Under her 8th grade yearbook picture, Julia Collins wrote that someday she'd be a Jeopardy champion. The 31-year-old not only proved that prediction true Thursday night, but her 19th consecutive win cemented her as the top female player of all time and tied her for second place (after phenom Ken Jennings) for top player in the show's history.
“I was a pretty nerdy kid,” Collins told ABC News of that yearbook declaration. “I liked to shout out the answers to the TV like everybody else does.” (Good to know we're not the only ones who do that!) Add Collins to the pantheon of self-confessed nerds like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg that make geek both chic and lucrative. She's already racked up nearly $400,000 in winnings, allowing her to quit her consulting job. Now she's making $10,000 to $35,000 a day playing a game she's loved since she was a kid.
But it's not just about the fame and money for Collins. She says she's been getting hundreds of letters from girls feeling pressure to dumb themselves down, thanking her for not being afraid to be smart and show it. “If someone doesn’t like you because you’re smart, that’s their problem,” she said to ABC. That confidence in herself and her intelligence is what launched her success. "I went into this feeling like I could win," she told the Associated Press, adding that even still, she's surprised she's won as much as she has.
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Yet it's not just smarts that go into winning Jeopardy. In addition to a little bit of luck, contestants have to be good strategists—an area in which Collins shines. Still, she's not taking herself too seriously, and is just trying to enjoy the experience as it unfolds.
Since the shows were taped earlier this year, Collins has been posting dozens of tweets about shows as they've aired, confessing to mathematical goofs, pushing her buzzer too early, and even getting a question right on accident. Hopefully her winning streak continues as she plays again tonight!
What do you guys think about Collins' success so far? Will you be watching tonight? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.