle solution,” she explained in an online interview Monday. “But when you’re up on that stage, it’s completely different.”

She missed a puzzle with a quote from “Back to the Future,” which she described as one of her favorite movies, but she got to spin first in the next round and got on a roll.

“I figured out the first few words almost right away and was focused on filling the top part of the puzzle,” she said.

The solution was “Can I Have a Ride to the Airport?” But Moore lost her turn after calling for the letter “K.” Had she solved that puzzle, which wound up being worth $10,000, she would have finished in first place.

Sajak as motivator

She credited host Pat Sajak with helping her stay positive after the setback: “I don’t remember the exact words he said, but having Pat Sajak next to me was like having my own personal motivational speaker.”

She buzzed in first for the next puzzle, a $3,000 toss-up, and solved “desk organizer.”

“I didn’t make it to the bonus round, but I still had the time of my life!” she said. “And as a stay-at-home mom, I made more in 20 minutes than I have in the last three years. I’d count that as a serious win!”

Moore is the author of the forthcoming books “Finding Hope in the Midst of Infertility and Miscarriage,” “Finding Peace & Joy in the Midst of Anxiety and Depression” and “Finding Comfort in the Midst of Grief.”

Cambria residents may remember her as “Babe” from Coast Union’s 2008 spring musical “Pajama Game.” She also appeared in “The Music Man” the previous spring, competed for the tennis team and was Coast’s 2008 salutatorian.

Her advice for anyone wanting to appear on “Wheel of Fortune”? “If you ever get a chance to try out, go for it!” she wrote on Facebook. “One of the best experiences of my life!”

Stephen H. Provost: 805-927-8896, @sproauthor