Vanna White has been turning and tapping letters on Wheel of Fortune for over 40 years, but the weeknight gameshow hostess is about to take her first hiatus in almost 30 years.
The 66-year-old former beauty pageant contestant will be replaced in some upcoming episodes after she was forced to miss taping.
Per Puck News, as reported by The New York Post, Vanna contracted COVID-19 in July, meaning she won’t appear in the show’s annual Teachers Week episodes filmed during that time.
The five episodes, slated to air in October 2023, will instead feature Teacher of the Year recipient Bridgette Donald-Blue as Vanna’s replacement for that week’s airings.
An insider spoke with TVLine, revealing, “Teachers had already arrived in L.A. to tape the episodes and, with the academic school year starting, it was not feasible to reschedule that day.”
“In keeping with the Teachers Week theme, Bridgette Donald-Blue graciously agreed [to] fill in for Vanna for those five episodes,” the source added.
Vanna White has been a steady presence on Wheel of Fortune for 41 years
Longtime Wheel watchers know that Vanna has rarely missed a show. In fact, this will be the first time in almost three decades that Vanna will be absent from her position.
Vanna has only been absent from her position three times in 41 years. In 1986, Vanna took a leave of absence following the death of her then-boyfriend, John Gibson, and was replaced by Susan Stafford. In 1991, Tricia Gist filled in while Vanna enjoyed a two-week honeymoon with her now ex-husband George Santo Pietro, accounting for her second absence. And later that same year, Tricia Gist filled in for Vanna once more when the iconic letter-turner became ill.
Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak’s daughter, Maggie Sajak, has filled in for Vanna previously on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune. She did such a good job that some Wheel of Fortune fans are calling for Maggie to become Vanna’s permanent replacement.
Vanna is embroiled in heated salary negotiations with Wheel of Fortune executives
Vanna’s absence comes amid intense salary negotiations, as previously reported by Monsters and Critics. While Vanna has yet to receive a raise in the last 18 years, her co-host, Pat Sajak, is raking in the big bucks.
Reportedly, Vanna is making just a fraction of Pat’s salary — while Pat earns an astounding $15 million salary, Vanna pulls in $3 million per year.
It’s been reported that Vanna’s salary negotiations are getting intense. A source spoke to PEOPLE and claimed that Vanna is looking to cash in big time — they claim she has upped the ante and is asking for the same pay as Pat, if not more.
Vanna’s future with the Wheel of Fortune franchise is uncertain too. With Pat announcing his retirement earlier this year, many have wondered whether Vanna will vie for Pat’s hosting spot, keep her position on the show, or follow in Pat’s footsteps and soon retire.
Wheel of Fortune airs weeknights on ABC.