Tova Ferstenberg '12 appears on the television show 'Deal or No Deal'
CORRECTION APPENDEDCut to commercial break. Suddenly the rehearsed glamor of television has been interrupted and transformed into chaos. Cameras are flashing, the audience is abuzz with commentary and a light is shining so brightly you get the distinct feeling the sun has been imported into the studio. You find yourself surrounded by an army of makeup artists ready to rectify your every imperfection through the use of their weapon of choice: a concealer brush. Television star Howie Mandel baits you with a joke to which you respond with a coy giggle and a look of nonchalance.
For Tova Ferstenberg '12, a Sociology major, appearing on an episode of Deal or No Deal in October provided more than just an opportunity to potentially win $1 million. It also fulfilled a secret hope.
"I've always wanted to be an actress," says Ferstenberg. "I'm going to pursue law, though, [because it's] more definite, so I was hoping this could be my claim to fame."
Ferstenberg, who was a midyear, read that a casting call of Deal or No Deal was coming to her home state of New Jersey in July and was immediately interested. However, Ferstenberg first needed to cajole her parents into driving her to the casting call, which was at a car dealership.
"My parents observe Shabbat, so they didn't want to drive," says Ferstenberg. "But I told them it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-when does anything ever come to central Jersey? I convinced my mom to drive me, and we waited on line with thousands of people."
Ferstenberg showed up at the casting call ready to make an impression on the show's producers. The 5-foot-10-inch brunette wore her prom dress and heels because she knew she "had to stand out."
However, Ferstenberg ultimately got her chance to talk to the producers due to a combination of good luck and her mother's ambition.
"The executive producer made an announcement like, 'Listen, I feel badly; we're taking up all this room at the dealership, [so] I will interview the first 20 people who get an oil change.' So the next thing I know, my mom throws my stuff at me, and even though there were thousands of people there she ended up being the first one to get an oil change."
Ferstenberg and her mother both landed interviews and after several rounds of questioning were asked go to New York the next day for the second round of casting.
In September, the show's producers contacted Ferstenberg again because they were going to have a college-themed episode of the show and asked Ferstenberg to send them a picture of herself in a Brandeis sweatshirt.
"I didn't have [a sweatshirt], so I ran around [to get one], but the school store was closing and I couldn't get one," Ferstenberg says. "I ended up borrowing a friend's sweatshirt and sent them a picture."
Although the episode Ferstenberg appeared on did not ultimately end up being college-themed, the producers got in touch with her a few weeks later and asked for one final interview.
"We talked, and I just tried to stand out," says Ferstenberg. "[The producer] said, 'Okay, we'll call you back with details.' I figured at this point I was going to get on [the show] ,but I didn't want to get too excited."
Sure enough, the producers called Ferstenberg the next day and asked her to come to the studio in Connecticut for three days at the end of September to appear on the show.
The show is based on a game of chance. Each contestant has to choose from 26 closed briefcases containing varying amounts of cash and is then forced to compete against a mysterious entity called "the banker." "The banker" tempts contestants to accept an offer of cash instead of the amount of money that is contained in their chosen briefcase.
Ferstenberg ended up sticking with her chosen briefcase. Although she cannot disclose the amount of money she actually won, she says, "It was nice considering all I did was point to cases."
Ferstenberg says that being on the show, which will most likely air in December, felt like a taste of the celebrity life.
"It was so cool when they went to commercials, [and] there were people running to me and touching up on my hair and makeup," Ferstenberg says. "And even Howie [Mandel, the show's host] was really nice. Like during each commercial he was like, 'Oh, your name is Tova? You go to Brandeis? Chag sameach.'"
Ferstenberg says that being on the show also made her realize how fortunate she was because she received ample support from her family and friends.
Ferstenberg's roommate, Marina Goreau '12, bought her a handheld Deal or No Deal to practice on.
"I also looked up all sorts of statistics about probability," Goreau says. "I looked up contestant accounts on various blogs and Web sites ... I was so excited for her. A lot of money can be great for any college student."
"Everyone tried so hard to make this work," Ferstenberg says. "It was really kind of eye-opening because you get so caught up [at school] with your work. You lose sight of the fact that everything is amazing and working out. I was able to look at the big scheme of things and realize that I ... [am] incredibly fortunate. Unfortunately, it took just a phone call from a producer to make me see that."
Correction: The article originally misspelled the surname of a student. The student's name is Tova Ferstenberg, not Tova Fernsteinberg.