With those two words, Christian Dixie fulfilled a lifelong dream. The Northrop High School graduate and Ball State University freshman was a winner on “Wheel of Fortune,” the popular syndicated game show, taking home $65,930 in cash and prizes as part of the show’s College Week. The episode taped in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, and aired on March 17. Dixie correctly solved multiple puzzles in the early rounds, in addition to winning a trip to Barbados. He went into the bonus round with a prize total of $28,930, and then won an additional $37,000.
Dixie’s journey to “Wheel of Fortune” started when he was just 9 months old, when his grandmother would watch the show while caring for her grandson. “My true memories of watching the show start when I was 5 or 6,” said Dixie. “I’ve always been a huge fan.”
That is probably an understatement. Dixie is a veritable walking encyclopedia of the game, knowing Pat Sajak’s and Vanna White’s ages (73 and 63, respectively), providing strategies to help win the game, and citing the seasons that specific contestants appeared. He wrote a history of the game for Byte, Ball State’s online pop culture magazine.
In addition to being a regular watcher of the show for many years, he is also an avid player of the game’s mobile app, and owns multiple computer versions of the game.
While in high school, Dixie submitted his first audition tape to the program, hoping to appear on Teen Week. He never heard anything as a result of his original submission.
As he neared the end of his senior year in high school, knowing he was accepted at Ball State University, Dixie submitted another tape to apply for the program’s College Week competition. This time his submission paid off. Ten days after submitting his audition tape, he received an invitation to a “Wheel of Fortune” audition at a hotel ballroom in Detroit on June 4, 2019.
Dixie made the trip to Detroit, where he participated in simulated Wheel of Fortune games with approximately 50-60 other contestant hopefuls. He also participated in interviews, and he left the audition hopeful. “I felt like I did a good job, and I felt really good afterwards,” he said.
It wasn’t until January 2020 that Dixie received word that he would be the first student ever to represent Ball State University during College Week. He made the trek to Los Angeles with his parents, Natisha and Jason Dixie, for the February taping. Finding out he had been selected to appear “was just surreal,” Dixie said. “To go from being a Wheel watcher to being an actual contestant was mind blowing. I’m still processing it all.”
Dixie’s day in the production studio was very busy. “They tape six shows in one day. We had to be at the studio by 7:30 a.m. Then they went over all the legal stuff — the non-disclosure agreement and not being able to tell anyone how you do on the show, and they went over all the game play elements. We had a rehearsal where we got to spin the wheel and get comfortable on the set.” They also had the chance to watch some of the other College Week shows being taped.
“The best surprise of the day was when Vanna White surprised us. She popped into the room where contestants wait — it’s called the Green Room — and said hello to all of us. She didn’t have any makeup on, her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she was wearing casual clothes. She looked amazing. And Pat was so humble and so hilarious,” Dixie said. “Getting to spin the wheel and meet Pat and Vanna — I felt like I was experiencing a little fragment of heaven.”
Dixie explained how he figured out the winning answer for the bonus round. “When ‘E’ and ‘N’ showed in the second word, I knew it was ‘ocean.’ I know they like to use unusual adjectives to try to trick people, so I started thinking of words that went with that. ‘Wavy’ popped into my head, and I called the letters C, W, V and A for the extra vowel.” When it was time to solve, the puzzle said WAV_ _CEAN, and he quickly gave the correct answer.
Dixie’s outstanding performance on the show earned him an opportunity that few contestants ever experience — he was invited to stand with Pat and Vanna for the episode’s close. That doesn’t happen very often. “I guess they were impressed with me,” he said.
The rest of the country was also impressed with his accomplishments and positive attitude. Multiple websites, including Yahoo and Reddit, took notice of Dixie’s amazing play on the show. Yahoo Entertainment ran an article saying ‘Wheel of Fortune’ contestant is ‘precisely what the world needs now,’ citing how Dixie’s enthusiasm and positivity meant so much during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being on the Wheel of Fortune set, I saw so much positivity everywhere. For me to be seen as what the world needs right now is so incredible,” said Dixie.
After absorbing the reality of his win, Dixie plans to use his prize money to help finance his college education at Ball State, where he is majoring in journalism, with a telecommunications emphasis. He also plans to take his prize trip to Barbados sometime in the next 12 months, and his mom, Natisha, will accompany him. “She is extremely excited – she’s over the moon,” he said.
Dixie hopes his winning ways will be enough to qualify him for any potential all-star show in the future. His real hope, however, is that he could ultimately be hired to work on the show. “One day, I would love to work for Wheel of Fortune. I’d like to work in production, as a contestant producer. I’d love to travel across the country, working to find contestants. I loved the atmosphere of the show and how everyone enjoys their work. I would love to be surrounded by people who love what they do.”
Based on Dixie’s winning ways and love for all things Wheel of Fortune, stay tuned.