Adaeze Uyanwah and I met during college. I was 21 and had just transferred to the beautiful University of California, Santa Barbara. She wasn’t even 18 and was graduating that year (WHAT). We hung out with our newfound British friends, occasionally trying to pass ourselves off as being one of them, complete with accents and all. Fun times. Skip to the end of the school year, and she was graduating and moving to England to go to law school (double WHAT).
Fast forward a few more years, and she’s gotten her MFA in screenwriting, won a contest to be London’s Guest of Honour, and met one of the most influential, prominent people on the planet (ie. Stephen Hawking) via the trip. I didn’t even know such a contest existed (please, Italy, get on this), and was so happy to hear that she’d won and had such an amazing, life changing experience.
Adaeze is beautiful inside and out, and an extremely humble person, having accomplished such extraordinary goals at her young age. She was wonderful enough to give us a little insight into how she won the contest, and how it’s changed not only her life, but her mindset about her possibilities in the future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how your fascination with Great Britain began.
I’m a California native from Palmdale. I’ve been obsessed with Great Britain since I was a child. I used to look forward to watching BBC America when I got back from school. It’s not an entirely random obsession. I have roots in England. My mother (who is Nigerian) went to boarding school in London and I have very distinct memories of my time there as a child. I think what solidified my love for the UK was when I began reading Harry Potter. I wanted nothing more than to abandon all my loved ones for Hogwarts, quidditch, and Oliver Wood. I’m usually more drawn to the British countryside, but London has always been a favorite of mine. There’s so much history and fiction that center around London. It always seems like something’s going on there: plays, street performances, festivals, etc…
How did you find out about the “London’s Guest of Honour” (GOH) program, and can you tell us about your process of applying?
The funny thing is that I was planning on going to London anyway. I was going to meet up with a friend who now lives there. I followed a couple of travel blogs on Twitter, and one of them retweeted the info for the contest so I entered. All they needed was a 60 second video describing my perfect day in London, along with a 70 word description of that day. It took me about three tries. The first and second tries were very scripted – I wasn’t really that impressed with them. In the end I just sat in front of my camera and talked. It went on for about seven minutes, and then I cut that down to 60 seconds.
I knew that they were contacting people to tell them that they’d made the top 15. After I got to work I saw that I had two missed calls from a blocked number. Something told me it was London & Partners (the contest organizers). I tweeted them and asked that they call again, which they did, but I missed that call too. I was so sad. I literally started planning how I would tell my grandchildren about the time I carelessly missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Finally, I got another call. As soon as I heard a British accent on the other line, I knew it was them.
The next day I had a Skype interview that I was certain I bombed. I thought that I talked too much, which is something I do a lot of. A few days later I got a call saying that I was in the top few contestants and that I would need to do an additional interview, this time with my mom, who I’d decided to bring with me if I won. That is when we were both told that we would be going to London and that I was London’s Official Guest of Honour. I’m pretty sure I cried.
How did it make you feel when you found out you were chosen out of 11,000 applicants to be the next GOH, and why do you think you were chosen? How did you get ready and prepare for the trip?
I never thought of myself as very special, having been chosen from so many other applicants. I felt like they needed someone and for some reason, out of a room of, I don’t know how many people, liked me enough to pick me. It wasn’t until after the competition that I allowed myself to feel very important. I was so afraid of it getting to my head. I kept telling myself that I didn’t earn this, which was self deprecating and unnecessarily negative. I think I would have saved myself a lot of worry if I didn’t think like that.
I didn’t do much to prepare for the trip. Most of the activities were kept secret. All I did was pack for two weeks for London.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
It’s really hard to pick a favorite part. I don’t think I could compare meeting Stephen Hawking to visiting Leavesden Studios, but they were both very important moments to me for different reasons. Clubbing in Shoreditch was also pretty memorable because it made me feel less like a tourist. I got a chance to see what nightlife in London is like for people from London. Which was nice.
