'Wheel of Fortune' icon Vanna White reveals the untold story behind her Playboy cover

Vanna White was on the cover of the May 1987 issue of Playboy magazine, but she never actually posed for the magazine.

In a revealing new interview with FOX News, the "Wheel of Fortune" beauty opened up about the photos that appeared in Playboy, which she looks back on as a "mistake," and the untold story behind how they landed in the infamous magazine.

White, who has been turning letters on the long-running game show for over thirty years, told the site that the photos had been taken years earlier when she was new to Los Angeles and struggling to make ends meet.

"When I first moved to Hollywood, I was too embarrassed to ask my dad for rent money. I was young and I wanted to do it on my own," she explained. "So, I did these lingerie shots and from the moment I said I would do them, I thought, 'I shouldn't be doing this, but I'm not going to ask my dad for money, so I'm just going to do it!'"

Later, when she became a household name as the co-host of "Wheel of Fortune" along with Pat Sajak, Hugh Hefner suddenly became interested in acquiring the photos, which he eventually ran on the cover of the magazine without her consent.

"Hugh Hefner then bought those pictures," she said. "He's the one who put me on the cover of the magazine. I didn't do it for Playboy. I did not want them on there, but it happened."

Though the young star initially struggled with the reappearance of the racy photos, she received nothing but love from those around her, who understood her situation.

"I was very thankful that I had such support behind me. I remember going on 'Johnny Carson' and saying, 'I'm so sorry, this is what happened,'" she concluded. "This is a lesson that applies today: Never do anything that you don't want to do. Listen to your instincts and follow it. I said, 'I made a mistake, I'm sorry and I just hope I don't lose my job over it.' Fortunately, I didn't. I could have, you know? It was a great lesson to learn, but what can I say? I did something I shouldn't have done."





Vanna White dishes on 'Wheel of Fortune's' lasting success, Playboy regrets

Not too many people can say they’ve had the same job for over three decades and still love it — except for Vanna White.

The 60-year-old letter-turner and co-host of “Wheel of Fortune” is gearing up to celebrate its 35th season this September. She spoke with Fox News about what the audition process to host "Wheel" was really like, the thousands of gowns she’s worn and the important lesson she learned after appearing in Playboy.

Fox News: What’s the secret behind the show’s lasting success?
Vanna White: For almost 35 years I’ve been asked that same question and I still don’t have an answer! I really don’t. It’s just one of those things that every once in a while, everything falls into place... it’s just a half hour of family fun with no bad news… it’s an escape.

Fox News: What was the audition process like?

White: Back in 1982, I went to a taping of "Dance Fever," which was one of Merv Griffin's shows. Janet Jones, who’s now Janet Gretzky, was one of the dancers. She introduced me to Merv’s right hand man... He gave me his card and said, "Call me on October 5th and if we haven’t made a decision, you can come in and audition."

So 10 a.m. on October 5th I called him. He tells me, "Come on in and audition." I was probably the last one that they saw. They narrowed it down to me and one other girl, who happened to be a very good friend of mine, who’s now a successful writer. I found out I got it the day before Thanksgiving 1982 and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was sitting in my apartment when I suddenly got a phone call. I think I literally screamed out loud.

Fox News: You’ve mentioned in past interviews you regret posing for Playboy. Do you still feel that way?
White: Here’s the thing. When I first moved to Hollywood, I was too embarrassed to ask my dad for rent money. I was young and I wanted to do it on my own. So, I did these lingerie shots and from the moment I said I would do them, I thought, "I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m not going to ask my dad for money, so I’m just going to do it!" Once I got "Wheel of Fortune" and some fame, Hugh Hefner then bought those pictures. He’s the one who put me on the cover of the magazine. I didn’t do it for Playboy.

I did not want them on there, but it happened. I was very thankful that I had such support behind me. I remember going on "Johnny Carson" and saying, "I’m so sorry, this is what happened." And this is a lesson that applies today: Never do anything that you don’t want to do. Listen to your instincts and follow it. I said, "I made a mistake, I’m sorry and I just hope I don’t lose my job over it." Fortunately, I didn’t. I could have, you know? It was a great lesson to learn, but what can I say? I did something I shouldn’t have done.

Fox News: You’ve worn over 6,000 outfits, right?
White: That is correct! Actually, over 6,500 dresses. Never the same one twice. Nor do I get to keep them. They have to go back to the designer, but I certainly enjoy wearing them. I’ve gone through all the big styles, [including] the big shoulder pads. You name it, I’ve done it. My favorite dresses happen to be the comfortable ones. A lot of them are so skin tight and don’t budge. I feel like I’m wearing a corset and I’m walking for 30 minutes in five inch heels. It looks great, but it can be uncomfortable. I still do it, it’s part of my job. But if I had the choice, I would prefer stretchy gowns. And I honestly love the cocktail length.

