January 15, 2013

Laurel County native to be on Wheel of Fortune tonight

By Carol Mills
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A native of Laurel County will appear on CBS’s Wheel of Fortune game show on Tuesday, Jan. 15 (tonight).

Tiffany Pennington Higginbotham, 30, will be on WKYT, Channel 3, at 7 p.m.

Since the show was taped earlier, she admits she won something but she is not allowed to say what it is until after the show airs.

“I’m not allowed to disclose anything. They won’t allow me to say that until after it airs,” she said. “I did win something. I could say that.”

Higginbotham said the show had an audition at a public market in Knoxville where about 1,000 people showed up. They built a stage and mock set. Names were pulled out of a big box and those people would get up on the stage and audition.

“I was never called up on stage, but they said they would randomly draw out some names that did not get called out to come for the call back. The audition was only for four hours so they didn’t have time to draw out as many names as they needed. So, they picked my name and I went for the call back and I made it through several rounds. We had to do a group audition of 60 people and they would have you call out letters. You had to take a written test of different puzzles. Then you had to audition in a group of 20 and then in a group of five. I made it through all the rounds.”

Two weeks later, she was notified by mail she was going to be a contestant. A few weeks later, she received a call saying she had to be in California within two weeks for the taping so she made arrangements to fly to Los Angeles.

“I had also filled out an application online,” she said. “So, I don’t know how I got a call back. My husband was there and he did not get a call back. Multiple people didn’t. It was kind of by chance that I did get that opportunity.”

On the show she had to say she was from Knoxville, where she currently resides.

“I was very sad that I wasn’t able to mention London. A lot of people will recognize me. I still have a lot of family and friends there.

“I was very, very excited,” she added. “It was a dream come true to have that experience. I was only a little nervous thinking I would make a huge mistake on national TV. I was thinking about my grandparents — I still have my grandfather — who were avid watchers of the Wheel since it started. I was so excited about my grandfather being able to see it. It’s harder on television than at home to think about the puzzles because the lights are on you. They want you to smile a certain way and stand a certain way. You have to think about all those things as well as the puzzle. It was just a really good experience overall.”

The dress code was very specific.

“There were so many things you could and couldn’t wear. It was very difficult to find something to wear. You could only wear certain fabrics. You couldn’t wear anything too shiny, you couldn’t wear certain colors, nothing low cut, and anything with a pattern. I wound up wearing a blazer and a green shirt.”  

Higginbotham is a 2000 graduate of South Laurel High and her husband, Evan, is a 1998 graduate of the same school. Her mother is Bonita Arnett and her stepfather is Lonnie Arnett; her father is Larry Pennington and her stepmother is Carolyn Pennington. Her mother used to run a coffee shop in London called Something’s Brewing for a number of years in a strip mall on south U.S. 25.

Higginbotham works for United Health Care in Knoxville as a social worker for the elderly and disabled.

“My mom and stepdad moved to Greenville, Tenn., and I went to the University of Tennessee to get my master’s degree in social work and I just stayed there,” she said.