Also, meeting Gurinder Chadha and Sir Ronald Harwood were pretty epic moments. Gurinder was so kind and gave me really great advice on screenwriting. She told me that she was attracted to film because of racism. She wanted to help clear up certain stereotypes through the means of entertainment, which I think is just genius. Sir Ronald was very sweet. He showed me his BAFTA and Academy award.
I know you’re an aspiring screenwriter. Do you think you will incorporate this trip/experiences into any of your writings one day?
Yes! I’ve been wanting to write a project with a British setting, but having not been to the UK for a while, I felt a lack of inspiration! Being in London helped a lot. I met a lot of great characters in London, and there are some of the most beautiful settings in both London and Wales. I can’t wait to start filming there.
What would you say is the most important thing you took away from this experience, and how are you using it in your life today?
Before the trip, I thought about my future on a much smaller scale. I thought about what could be financially possible. I thought that it would be a great idea to move to the UK someday, but I didn’t know if that would be possible for me. I’d just finished my MFA and I needed to make money immediately.
Since the trip, my goals have increased significantly in scale. I feel like more is possible. I never thought that I could meet Stephen Hawking, but I did. And even though it was through a contest that might seem like was just handed to me – I won that contest.
Winning the title of London’s Guest of Honour was an achievement of mine that created opportunities I thought were impossible. If this could happen to me, I’m sure more incredible things can.
What advice would you have for someone looking to be London’s next GOH? Any tips for them to help their application stand out?
All I would be able to advise is for them to be themselves. That’s all I did in my video. I just talked at my camera and had to edit that down to 60 seconds. While I was there, they told me that part of the reason I was chosen is because they were able to get a sense of who I was – which was nice to hear.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, and be another city’s GOH, where would that be, and why? What sights and people would you like to see and meet there?
I would probably go back to the UK. I found out a few years ago that my great great grandfather is from Scotland, so I’d love to go to Edinburgh or Glasgow. Also, I’ve always wanted to see more of Paris, so Paris would definitely be on the list. I’m working on my French…
Where can people find out more about you, and learn more about this program if they’re interested in entering it?
If anyone would like to learn more about me, they can find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/uhdezuh.
If they’d like to learn more about the contest they can go to http://www.visitlondon.com/guest. I’m not sure when or if there will be another GOH contest, but I would 100% recommend entering. London is such a lively city with so much to offer.
Thanks to Adaeze so much for giving us a little insight into her special trip!
You can read more about some of her excursions during the trip here:
Now, it's your turn - if you had a chance to be London's Guest of Honour (or any city's Guest of Honor), where would it be, and what would YOUR perfect day there look like?
I decided to write up my experience of being a LET’S MAKE A DEAL (LMAD) contestant to answer people’s questions of my time there, provide tips if you want to get on the show, and if you just want to read about my experience and my feelings of that day.
I found out I was going to attend the show the night before the taping. I knew I needed a costume for the show, because I’d gone to other shows at the studio where LMAD tapes, and had always seen everyone waiting outside to get into the show, dressed in costumes like it was Halloween. My boyfriend and I quickly come up with the idea to be a tourist, since I had this awesome giant blow up camera, an “I love NY” t-shirt, and an old fanny pack.
I have a friend who’s been on various game shows (including PRICE IS RIGHT and LET’S MAKE A DEAL) and won so much stuff, she’s actually had to turn things down. I call her up, and she lets me know how the process of the taping will go, and gives me some great tips on what to do to boost my chances of getting picked as a contestant.
The next day, I get to the studio, fill out the paperwork, get a name tag, and go through security. Then this guy waves me and this other girl next to me up into this small area. This is their brief “interview” process, where they see what you’re all about, and try and get a feel for what you’ll be like if you get called down as a contestant.
He asks us what our names are, and what we do. I don’t really remember if he asks us anything else (it’s very quick), but I say everything with tons of energy, and I’m practically bouncing around with giddiness. I’m hoping my blow up camera is original enough for me to really stand out. Especially because I printed out Wayne’s picture and put it alongside a picture of myself on the back of the camera. So I make sure and show him this, and excitedly joke that we have a picture already together.