Fox News: Would you call Pat [Sajak] your work husband?
White: Definitely.

Fox News: And what are some of the pros of having a work spouse?
White: We don’t see each other every day! We tape on the average of four days a month… so we get together, ask how have the last few weeks been say it’s great seeing you, do our two days of work and go on with our lives. And it’s nice.

Fox News: When did you realize that you, Vanna White, made it big?
White: There’s one time that still sticks out to me. I remember standing in line at the grocery store and I was on the cover of Newsweek. I looked at the cover [while waiting in line] and went, "Wow, I think I made it!" That was the moment for me. The other one was when I got my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When I first moved to L.A., I went walking down the Hollywood Walk of Fame and I would tell myself, "One day I’m going to have my own star."

Fox News: Do you ever see yourself retiring?
White: I’m sure I will one day, but I’m enjoying my job so much. I don’t want to retire. I hope to continue doing it for as long as I can.

Fox News: When did you realize that one of the goals you wanted to accomplish was to also help children in need?
White: When I had my own children. I lost my mother to cancer. She was only 44 years old, and that was in 1980. That was before I got "Wheel of Fortune." So when I had my own children, I started my own line of yarn because I wanted to give back.

I went to Memphis and visited St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and I saw these children that had cancer... That really touched me because I had two healthy children, but so many other people were in need. And this hospital also does a huge amount of research to help. When I started my yarn line, I decided to donate half of the proceeds to St. Jude. I’ve been very fortunate in my life and giving back was very important to me. This is my way of doing it.


Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White opens up about show's success, the 6,500 dresses she's worn on air and why she regrets THAT Playboy shoot

Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White has opened up about her 35 years co-hosting the show - and the one regret has to this day.

The 60-year-old, who landed the coveted role on Thanksgiving 1982, has worn more than 6,500 dresses during the past three decades on the popular show.

'Never the same one twice,' she told Fox News. 'Nor do I get to keep them. They have to go back to the designer, but I certainly enjoy wearing them. I’ve gone through all the big styles, [including] the big shoulder pads. You name it, I’ve done it.'

Known for wearing skintight, short dresses and high heels, she said her favorite outfits were always the most comfortable ones.

'It looks great,' she said of her outfits, 'but it can be uncomfortable. But if I had the choice, I would prefer stretchy gowns. And I honestly love the cocktail length.'

While she rarely regrets her fashion choices, one of decisions still haunts her; posing for Playboy.

White insists she never knew the pictures would be used for the men's magazine. She explained she had just moved to Hollywood and did not want to ask her family for rent money.

So she decided to do the underwear shoot for some extra cash. Even during the shoot she had her doubts.

'I thought, "I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m not going to ask my dad for money, so I’m just going to do it!" she said.

After she landed the Wheel of Fortune gig, Hugh Hefner bought the pictures and put her on the cover of Playboy in May 1987.

'He’s the one who put me on the cover of the magazine,' she said of Hefner. 'I didn’t do it for Playboy.

'I did not want them on there, but it happened. I was very thankful that I had such support behind me.'

White said she had gone on Johnny Carson's show shortly after the pictures were published to apologize publicly, and said it was a moment that she had learned from.

'This is a lesson that applies today: Never do anything that you don’t want to do,' she said. 'Listen to your instincts and follow it. I said, "I made a mistake, I’m sorry and I just hope I don’t lose my job over it." Fortunately, I didn’t. I could have, you know? It was a great lesson to learn, but what can I say? I did something I shouldn’t have done.'

Thankfully she never lost her job at Wheel of Fortune and went onto co-host the show for many more years becoming a household name.

She said that the moment that she realized she was becoming famous, was when she was standing in line at the grocery store and spotted a copy of Newsweek. She was gracing the cover that week.

'I looked at the cover [while waiting in line] and went, "Wow, I think I made it!" That was the moment for me.'
She says she still can't explain the popularity of the show aside from the fact that it's 'a half hour of family fun with no bad news… it’s an escape.'

The show has evolved over time. From awarding fake cash for 'cheesy prices' in the 1980s, to the cash prizes of today, the format has changed - and so has the hosting.

Host Pat Sajak admitted previously that he and White used to enjoy the odd margarita - or six - at a nearby Mexican restaurant in between filming.

'Vanna and I would go across and have two or three or six. Then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognising the alphabet,' he told ESPN 2 program Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable.

'They’re really good tapes to get a hold of.'

'I think the average number was cuatro [four]... I have no idea if the shows were any good. But no one said anything, so I guess I did ok'.

But he said those days are long behind them.

That has dampened White's enthusiasm for the show as she insists that she has no plans to retire any time soon. 

'I’m enjoying my job so much,' she said. 'I don’t want to retire. I hope to continue doing it for as long as I can.'

The mother-of-two, who lost her own mother to cancer aged 44 shortly before she got the Wheel of Fortune role, also said that her children inspired her to get heavily involved with charities.

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