Toomsuba, Miss., resident Ikeisha Baker found herself standing before Studio 33 in Television City Studios in Los Angeles, Cali., in early April, waiting with a small crowd gathered outside and filled with equal parts nervousness and excitement. A group of television producers and assistants led her and the others inside, where they took part in a brief exercise to gauge the energy level of the potential contestants before preparations for filming began.
After getting the go-ahead, Baker walked through the studio doors and saw a series of bright lights and a wash of turquoise covering the set inside.
Taking her seat along with the other audience members, Baker waited with bated breath as three others went on stage before her. Finally, when the time came for the announcement of the fourth contestant, Baker heard the words that signaled one of her childhood dreams was about to come true.
“Ikeisha Baker, come on down!” the voice of announcer George Gray called out. “You’re the next contestant on ‘The Price is Right!’”
“When I jumped up and started running down to the stage, I felt like I was developing tunnel vision,” Baker says. “I heard the voices of the audience cheering and shouting around me and everything seemed like it was moving faster around me. Getting to be there and go onto stage was always a bucket list item for me. The experience of getting to take part in something I’d grown up watching with my parents and grandparents is something I’ll never forget.”
Fond Childhood Memories
As a child, Baker watched “The Price is Right” every time the show came on together with her mother, Andrea Johnson, and her grandmother, Helen Dotson. The family loved sharing in the thrill of going for a big prize, watching contestants play games such as Plinko and Cliffhanger, and even scanning the audience to find people with messages written on their shirts, Baker says. While her grandmother has since passed, Baker’s mother still watches the show daily and even sat in the audience for the filming of her daughter’s participation.
“The Price is Right,” which requires contestants to guess the prices of merchandise to win cash and prizes, premiered on CBS on Sept. 4, 1972, and is one of the longest-running daytime game shows in the United States. Bob Barker, a radio and television personality who had previously hosted “Truth or Consequences” from 1956 to 1975, hosted the show from 1972 to 2007. Actor and comedian Drew Carey has hosted the show since Barker’s retirement.
“Growing up watching the show I always thought, ‘I could do that; I could win that,’” Baker says. “At home, it’s easy to say things like that, but I always suspected it’d probably be a lot different doing it in person. I found out I was right when I experienced how much faster-paced everything seemed actually being there.”
Journey to Los Angeles
Baker’s journey toward competing on “The Price is Right” started with her submitting an online application to a CBS-affiliated casting company, which featured questions involving interesting life experiences and applicants’ fondest memories of the show. After the company accepted her application, Baker had to arrange an appointment for a Zoom interview with a representative of the agency.
“During my interview I told them about the time when I was a kid growing up in Michigan and a friend dared me to run all the way to their house and back with no shoes on a snowy day,” Baker says. “I remember the agent I was talking to asking me if I was so energetic all the time. I told him, ‘Yes, that is just who I am.’ I’ve always been a people person and someone who just loves to smile.”
With her interview successful, Baker next had to return a negative COVID-19 test, after which she received an email with the date and time for the recording she was to attend in Los Angeles. Actually getting there, however, proved to be an ordeal in itself. Baker had decided to take a flight out of New Orleans to travel to Los Angeles, but a text message some two hours before her intended departure time derailed her plans.
“Turns out, a combination of a pilot shortage and inclement weather led to the flight I was supposed to go on getting suddenly canceled,” Baker says. “I was in my car partway to New Orleans, just about to reach the exit to head out that way when I heard. I ended up pulling over at a gas station and calling my mother to figure out what to do.”
“We found out there was another flight to Los Angeles heading out of Atlanta at 7:30 p.m., so I changed direction and took off,” she recounts. “It was a three-hour drive from there, but I was determined to be on this show.”
Baker in the Spotlight
When Ikeisha Baker took the stage in the “Price is Right” studio, she was one of four players tasked with bidding on a prize by giving its suggested retail price without exceeding it. She bid $749 on a stainless-steel dishwasher that turned out to be $750 and moved on to the next round.
Baker next played a game called “½ Off,” which involves a $10,000 cash prize hidden in one of 16 boxes and three pairs of small prizes. Each pair has one prize that is correctly priced and another that has had its price cut in half. Each time the contestant selects a half-price prize, they win that pair of prizes and half of the remaining boxes are eliminated. After getting through three prize pairs, the contestant has one chance to select the correct box and win the $10,000.
“They were bringing out things like grilled-cheese makers and tool sets and getting me to guess the prices to eliminate boxes,” Baker says. “It came down to about eight boxes left, and I had to pick one. Apparently my mother was in the audience yelling, ‘Pick 16!’ but it was drowned out by all the other people cheering for different numbers. I picked a different one, but ultimately it turned out 16 had the $10,000 in it, so she was right.”
In the end, Baker did not advance to the final showcase event of the show, but she did walk away with the dishwasher, a grilled-cheese maker, a toolset and assorted other prizes. Nevertheless, the thrill of having been able to be on the show at all was enough for her in the end, she says.
“When it was over, at first I was thinking, ‘Oh, if I’d only picked number 16 I’d have that $10,000, and it was playing in my head over and over for a minute,” Baker says. “The excitement still lingered long after that, though. Plus, I got to meet Drew Carey as part of the filming. He was energetic but down-to-earth and managed to keep the crowd engaged like it was just a walk in the park for him.”
As part of the travel package Baker received for appearing on “The Price is Right,” she also got to visit Hollywood, Calif., go on a celebrity house tour and attend a filming of the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” show, in which actor Idris Elba appeared as the guest star.
“What really amazed me after all this was over was finding out just how many people I know still watch ‘The Price is Right’ themselves,” Baker says. “I knew my mother did, of course, but after the episode aired I was getting so many Facebook and text messages from friends and family who had seen me and recorded it. It seems like it’s just one of those timeless shows that will never fade away.”
Baker works as a senior administrator in Toomsuba, which is a small community roughly 13 miles northeast of Meridian, Miss. She previously worked as a radio-show host for Radio 1 Detroit’s HOT 107.5 station in Detroit, Mich. Baker ran her own show called “HOT in the Streets Live,” in which she interviewed local musical artists in Detroit and played their music, from 2010 to 2018. She then briefly worked for iHeartMedia before moving to Toomsuba in 2020.
The episode of “The Price is Right” that Baker appeared in aired on Thursday, June 9, 2022. To watch the full episode online, visit the CBS website.