UNION, NJ — For Union Township resident Domonique Walker, it’s time to make a deal.
On Monday, Jan. 11, the 34-year-old music teacher at Robert Treat Academy Charter School in Newark appeared on a previously taped episode of the CBS daytime game show “Let’s Make a Deal.” Walker took a chance at winning it big with cash prizes, rolling the dice for luxurious getaways and trying her luck at winning high-priced items.
Walker, who lived in Union for three years, left for three years, then returned and bought a home here, said on Friday, Jan. 8, that she was excited for the opportunity to try something new during the pandemic. “As we all know, going through these times with the pandemic, I wanted to just try something out that would be fun, be able to earn some prizes and, most importantly, I really wanted my students to be able to get a little bit of a smile by catching me on television.
“We’re so disconnected with the virtual and we’re trying our best, but you just never know what’s going on at home,” she continued. “I just thought they would really get a good kick out of watching me on national television. I do not have children. My only children are my students. All of my parents know that they share their children with me. I have two sisters, one brother, a boyfriend of two years, a mom, dad, stepmom, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends who have become family.”
Being on camera isn’t new to Walker.
“Although I am a music teacher, my first love is definitely performing,” Walker said. “I sing opera, and I teach piano, but I haven’t been able to perform or audition for anything for years because of being a full-time music teacher at a very rigorous charter school. In Newark, it was very difficult to be able to follow my own dreams.
“A friend of mine came across an application and sent it to me,” she continued. “I filled it out, sent it in, with a few pictures, and got called for an interview. I did a virtual Zoom interview, they called me back and they were glad to have me. I was so excited.”
“Let’s Make a Deal,” hosted by actor and television personality Wayne Brady, involves contestants in costumes making deals with the host. They need to try to steer clear of the booby prizes, or “Zonks.” Throughout the game, Brady and his colleagues tempt contestants with prizes. There are mystery boxes that may or may not hold an item of value. There is cash involved, too.
“For example,” Walker explained, “one game could be Wayne Brady pulling two envelops out of his pocket, and you have to choose which envelope you want. Whichever one you choose, he’ll open it up and see if you won a prize, or he might say, ‘You chose this one, but what about this big box on the other side of the room?’ You literally have no idea what’s inside, so it’s the element of surprise.”
At the end of the episode, the prizewinners have the chance to trade in their prizes, should they so desire, for an opportunity to win the Big Deal. They pick a curtain; if the Big Deal is behind the curtain they pick, they are going to go home very happy.
The costumes just add an element of humor to the proceedings.
“You get to pick whatever costume you want that’s not trademarked and is appropriate,” Walker said. “It adds to the fun and silliness of the show. I was a Golden Musical Princess.”
Walker enjoyed the excitement of the show.
“You’re thinking, ‘Should I go for it? Should I not?’ and you only have a few seconds to figure it out. The other contestants are yelling, telling you what to do. It’s a ball of emotion.
“I was always a fan of Wayne Brady first,” she continued. “I’ve always loved ‘The Price Is Right’ and many of the other game shows like that, but I just got into ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ during quarantine.”
During the pandemic, the show replaced the in-person audience with a “virtual wall,” featuring 18 virtual audience members. Walker appeared as a participant of the virtual wall.
“The show tapes on the West Coast in California,” Walker said. “The good thing about the pandemic, what it did was open the doors for those of us everywhere else in the country to be able to participate on their virtual wall. … So, we’re supposed to be the audience and cheering them on, but Wayne does call on us sometimes to play smaller games, here and there, depending how excited you are. It’s cool how, out of something negative, such as the pandemic, many of us are able to win prizes and put a smile on our family’s faces, just for seeing us on television and just enjoy.”
As a virtual wall participant, Walker had the chance to win a cash prize. It was that or take what was in the big box. She passed on $1,110 and chose the box. Inside the box was a 2020 Honda FourTrax Rancher ATV, valued at $6,199. Then she had to decide whether to keep the ATV or go for the Big Deal of the day. Walker chose the latter.
The Big Deal, behind Door No. 3, which Walker chose, was revealed to be a game room. Behind Door No. 2 was a trip to San Antonio, and behind Door No. 1 was a new Volkswagen Tiguan, valued at $26,224.
Walker says that the chance to participate on the show was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her, one that she feels will jump-start her career.
“It really was a lot of fun,” Walker said. “I’ve always enjoyed being able to cheer others on, and that’s literally what the game is about. People around you might win or lose, but the energy and excitement of seeing someone win a car, or seeing someone win a large cash prize or a trip, was exciting. We all wish it was us, but it was still fun to see someone else win. I would definitely do this again, if I had the chance to participate again.
“We taped a few episodes, where I have one episode that passed already,” she continued. “I didn’t realize it, and a friend texted me and told me she saw me. She told me how excited she was when she saw me. She told everyone. I definitely had a warm feeling flow through my body when I read that. I felt like I belonged there.
“This experience was motivating for me, personally, as well as entertaining,” Walker added. “Overall, this was encouraging toward my career. I’m just getting ready to step out into auditioning with acting and singing. This was my first step in that direction. It was my first audition. To have landed it and had such a great time, have gotten great feedback from producers, this was a life-changing experience that I’m forever grateful for.”
Walker’s best friend, Clayton Cole, spoke of Walker’s long-time aspirations of being on television and how it felt to see her on the show.
“I’ve known about Domonique’s passion for a while,” Cole said on Sunday, Jan. 10. “She’s always been really into singing and performing. She’s been an opera singer for quite some time. … Being on television was just something that is, I would say, icing on the cake for her, as it pertains to performing and being in front of an audience.
“I have seen her on the show before, because she was on a little episode where they showed her as one of the people that’s in the audience, but virtually,” he continued. “It was awesome seeing her on the show. I think she’s an amazing personality and she has a lot to give, in terms of entertainment. It was just awesome to see that.”
Another friend of Walker’s, Perrise Thomas, agreed.
“I’ve known about Domonique’s aspirations since we’ve met,” Thomas said on Monday, Jan. 11. “Everything she’s always done has been geared toward being active in theater, chorus, anything that she can get her hands on. She’s always been very passionate.
“I saw her on the show this morning and I was so proud,” Thomas continued. “I had to watch it from work, but I thought she looked great. I was calling people over to my desk to see her. I saw her that day because we FaceTime every day, with us being on different time zones, but I was able to catch the episode, and it was a different glow watching her on the actual episode. I saw her costume. We discussed it before she went on. It made me so happy. It was just like a proud parent moment.”
“Let’s Make a Deal” airs at 10 a.m., weekdays, on CBS. Viewers can catch previously aired episodes on CBS.com.