Honors Global Communities Staffer to Compete on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Tonight
Photo by Carol Kaelson/Wheel of Fortune®/© 2023 Califon Productions, Inc. ARR.
Monday evening on TV, Alfredo Oliveira will utter the iconic phrase he’s been waiting more than a decade to say: “Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel.”
As the new University of Maryland staff member takes the stage on “Wheel of Fortune,” he’ll spin the multicolored wheel (“It’s both heavier and smaller than it looks!”), banter with host Pat Sajak and hope he makes it to the bonus round for a chance to win trips to Disney Parks—and plenty of cash, of course.
Competing during Disney-themed Secret Santa Week is a perfect fit for Oliveira, a huge fan who’s visited its theme parks in Florida, California and Paris. He and husband Kris, director of UMD’s LGBTQ+ Equity Center, even chose Disney World as their honeymoon destination—and Oliveria chose a red Mickey Mouse tie from his collection to wear on the show.
“It was so unbelievable to be there,” said Oliveira. “As Vanna (White) said to us before we started taping, ‘It’s the fastest 20 minutes of your life—enjoy it!”
Oliveira took just a couple days off from his job Honors Global Communities program manager, which he started in September, to fly out to California to tape the show. In the living-learning community, he’s responsible for teaching two intro sections, student advising and a variety of creative programming, from “Alfredo with Alfredo”—serving creamy pasta while sharing tidbits about his Brazilian culture—to “The Great Dorchester Bake Off,” featuring the signature, technical and showstopper challenges.
“I love engaging with students,” he said. “And the global aspect is great, because I’m originally from Brazil, so it’s nice to focus on intercultural activities.”
He first came to the United States in 2006 as part of a high school exchange program, living in Minnesota with a host family. There, they watched the evening news, “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” every weeknight.
As an immigrant, the show helped him learn the pronunciation of new words as well as American phrases and idioms, and he was soon hooked. In 2012, he decided to go to in-person auditions in Minneapolis, but didn’t make it to the next round.
Then, early in 2023, when he saw that the show was opening up virtual auditions, he jumped at the opportunity—and this time, he got the call to compete. He watched as many old episodes as he could find, bought books of crossword puzzles and played hangman to prepare. Then, he went to Sony Pictures Studios with his mom and best friend to take his turn at the wheel.
“My goal was to have fun. I didn’t go to become a millionaire—though that would be nice!” he said.
He shared part of his immigrant story with Sajak (who’s retiring next year after hosting since 1981) and viewers, and after the show, a woman in the audience pulled him aside to tell him how much she admired him for his performance, given English was his second language.
Oliveira and his husband are hosting a watch party at home on Monday, and on Tuesday, he’ll play the episode at a Global Communities pancake breakfast for students.
“I’m so excited for everyone to see it,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
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