Julia Collins Makes ‘Jeopardy!’ History, With Nearly $400K to Show for It

PHOTO: Alex Trebek, host of the TV show "Jeopardy!," poses with contestant Julia Collins, 31, of Kenilworth, Ill., during the taping of her shows on stage at JEOPARDY!, Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, Calif., Jan. 2014.
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Julia Collins has racked up more wins than any other woman in “Jeopardy!” history, earning $391,600 in the process.

The success marks a dream come true for Collins, who predicted she’d become a champion on the show in her eighth-grade yearbook, she said.

“I was a pretty nerdy kid,” Collins says. “I liked to shout out the answers to the TV like everybody else does.”

Collins, 31, a resident of the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, made history when she won her 17th straight game Tuesday, and then added another victory Wednesday.

Only past contestants Ken Jennings (74) and David Madden (19) have won more consecutive non-tournament games than this. The show premiered 50 years ago.

Collins' appearances on the show answer a question for her friends and family: Why did she quit her consulting job and take her time finding new work?

"I did a lot of hemming and hawing about why I was less aggressive than I could have been," Collins said, explaining that she was prohibited by the show from talking about the program at all between mid-January, when she started taping them, and April, when they started to air, or the $10,000 to $35,000 she was winning a day.

Beyond financial flexibility, she also finds empowerment in her success. Girls have sent her emails saying they feel like they have to dumb themselves down. Not so, Collins says.

“If someone doesn’t like you because you’re smart,” she said, ”that’s their problem.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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