After that, I go into their waiting room. I sign in, and then a photographer takes a picture of me against a green screen. They sell these pictures if you want a picture of yourself “on” the LMAD stage that they insert in after. You can go outside to pay for the picture if you want (it’s like $20 a pic, and I’s poor, so I turn it down).
Then comes the waiting. There’s a bunch of chairs, and TVs playing LET’S MAKE A DEAL. My friend told me they’re watching you in this room, and she was dancing in this room, and being very interactive with the people around her, playing cards or something.
I look around, and don’t really see anyone watching me. But I figure they must be watching us somehow. I glance around for some secret cameras, or think maybe they’ve even got workers in costumes planted there to watch others (haha…paranoid, much?). I don’t have anything, and I am not about to just randomly stand up and dance. But I’m friendly and social with people around me, and compliment people on their amazing costumes. People blow my mind with their creativity. I start feeling underdressed, and like I’m not going to get picked. There’s people here with way cooler costumes.
After a while, the same guy who interviewed me, comes up to the front of the room, and begins giving his speech to everyone. Turns out he is one of the audience crowd workers, the people who pick who’s going on the show. None of the attendees know if they’re getting chosen until Wayne Brady literally calls out the name during the live taping, so everyone’s very excited.
The workers giving the speech have an abundance of energy. Makes me feel like a grandma (though it doesn’t take much for me to feel like that). They tell us how to act in there, to have fun, and if you feel like it, to dance during the commercials.
They say that they usually know who they’re going to pick as contestants before the show starts, but that sometimes they’ll change their minds during the taping. For example, if they decided they liked you before the show, but during the taping/commercial breaks, you look extremely bored, they will switch you out for someone who’s dancing, laughing, and having a blast.
During their speech, a worker comes up to me, to give me an LMAD sticker to cover up my “NY” part of my t-shirt, and also the name on my camera. Later, they come back and take the sticker off my camera, realizing that “CANKON” is not a real brand (thank you, cheap Asian knock offs).
After the speech, they line everyone in the room up, and start bringing the audience into the game show room, placing each person in a designated seat. I feel pretty good about my seat (though they say there are no bad seats, and that every seat in the room has been chosen at one time or another). They place me next to the girl who interviewed with me. She’s nice, and dances during the commercials, which, thankfully gives me more courage to dance along with her.
They start taping the show. Every time they bring someone up, everyone’s holding their breath (well, I am, at least), hoping to hear their name called out.
It’s a fun show, and Wayne Brady is an entertaining, funny, and just all around amazing host! The workers said that he’s also really nice, so if you get called, and want a hug, just ask him for one.
Dang STRAIGHT, I was gonna ask for a hug, if I got up there.
Each segment goes by pretty quickly. Wayne usually leaves the stage during the commercial breaks. I hear that’s because he’s getting his pockets refilled with more deals, etc., but also because he, along with other people, are watching the audience VERY carefully to see who they want to bring up.
I start feeling a little discouraged as we’re nearing the end of the show, because I think they’re done picking people to come up to play. The girl next to me tells me there is one more section left, and I don’t believe her.
Wayne comes back out, after a commercial break.
“Who wants to make a deal?!”
ME! ME! ME! PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME!
Inside, I’m screaming my brains out, trying to use my ESP to get him to notice me. Outside, I am cheering my lungs out, and my voice is getting really hoarse. He just HAS to pick me.
And then I hear it. He says something about a camera, and looks in my direction. I can’t believe it. Is he actually talking about me?! I have a camera, right?! I have THE camera! No one else around me better have another camera! I look around just to make sure, and people are looking at me!
I scream, and jump up and down, and run down the aisle to him.
I get my Wayne Brady hug. YES.
My heart is pounding out of my chest! I can’t believe this is happening. He asks me what I’d like to take a picture of, and I show him our pictures together on the back of my camera. He says it’s kind of cool, but oddly creepy. In any other circumstance, Mr. Brady, totally understandable.
Then they pull back a curtain, and reveal that I’ll be playing for a CAR. NO WAYYYYYY.
He says to win it, I have to play car pong.
