For LeAnn Oliver, becoming a contestant on a national TV show happened by accident. A pretty happy accident.
The Goodyear native and Desert Edge High School graduate was in the studio audience during a taping of Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show “Ellen” simply to enjoy the experience. But then a producer approached her about possibly being a contestant on “Ellen’s Game of Games,” a spinoff highlighting some of the popular games from the talk show.
Of course, Oliver had to say yes, she definitely wanted to be a contestant.
“I love Ellen. She’s my biggest idol,” said Oliver, 27 and now living in Los Angeles.
The producers said they liked Oliver’s energy and thought it would translate well to appearing on TV. As it turned out, they were completely right. After an official audition, Oliver was asked to come to a taping.
“They told me to show up camera ready,” she explained. “I had no idea what to expect. I got a tour of Warner Bros. Everyone was so nice. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Oliver was already familiar with a lot of the games usually featured on “Ellen’s Game of Games,” as she had seen episodes from seasons one and two. The show is currently in season three and airs Tuesday nights on NBC.
Each episode features four games, and the four winners advance to the final game called Know or Go. The winner of the game has the chance to win the grand prize of $100,000.
On the day of taping for a show, aired Jan. 21, Oliver was in the audience when DeGeneres called her up to participate in the game Runaway Bride. Oliver ran to the stage wearing a bright pink shirt, denim overalls and pink Converse shoes.
In the game, the three contestants put on frilly wedding dresses, then ran on a huge treadmill while Ellen launched plastic items into the air. The first bride to catch three pieces of plastic cake and place them on their hope chest would advance.
But in true Ellen fashion, there was a catch—like, oh, did she mention the wedding dresses weighed 20 pounds each?
“It was very physical,” Oliver said. “And I thought the treadmill would be set at speed five or six, but it was more like eight or nine.”
The high treadmill speed, coupled with wearing a huge, heavy wedding dress, plus other obstacles, made for a lot of tripping and falling—as well as laughter on the part of Ellen and the audience.
At one point, Oliver was neck and neck with another contestant, with two pieces of cake each. Whoever got the next piece and placed it on their hope chest first would be the winner. DeGeneres launched a piece of plastic cake, and after a bit of a scuffle, Oliver nabbed it and ran to victory.
Though exhausted, Oliver was all smiles, even jumping up and down and hugging Ellen afterward.
“I loved meeting Ellen. She is so nice.”
Near the end of the episode, the four finalists—including Oliver—were brought back to compete in the game Know or Go. Basically, contestants stood on a tall platform and answered questions. If they got an answer wrong, they were not only out of the game, but Ellen hit a button which caused the contestant to drop.
During the first round, DeGeneres asked Oliver this question: Who is known as “The Friendly Ghost”? Oliver answered correctly with “Casper.” She was safe, for the moment. Another contestant wasn’t so lucky—and watching them drop made Oliver very nervous.
But during the second round of questions, DeGeneres asked Oliver: What cereal’s slogan is “The Breakfast of Champions. The right answer was Wheaties, but Oliver answered wrong: Frosted Flakes.
Everyone knew it was time for DeGeneres to push the button and make Oliver fall.
“I’m not ready!” Oliver yelled.
Ellen fake pushed the drop button many times but still managed to catch Oliver by surprise.
Even though she didn’t win, Oliver said the whole experience was amazing.
“People I haven’t seen in years have been contacting me, telling me they saw me on the show,” she said.