University of Southern Mississippi vocal student Elliot Yates hit the highest of notes on Thursday night as the big winner on the popular TV game show “Wheel of Fortune.”
Yates, 24, took home $48,360 in cash and prizes, which included a trip to Costa Rica. The show was taped in November and Yates kept the outcome a secret, although he was under no contractual obligation to do so.
“I didn’t even tell my parents,” he said. “I made the choice not to tell anyone and I’m so glad I did.”
A master’s student in vocal performance, Yates returned to South Mississippi Thursday evening from a trip to Jamaica with fellow members of the Southern Chorale.
Led by Dr. Gregory Fuller, the group participated in a week-long West Indies tour performing afternoon and evening concerts at various educational institutes and churches.
Yates, a Philadelphia, Miss., native, said the whole experience and even watching himself on television still seems surreal, much like a movie.
“We actually watched the show on the bus on our way home,” said Yates. “The Chorale was such a good audience, they were all cheering and screaming the whole time.”
After solving four puzzles for $18,360 in the primary portion of the show, Yates won the bonus round and $30,000 in cash by successfully guessing "kayaking."
With his earnings, Yates plans to pay for graduate school and possibly travel to Europe, one of his favorite places due to the rich history and music. “Wouldn’t renting a house on the coast of France be a great way to spend this summer?” Yates jokes.
Yates has studied both German and French. Obviously, he has spent some time studying “Wheel of Fortune” too.
Although Yates admits he was nervous on the show, he credits being a vocal performance major, along with having many stage performance experiences, for calming his nerves.