They bring out the game, and it looks to me like one of those carnival games where you spend tons of money aiming balls in little fish bowls (which never make it in). These cups are smaller than the fish bowls.
Not only do I have to get a ping pong ball into one of the slots, but I have to get the one right in the middle, that’s labeled “CAR” – and – within FIVE seconds!
My heart drops. This is impossible.
Well, at least I got chosen to come on stage.
Then they say I can earn more time, if I can name three out of the four celebrities that have been elected to political office (on this board that seems to have come out of nowhere).
Watching back on the video, this seemed like the easiest task. But most of this was a blur. My heart is pounding, my mind is racing, and I’m trying to listen intently to him, but it’s not easy comprehending anything at this point. Everything seems to be moving so fast.
I think he tells me I only need to figure out one celebrity that’s been elected, so I confidently say, “Arnold Schwarzenneger!”
I’m so happy and sure of myself, like I won all the extra time.
So he’s standing there, and I’m just saying, “Yes! Yes!”
That’s my final answer, dude!
I don’t understand I have to pick two others. Finally, I catch on, and win an extra 15 seconds!
Wayne starts explaining the car pong game, saying the ball has to bounce once, and go into and stay in the middle CAR cup.
He then offers me $500 to not play the game. I figure what’s the point in that, when I’ve come this far? It was all or nothing, baby!
The time begins, and I start nervously bouncing the balls towards the slots, in what I feel is a hopeless cause. I don’t even play beer pong, who am I kidding?!
Suddenly I think a ball bounces in the CAR slot!
I jump up and down, but Wayne just tells me to keep going! I have no idea why, and so I start thinking maybe he said I actually need to get FOUR balls in the CAR slot.
Well! If it was impossible before, it’s even more so now.
Who do you expect to get FOUR BLOODY balls in there?!
I am so distraught, and just haphazardly keep throwing the balls toward the CAR slot.
I get another ball in, in the $250 slot, and the time ends. He exclaims I won a car and $250. I’m baffled! I thought I had to get 4 balls in the hole!
As it turned out, I was unaware that I could still get more balls in the other slots, which have money prizes attached to them, like $250, $500, and $1000 (dang, if I had known that, I would’ve aimed for the $1000 cups. My B).
I run over to the car, freaking out. Can’t. Control. Limbs.
I get in the car.
Wayne comes over, and I ask him and his beautiful assistant, Tiffany, “Is this real? Did I really just win a car?!” I feel like at any moment they’re going to say, “Just kidding - SUCKA!”
Who GIVES AWAY CARS?!
Well, as it turns out, LMAD does. And lots of them.
Afterwards, we go to commercial break, and I have to go back to my seat. I feel like I’m floating, and I can’t feel my legs.
People in the audience are cheering me on and congratulating me, and suddenly, I’m very self-conscious and almost embarrassed at what’s happened. I just won a CAR by throwing a tiny ball into a tiny cup. How did this happen?! It’s crazy talk!
After the show, I go with all the other winners into their office. It’s a misconception that people go home that day with their prize. We have to do the paperwork, and no one gets anything that day. Not even the people that win like $20 cash. They take those dolla dolla bills right out your hand once the commercial break comes.
Overall, twas one of the most fun (and nerve-wracking) experiences of my life.
I totally recommend if you want to be a contestant on the show, just DO it. It’s possible. Even if you think you’re unlucky, and never win anything.
You gotta play the game to win. And it’s a REALLY fun game.
I have to thank the entire team at LMAD for this wonderful experience. They work so hard, and are like Santa Clauses, giving away so many prizes every day. Awesomeness all around.
AFTER THE SHOW:
- The taping happened in September 2014, and the episode aired at the end of January 2015. I received my car at the end of March 2015.
- I decided to keep the car, but I did upgrade it. I had to pay the taxes on the car, and license/registration, and will have to pay the additional taxes the car prize winnings adds to my income. So it’s not a free car, by any measure, but I’m essentially paying the price of a used car for a new car.
TIPS & INFORMATION ON HOW TO BE A CONTESTANT ON LET'S MAKE A DEAL:
If you’re a super energetic, happy, smiley person and are in (or can get to) Los Angeles, I say, GO FOR IT!
