Winning big on “Wheel of Fortune” was just the beginning of the excitement for Arzo Mehdavi.
The 34-year-old registered nurse from Hayward, California, snagged more than $56,000 on the April 23 episode of the beloved game show. Mehdavi -- who works in the ER at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, and is on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic -- told “Good Morning America” it was “one of the best experiences” she has ever had and something that was on her bucket list.
“I’ve been a fan of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ since I was a little girl,” she said. “My parents immigrated from Afghanistan in the 1980s and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ became one of their favorite shows.”
“They shared their love for America’s Game with me and my siblings,” she added. “I grew up watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and playing the board game as a young girl. I’ve been playing along from the couch all these years and finally got my chance on the show.”
Given the social distancing measures in place amid the coronavirus, Mehdavi had a viewing party with her family and friends. They watched the episode together on Zoom and there were even some “Wheel of Fortune”-themed desserts involved -- including a “celebratory cake” with Mehdavi’s face and cupcakes with custom toppers. There were even confetti poppers and the “Wheel of Fortune” theme song in Mehdavi’s honor.
“It was such a cute set-up. The whole thing was so thoughtful and lovely,” she gushed. “I had my mom and dad, two brothers, sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, five best friends, two cousin-in-laws, and nine cousins who are more like sisters to me join in on the party online. It was fun seeing all of their reactions. They had no idea what the outcome was going to be so it made it even more fun!”
The celebration was taken to the next level when “Wheel of Fortune” icon Vanna White -- who has been turning letters alongside host Pat Sajak since 1982 -- joined the Zoom call.
“I think everyone was shocked, including me,” Mehdavi recalled. “We couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t hold back my tears, happy tears. I was incredibly grateful she took time out of her day to join us and chat with us.”
“She has such a big heart and said some really kind things to me during the Zoom session,” she continued. Her joining us and showing love and support made an already incredible experience unforgettable for me.”
Mehdavi said she has received an overwhelming amount of positivity since her episode aired and it reminds her that “there is so much good in the world still” even though “things may be gloomy” right now.
“I thought I was surely going to end up becoming a meme after the show aired. It was the complete opposite -- everyone has shown so much love!” Mehdavi noted. “The Afghan-American community, both locally and abroad, has been sending their congratulations and considering this a win for the community.”
One friend told Mehdavi she watched the show with her immigrant parents and they felt like they won with her, jumping up and down with pride when she won. Another friend said the hug Mehdavi shared with her family after she solved the bonus round puzzle was every family’s dream and they got to experience it through her.
“I honestly never imagined the positive impact my ‘Wheel of Fortune’ appearance would have on people’s morale,” Mehdavi confessed, clarifying that she was originally going to keep her appearance semi-private before her family convinced her to share the news publicly.
“For 30 minutes on a Thursday night, people across America got to relive the excitement and joy I felt before the COVID-19 pandemic took away our normalcy,” she concluded. “They were able to forget the struggle we are in for a little bit and watch me play America’s Game.”