Local viewers may have noticed a familiar face on the television game show “Wheel of Fortune” on Feb. 1.
Liam Oakes, an Andover resident and Newton High School Class of 2017 graduate, had a chance to fulfill his dream as he tried to guess hidden phrases one letter at a time.
“I’ve been watching the show since I was around 2 or 3 years old. It’s really been a lifelong dream of mine to be on the show,” he said.
Coincidentally, “A lifelong dream of mine” was one of the puzzles he solved.
Oakes was selected as a contestant after a review of his application and virtual audition.
“One day I saw an advertisement posted on social media that they were looking for contestants and I applied from the Baltimore train station,” he said.
“You apply online, get on a virtual audition with other candidates and go from there, and then you wait to see if you’re selected. It’s as simple as that.”
After Oakes was selected, he spent a whole day in the studio. However, his life drastically changed in only a few minutes.
“I spent the entire day, from 6:45 in the morning to about 6, 6:30 or so in the evening, but once you get on the stage, it’s the fastest 20 minutes of your entire life. The adrenaline really hits you once you step foot behind that wheel.”
After the show and bonus rounds, Oakes won a total of $56,900, which includes cash, prizes and a trip to the Bahamas.
He is still deciding what to spend his earnings on, but the experience was priceless, he said.
“I would say it honestly was the best experience I’ve ever had in my entire life. I spent the entire day in shock. I am very thankful that I even had the opportunity to do this at such a young age.”
His advice for others who want to follow his path: Vowels are your best friends.
“A lot of people always frown upon people buying a lot of vowels, but in my case, vowels really helped me. It made a huge difference. Never be stingy with your vowels.”
Oakes is a communications manager for the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education, a nonprofit organization that works with schools to make them more inclusive of students with and without disabilities.
He also is a board member of the New Jersey chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
I spent the entire day, from 6:45 in the morning to about 6, 6:30 or so in the evening, but once you get on the stage, it’s the fastest 20 minutes of your entire life. The adrenaline really hits you once you step foot behind that wheel.” - Liam Oakes, contestant on ‘Wheel of Fortune’