Answer: She is the top female winner in the history of “Jeopardy.”
Question: Who is Julia Collins?
Collins, a 31-year-old business consultant from Wimette, Ill., who holds the record for the second-longest winning streak in the show’s history, lost her 21st game Monday night.
While her winning streak came to an end, Collins is going home with a grand total of $428,100 in winnings. The question that stumped her? The New England writer who in 1999 became the last person to win an Oscar for adapating his own novel as a screenplay. The correct answer was, Who is John Irving?
Collins attributed her success on the show to her encyclopedic memory and her multidisciplinary education.
“I’ve always been interested in history,” said Collins, who majored in art history and history in college and then received her Master’s in engineering at MIT. “Learning history especially started building this knowledge base for myself.”
“I also have a good memory. I’ve developed my memory and ability to retain a lot of information. And I pursued a discipline in undergrad that used and strengthened those skills,” she said in a phone interview with msnbc. ”I’ve always been pretty nerdy.”
“I have no more questions for her. I don’t know what to talk about. You’re now a 20-game winner,” host Alex Trebek said Friday night.
Collins’ strategy is unique – she doesn’t have one.
“Some contestants try to get to “Daily Double” as soon as possible,” said Collins. “Some jump on the board to get ahead of your opponents. These are perfectly valid, effective strategies but I didn’t feel like that was for me.”
“I just tried to be the first one to buzz in, and answer correctly. I tried not to buzz in when I didn’t know the answer,” she said.
So far, Collins has answered correctly 92% of the time. Her success rate continues to break show records and “Jeopardy” glass ceilings, even launching a separate Twitter account – @JCSweaters – that accounts the sweaters Collins has worn on each show.
Collins has more consecutive wins than any other “Jeopardy” contestant besides reigning champion Ken Jennings, who has won 74 straight shows in a row with $2.5 million total in prize money. Collins briefly met the top “Jeopardy” winner at a museum in Chicago while he was in town for a book tour shortly after season 21.
“My friend and I were at a gallery and he was the only other person in the gallery,” Collins said. “I remember it being a weekday and my friend said ‘Hey Ken! My friend is a big fan of yours!‘ “
“It was definitely awkward so I hope I get a chance to meet him again.”
With her winning streak, Collins hopes to send a message to young girls and women everywhere. She would tell young girls, “If you really want to do something, do what it takes to make it happen for yourself.”
“I feel like it’s really important for girls to see other women who are being celebrated for being smart. And to see accomplishments that are related to intelligence,” she added.
Collins knew from a young age she wanted to be a “Jeopardy” champion.
“There was a prophecy in my junior high yearbook,” Collins explained. “I wrote the premonition about myself that I would be a 10-time champion on ‘Jeopardy.’ Other kids wrote stuff like ‘I’m going to tour with Pearl Jam.’ It was very much the mid-90s. And I wrote what I thought would be a kind of over-the-top thing for myself.”
Be sure to follow Collins on Twitter (@JeopardyJulia) to catch her live-tweeting during the episodes.