Kingwood native spins publicity wheel for popular TV program

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Can you guess today’s riddle? It’s a place: Los Angeles. It’s a person: Erica Labile. What are you doing? Being a publicist for “Wheel of Fortune!”

There is no bankrupt space for Labile in the world of success. The Kingwood High School graduate lives in Los Angeles and works as the publicity and promotions executive for the hugely popular television program “Wheel of Fortune.”

Labile, a Kingwood native and graduate of Kingwood High School, Class of 2012, didn’t count on luck to land such a nifty job. She earned it by combining a great education and taking advantage of as many volunteer positions and internships as possible.

After leaving Kingwood, she traveled to Austin to study journalism at UT for a year, then moved into public relations and advertising. She knew both fields were her favorite career, but for fun, she tried her hand at Austin’s world of creative arts and theater. She volunteered for various theatrical endeavors, including a group called Texas Tower PR, where she did in-house marketing and was an account manager helping promote nonprofits in the Austin area.

Teatro Vivo, a non-profit organization promoting bilingual arts in Austin, was another company and again volunteered their time to manage their social media and website.

And in her senior year, she interned at an ad agency in Austin.

About to graduate, she discovered that UT offered a distance learning program in Los Angeles for students interested in the entertainment industry.

She was accepted and moved to Los Angeles in the fall of 2016. Classes focused on how Hollywood works, how to tell a story, and offered even more volunteer opportunities.

In addition to a full course load, Laible completed 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”.

“Internships are what you want them to be. They made me do small jobs like monitoring media coverage and archiving publicity notes,” she said on a recent Father’s Day trip to Kingwood. But there were almost limitless possibilities to take on more responsibility.

“You can do whatever you want with it,” she said, noting that she takes every opportunity she gets to learn as much as she can about the entertainment business.

His second volunteer position that semester was doing international advertising at Paramount.

“It was a great way to find out if I liked movies or TV more,” she said.

At the end of the semester, she returned to Texas and spent several months applying for jobs in Los Angeles.

In March 2017, she had landed a few interviews but no firm offer. Eventually, a friend told her about an assistant position opening up at Wheel of Fortune. Laible sent in her resume and a few weeks later they called for a phone interview. They asked to see her in person and it was another flight back to Los Angeles where she met the person who is now her boss. A week later, they called her to offer her the job.

“I loved the show and have watched it forever,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful place to work.”

“I had to find accommodation and found an apartment within walking distance of the studio. No trip to Los Angeles. Can you believe it?” she said.

Laible has a second family at “Wheel of Fortune,” she said. “Everyone has been there for so long, many for years. My job opened because of a promotion.

“The staff is tight-knit and almost everyone started at the bottom and worked their way up. One of the benefits of staff is that they really encourage you to grow within the company and give you opportunities to shine,” she said.

In entertainment, she commented, it’s unique to find a team and staff that have been together for so long. “Wheel of Fortune” is about to celebrate its 40th season.

Hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White are great, she says.

“Vanna is just the nicest person. They never take a day for granted and are so grateful to the fans. Both are just really warm people,” she said.

Over the course of a season, which runs from September to June, around 600 contestants appear, although the show receives up to 1 million inquiries a year.

She is on set during the entire taping of the shows, which takes place every other Thursday and Friday.

If you look quickly, Laible’s name is in the credits rolling 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 media coverage of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and Pat and Vanna.”

“I also help publicize the candidates,” she said.

In fact, Laible was recently promoting Lake Houston-area resident Tajj Badil-Abish, who emerged as a candidate last May.

And now back to the Bonus Round puzzle!

It’s one thing: Erica’s dream job.

“It’s just a wonderful place to work and I’m so lucky,” Laible said. I guess you can consider her a winning Wheel Watcher.

Wheel of Fortune Fun Facts

• The puzzleboard contains 52 touch screens, 12 in the top and bottom rows and 14 in the middle two rows.

• Since there is only one wheel and one puzzle board, they are both disassembled and reassembled each time the show moves on tape to a different location.

• Off-camera, contestants can see a ‘letter chart used’ which 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 start simply touching a monitor to display letters. The update also made it possible to reset puzzles in seconds, rather than taking several minutes to manually reset each letter.

• There are 73 stainless steel pins on the wheel that hover over three hard rubber “fins” giving it an unmistakable sound.

• The Bonus Wheel, first introduced in Season 19, contains 24 prize envelopes.

• Since debuting in syndication in 1983, “Wheel of Fortune” has awarded more than $250 million in cash and prizes to competitors.

• 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 to watch at home.

• “Wheel of Fortune” taps five to six shows in one day, with Pat and Vanna changing wardrobes between tapings to make it feel like a new day.

• “Wheel of Fortune” was recorded at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California on Stage 11.

• The studio audience is 160 seated, watching two to three episodes during their visit.

• A random selection determines if a competitor will be in the red, yellow or blue position at the wheel.

• Since 1988, “Wheel of Fortune” has recorded live performances a total of 64 times, in 27 different cities.

“Wheel of Fortune” fans can submit entries 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 contestants on the show from the comfort of their homes. If selected to appear on the show, everyone goes home with a minimum of $1,000.

Author: Cynthia CalvertE-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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A journalist by training with a master’s degree from Lamar University, a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as extensive coursework toward a master of science in psychology from the University of New York. Orleans, Calvert founded Tribune newspapers in 2007. Her experiences as an award-winning investigative journalist (she won the Houston Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award among many other awards for reporting and writing) , professor and chair of the journalism department at Lone Star College-Kingwood and vice-president of editorial for a large group of community weeklies provides her with a triple dose of bankable skills that cover all aspects of the journalism field. Solid reporting. Careful interviews. Respect and curiosity for people and places.


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