Front and Center with Angela Santos

It was quite a challenge trying to determine who to interview during a week with a “discounts and deals” theme. That is, until I remembered that one of my former NCOs has to have the biggest knack for winning contests of anyone I’ve ever met.

I met Angela Santos when I was an Associate Dean at the Defense Language Institute and she was one of my fantastic team of Military Language Instructors. Now a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, she has completed Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Arabic courses, as well as earned three associate degrees and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from American Military University. She currently serves as a Flight Chief at Ft Meade, MD. Below is our interview, which I have shortened only slightly with her permission, on how she also happens to have such incredible luck.

Me: You have a Jeep that has quite a story with it. Would you mind telling it?

Angela: Quite the story indeed! In May 2001, I won a Jeep Wrangler on The Price is Right. I was always a fan of the show even as a kid, so it was totally a dream come true. Just before returning back to my duty station from a TDY in California, I went to the show and made it on (I had tried twice before previously with no luck). The experience was very surreal and I was starstruck standing next to Bob Barker; I cried (happy tears) throughout the show and was a mess, hahaha (you can see for yourself by searching for “Angela Santos + The Price is Right” on YouTube).

I had a chance to win a Chevy Cavalier as well during the game “Line ‘Em Up” but I lost; lesson learned about being on stage–while it seems easy to hear distinct shouts from the audience when watching on TV, that is not the case when on stage, you only hear a loud roar. Luckily I spun the wheel and got 95 cents, so I made it to the Showcase, which is where I won the Jeep.

By the way, worth sharing, two common questions I am asked by folks about this story are 1) did you have to pay taxes on that, and 2) how do you get selected? The answers are 1) yes- but you don’t have to pay right then and there, they send your total winnings value to the IRS and you are liable for the taxes on that amount, just as if you had earned that income, when you file your annual taxes. And 2) The producer interviews EVERYONE in line just before you go into the studio, but it is very short (like where are you from, what do you do)…he is trying to get a good mix of contestants–young/old, male/female, different regions, different races….I think I was over exuberantly excited, and sincerely so, which shined through and may have helped my chances.

Me: The Jeep is just one example of your incredible luck. What other items have you won over the years?

Angela: I have definitely had more than my fair share of good luck, and one of my Air Force colleagues jokes that, if my name is in the hat for any contest, that I’ll win it no matter the odds. I have won many things off of the radio over the years, such as numerous concert tickets, jewelry, Georgetown cupcakes, CDs, and tickets to Six Flags. One year at my squadron’s holiday party during the door prize raffle my husband’s name was pulled for a GPS and mine was pulled for a laptop. The year prior to that we won quite a number of the raffle prizes as well (at that year’s holiday party), mostly gift certificates for local restaurants.

Perhaps one of the more unique prizes I’ve won was a one-night stay in a bungalow at a local wild animal sanctuary when I was living in Monterey, CA. The room was quite nice and gave the feeling of being someplace you might stay in while on an African safari. At night we could hear the lions roaring, and in the morning we received a healthy breakfast delivered to our front porch–via elephant! They allowed us to feed her and pet her trunk for a few moments. I will definitely remember that experience for years!

Me: How do you find all these contests/opportunities?

Angela: I don’t necessarily go out of my way to find contests/opportunities. I do not scour the internet looking for sweepstakes to enter, nor do I listen to the radio all day long to catch each contest…in fact, for pretty much all of my nearly 17-year career in the Air Force, I have worked in places where we could not access radio. So once in a while during my commute I catch one of the contests. Sometimes I’ll enter drawings if I’m at a fair or a convention if the prize is something I’m truly interested in, but I choose those with care because I don’t want to be inundated with spam emails and/or phone calls.

Me: What do you think has made you so lucky?

Angela: Honestly, I think nothing more than luck itself. I do believe I try to put good karma out into the world, but I wouldn’t say that is the reason for my good luck streak, because there are lots of others out there who are gentle and kind as well, but don’t have as much good luck as I have had. People have told me that I should play the lottery, but I tell them that my one common denominator in nearly every single winning I’ve had is this–I didn’t invest in it, I didn’t “pay to play”. Sometimes I have, but most often not.

The very few times that I have gambled, such as a small handful of times at a casino in Vegas or playing Bingo on base with a friend, I’ve done so with a mentality of doing it for fun, not for winning. I literally took $100 into the casino at Vegas and thought of it as my spending money for entertainment that night, and when that money ran out I was done playing and that was that. One time I played Bingo on base (a $20 fee), but I looked forward to the evening as a fun time hanging out with my friend, not concerned about really winning. In that situation, she and I had made a decision before going that if either of us won we would split the winnings…I won $500 that night! As nice as it was to win, it was a great feeling letting a friend truly share in that excitement as well.

Me: Your good fortune doesn’t stop at winning contests. Tell us a little about your “miracle” babies.

Angela: Thank you for such a kind question. I am a proud mommy to two beautiful little girls, Isabela (6) and Gabriella (4). When I was stationed in Georgia (1998-2003), I had a doctor tell me “well, I’m not going to say you CAN’T get pregnant, but you are probably going to need a lot of (fertility) help”. Diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and with the words of that doctor, I thought motherhood might not be in my future. I did not seek fertility treatment, however, as I was still in my early twenties and did not feel rushed to get pregnant, but over the next decade I did not practice stringent birth control either, leaving it to God. After one failed marriage and one failed engagement, and no children, I was in my early thirties and had started considering adopting a child.

Well, God works in mysterious ways, and before I got too far along in researching adoption, I wound up finding out I was pregnant with Isabela. I was truly shocked! While it was not a planned pregnancy, I felt so blessed and lucky. About a year later after having Isa, I had an aunt ask me if my (now) husband and I were planning to have more, and I told her I felt it was a miracle I even had one, so although I’d like to have a brother or sister for Isa, I didn’t know if that was in the cards. What I did not know at that time was that I was in fact already pregnant with Gabi! I found out about three or four weeks later.

My girls are now in Kindergarten and Pre-K, and I am amazed at how much they are learning, especially in the Kindergarten curriculum (I mean, she is learning parts of a sentence, such as noun, adjective, verb! I don’t remember doing that in Kindergarten!). It is also amazing to see how different they are even though they are from the same parents–Isabela is dark-complected and looks just like her daddy, while Gabi is white and looks like me. Their personalities are so vastly different too; Isa wears her heart on her sleeve and cries at the drop of a hat, and Gabi is my fearless and tough girl. I realize I am biased because I am their mom, but one thing they have in common is they are both pretty girls and rather well-behaved. I thank God for them always!

Hopefully you will all find a little luck in your Veterans Day weekend. If you’re looking for discounts and deals for Veterans Day, check out this week’s posts or click on the “Deals & Discounts” Area of Interest.

© 2013 – 2020, Sarah Maples LLC. All rights reserved.

Sarah Maples is a former Air Force intelligence officer and an Afghanistan veteran. She is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in veteran, military, and defense topics.

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