Astoria woman takes the stage as suitcase model on ‘Deal or No Deal’

soraya web version
Photo by Jeff Daly/CNBC

A Queens woman is helping ask the age-old question: Deal, or no deal?

Born and raised in Astoria, Soraya Yd spent a lot of time growing up hanging around Astoria Boulevard. After graduating from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Yd, like many high school grads, was unsure of what step to take next.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to have a focal point,” Yd said.

After dabbling in modeling, it wasn’t until Yd was an extra for a show on MTV3 where it became clear that she wanted to do on-camera work. She went on to attend LaGuardia Community College and majored in Communications and Television Broadcasting. She signed with her first agency in 2011, and after a few stints in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, there was going to be an opportunity that would change Yd’s life.

After a nine-year hiatus, CNBC announced in 2018 that it would revive the popular game show “Deal or No Deal” for a fifth season, and would be looking for a new crop of models to present the show’s suitcases. Yd’s agency set her up with a Skype interview with the casting directors at “Deal or No Deal.”

“My Wi-Fi actually went down right before the interview, so I had to rush to my agency’s office and set up for the interview,” Yd recalled. “I was fortunate to be seen for a second interview, where you go and meet the people working on the show. There were so many people there, but I showed off my character and didn’t hold back, and it worked out to my benefit.”

Yd was actually in Peru when she found out that she landed the “Deal or No Deal” job.

“I was on a spiritual journey in Peru when I found out,” Yd said. “It was supposed to be a zen experience, but I was bouncing off the walls when I found out.”

After two months of filming in Orlando and many fist bumps from “Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel, the new season premiered on Dec. 5, 2018, with Yd holding case No. 1.

Photo by Jeff Daly/CNBC

The popular game “Deal or No Deal,” which originally ran on NBC from 2005-2009, consists of one contestant picking from 26 suitcases, each of which containing a monetary value ranging from 1 cent to 1 million dollars. Throughout the game, the contestant selects cases to open, revealing dollar amounts that aren’t in their case. At certain points in the game, the Banker, who remains anonymous, makes offers to buy the contestant’s case based on the amount of money that has been eliminated from the game after being revealed in another suitcase.

If the contestant accept the banker’s offer, the game ends and the player wins that amount; however, if the contestant rejects the offer, the game continues until a deal is made or there are two cases left. At the end of the game, the contestant can keep their case or switch it with the last remaining case.

This time around, “Deal or No Deal” has a couple of twists that changes up the game this time around. In addition having a female banker, contestants now have the opportunity to make counter-offers to the banker.

“I love the new banker. She’s bad to the bone,” Yd said.

What hasn’t changed is that “Deal or No Deal” is that the show features 26 women who hold and present the suitcases, revealing each case’s monetary value for each game. This time, however, there’s more to being a suitcase holder than meets the eye.

“It’s not just about being a model,” Yd said. “The producers were very specific about picking the 26 models. We all come many different backgrounds. We have women who are getting their Ph.D., olympians; even I’m my mom’s home health attendant. Our backgrounds help as all connect to the contestants. We’re not just models; we’re human beings.”

One story that stuck out to Yd was when a speech pathologist competed on the show.

“I didn’t speak English or Spanish when I was in kindergarten, so I felt very connected to this particular contestant,” Yd said. “The speech pathologist we had on the show had helped a boy who hadn’t spoken at all. If you speak to him now, he sounds like an adult. We surprised the contestant by bringing the boy on stage, which brought so much emotion to the episode.”

To say the least, this particular contestant really hit close to home for Yd.

“To think of how invested he was, how much of an impact he made on this boy’s life, it’s incredible,” Yd said. “I thanked him after the show. I told him, ‘You are the reason that I can do anything with my career.’”

No matter who the contestant is, Yd says that see finds a way to connect with the individual. It means so much to Yd that she gets to be a part of their “Deal or No Deal” experience.

“We hold something that can change someone’s life forever,” Yd said. “It’s such a special feeling to be a part of someone’s memory.”

Yd believes that anyone is capable of achieving their dreams, no matter where you are in life.

“No matter the circumstances, you can always make a difference and change your life,” said Yd. “Don’t give up!”

Tune in to CNBC on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT to catch new episodes of “Deal or No Deal.” Check your local listings.

Photo by Jeff Daly/CNBC