How Bead Weaving Artist Shae Wilhite Almost Became a Millionaire

Shae Wilhite is a beadwork designer who teaches bead weaving at her store, Sweet Beads, in Las Vegas. She is also an award-winning writer, actress, and stand-up comic. In 2001, Shae had the unique opportunity to appear on the TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Watch Shae’s Millionaire appearance — and read on to learn about her experience on the show.

Getting on TV

Q: How did you happen to get on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A: After trying to get on the show many times through the phone quiz system, I went to an audition in my hometown of Las Vegas. First was a quiz (100 “fastest finger” type questions), then a mock interview and game. I was so sure I failed the quiz that I almost went home, but my brother convinced me to stay. Thank goodness he did! So I took him along when I went to New York City.

Q: How did you prepare for the show?

A: I’ve always had a brain for trivia. I was on my high school quiz bowl team, and I auditioned for Jeopardy in college. I probably could’ve been a doctor if my brain wasn’t filled with things like “The first episode of Star Trek premiered on September 8, 1966.”

Q: Were you nervous to be on TV?

A: I didn’t think I would be nervous, because I’m kind of a ham. But when you’re sitting there on stage, with the lights and the music and Regis [Philbin], it’s totally nerve wracking.

Winning the Money

Q: Were you tempted to guess at the last question?

A: No way! I knew I would lose $32,000 if I didn’t guess correctly. That’s a lot of money! And I seriously had no clue; I had never heard of the Guerilla Girls.

Q: How did you spend your winnings from the show?

A: First, Uncle Sam took a big chunk of my winnings for taxes. I wanted to buy my mom a car, but she wanted me to have one instead. So I bought my first (and only) brand new car, plus a laptop computer. I also got LASIK surgery, because I had worn glasses since I was four. No glasses, woo hoo! Until I got older, that is. Now I have to wear beading glasses to see those size 15°s!

Once in a Lifetime Experience (Maybe)

Q: What was the best part of the experience? Would you do it again?

A: It was so much fun! I got two trips to New York City, total first-class treatment with limos and a hotel across from Lincoln Center. I got to be pampered with the same makeup artists who did Live with Regis and Kelly, eat in the ABC commissary, meet Regis Philbin, AND win money! I remember a beautiful April evening walking through Central Park with my brother and literally jumping up and down, laughing, giddy with joy: “I won sixty-four thousand dollars!”

Shae and her brother, Will

I would do it again in a heartbeat. However, I’d have to be invited back by the producers, because as a former winner I’m ineligible to audition. But maybe I’ll try for Jeopardy again.

Q: What did you learn from the experience?

A: I was lucky to be on the show when I was. Not only was Regis the ultimate host, but back then they paid for travel, hotel, and expenses. Nearly 30 million people saw my episodes on primetime TV. There were a million reasons why I shouldn’t have been on the show, but fate gave me a chance for the brass ring and I grabbed it. When life hands you an opportunity, don’t be afraid. Go for it — you never know what amazing things could happen!

Another amazing thing that Shae did is design the ultra-popular Moroccan Sunset Bracelet. We recently kitted the bracelet in two colorways, and it sold out almost immediately. You can still get the pattern in February/March 2017 Beadwork. You can also contact Shae for kits.

Lavon Peters
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine

Check out Shae’s other beaded designs in the Interweave Store!


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