‘Wheel of Fortune’: The Shocking Falling Out Between Vanna White and Hugh Hefner

by Samantha Whidden

Although her professional career has been mainly scandal-free, there was one time when “Wheel of Fortune” star Vanna White had to protect herself from a controversial situation, which involved Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner. 

In her 1987 book Vanna Speaks,” White opened up about how she had to sue Hefner for publishing pictures of her without permission. Prior to “Wheel of Fortune,” White did a lingerie photo shoot to help her modeling career. “I was contacted and offered a lot of money,” Vanna White wrote in her book. “More money than I’d made on any one job since I’d come to LA. Although I should have known better, I could see only one solution to my problem – do the shoot, get the money, pay the rent, and avoid eviction.” 

Unfortunately, years later, the snapshots ended up in Playboy issue after Hefner purchased them. Vanna White became very candid about the incident during her appearance on “The Wendy Williams Show” in 2016. “I wasn’t on [the cover] because I wanted to be,” she declared. The “Wheel of Fortune” star also said she contacted Hefner, who had been her friend at the time, prior to the magazine’s release. “I said, ‘Hef, if you put me on the cover, my career could be ruined.’”

‘Wheel of Fortune’ Co-Host Vanna White Files Lawsuit Against Hugh Hefner

Things got ugly between Vanna White and Hefner after her images were published in the magazine. The LA Times reported that in February of 1987, White filed a lawsuit against Hefner for $5.2 million. She accused the Playboy founder of publishing her photos without giving him any authorization to use them. However, she ended up dropping the lawsuit. She didn’t speak to Hefner after the incident.

In 2017, Vanna White spoke to Fox News about the magazine spread. “From the moment I said I would do them, I thought, ‘I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m not going to ask my dad for money, so I’m going to do it!” White said about the photoshoot. 

Vanna White also said that she didn’t want the pictures in the magazine. “I was very thankful that I had such support behind me. I remember going on ‘Johnny Carson’ and saying, ‘I’m so sorry, this is what happened.’”

The “Wheel of Fortune” star further revealed the lesson she learned from the incident. “Never do anything that you don’t want to do. Listen to your instinct and follow it. I said, ‘I made a mistake, I’m sorry, and I just hope I don’t lose my job over it.”

Vanna White luckily did not lose her job over the incident. But she admits she could have. “It was a great lesson to learn, but what can I say? I did something I shouldn’t have done.”