This is all just based on my experience. Hopefully this helps, but don’t take it as a step by step guarantee to get on the show.
EDIT* I attended this show in 2014. The processes in going there may have changed a bit, but the general tips are still useful
- You can get FREE tickets on their official site: http://www.cbs.com/shows/lets_make_a_deal/tickets/70657/
- OR, here's the contact info for two of the casting directors on the show (with their permission). They can also get you tickets, and I'm sure it doesn't hurt to contact them personally!
- Follow @letsmakeadeal on Twitter, and check it the day before you go. They’ll sometimes mention things for you to bring, and you could win prizes if you have it and they pick you.
- Come up with an original, creative costume. Nothing too scary though. Don’t wear any brand names or have any logos on any part of your outfit, or they’ll get covered up.
- When you get to the studio, you are ON. This means people are watching you. Well, supposedly anyways, but I still wouldn’t be a punk to anyone around you.
- They have a small “interview” process that everyone goes through, for them to see who they want to bring up as contestants. They bring you into an area with a bunch of people, and will go around the circle, usually asking you your name, where you're from, what you do. THIS is the interview, and your time to shine! You have possibly 15 seconds or less to impress them. Smile, laugh, yell out excitedly, and be super energetic. Just don’t get too crazy. Think of something unique about yourself, or have something interesting/funny to tell them. They’re watching to see how you’ll act if Wayne Brady brings you on stage.
- If you’re an actor, play it safe, and don’t mention that. Give them some other job you do that also might pay the bills. Also, be generic with the titles. They don’t want to know where exactly you work, like at Target. Just say “cashier.”
- Regarding costumes, and being in the waiting room, try not to overthink anything. You never know what they’re looking for. I’ve seen some people with generic looking costumes get up there because they have an awesome personality or story. It’s probably like 30% costume, 70% person (it also may be the complete opposite, because I just made up those statistics). Be friendly and smiley while waiting, even if you're sitting in there for awhile.
- They say they generally have the people they want in mind before you get seated, however they can change their minds while shooting. Don't worry about where you get seated. There have been contestants chosen from every seat. What's MOST IMPORTANT is that during the entire time, especially during the commercial breaks you are up on your feet, dancing, and having a BLAST. They (and Wayne Brady) have the cameras on you, and are watching the audience intently to see who to call to the stage. If they thought they knew who they were going to call before shooting, but during the breaks that person is passed out, or not energetic, they're going to search out for someone that's having a ton more fun, and showing it! I'm not kidding. Don't just have conversations with whomever you came with, don't sit in your chair, don't act like you're just waiting for them to call you. You have to be SO FRIGGIN ON IT, every second!! This is your chance to really impress them!
- If you get called down to the stage as a contestant, be excited! Jump up and down, wave your hands, etc. This is a game show. They want people who aren't shy about showing their emotions. If you win something, be excited! Don’t ask for a better prize. You will get taken off the show. If you lose...well, be gracious about it.
- If you win a prize, you won’t actually take anything home that day with you. First off, the show hasn’t aired, and won’t air for a few months after the taping. Secondly, if, for some reason it doesn’t air, you won’t get the prize. Third, you must keep this a secret from everyone, because if it gets out that you’ve told anyone (or worse, post it on social media), your prize will be revoked.
- In addition, any prize you win, you must pay taxes on, and it’s counted towards your income (which means paying more taxes on that as well). So make sure that if you decide to keep it, you will be able to pay for the taxes and any other monetary responsibilities that come along with it. Here are some useful links to read more about this:
- You have 10 days after the taping to decide if you’re going to accept or decline the prize. After the episode airs, they have 90 days to get the prize to you.
- If you win a car, you have to go to a specific car dealership that they exclusively work with the car prizes. And FYI, if you decide to upgrade the car, you'll most likely be paying the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), and won't get a deal on it. These people already receive your prize money for the car before you come in, and they know you have to buy a car, and buy it there.
Let me know if you’ve ever been on LMAD and how it was! I’d love to hear other people’s time on the show!