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‘The Wildest Experience’: Duke Junior Takes the ‘Jeopardy!’ Stage

My name is Anna Muthalaly, and I’m a junior from Alabama double-majoring in public policy and global health with a minor in statistics.  

I started auditioning for ‘Jeopardy!’ more than a year ago, but I only got confirmation about two months before I competed. As soon as I got that final phone call, I knew it would be crazy, but I had no idea how wild the whole experience would be.  Three college students behind podiums on the "Jeopardy!" set. Duke student Anna Muthalaly is behind the center podium.

I flew out to Los Angeles to film right before Thanksgiving break, and ABC put us all up in the most beautiful hotel in the world. The set ‘Jeopardy!’ is filmed in the same location where “The Wizard of Oz” was made, so our hotel was decorated with gorgeous pictures of the actors who stayed there during filming.  

Being on set was partly very glamorous—we got to walk on the original yellow brick road! —and partly very tedious and stressful. It was amazing to get my hair and makeup done by the “Dancing with the Stars” glam squad, but after that I had to sit for hours and watch other players sweat, knowing that I would be the nervous one soon.

Sometimes we would be hanging out with the “Wheel of Fortune” wheel, and sometimes we would be freezing in the air conditioning for ages as a technical problem with the board was fixed. There were a lot of emotions in a short amount of time, but the fun thing about the National College Championship is that you’re with other students the whole time. I met kids from all over America, and some of us still text every day; they’re the only people who understand how wild life became once the tournament went public 

The last week of my life—ever since the news came out—has been bananas. I never could have predicted it. The Duke men’s basketball team follows me on Instagram now, which is the flex I never knew I wanted.  

Once everything goes back to normal though, I’m excited to just go back to my life in the Duke community. I just launched a personal website for a big writing project about reproductive justice in the South, and I’m giving a TEDx talk two weeks after my episode airs, so I have plenty to keep me busy when all the drama goes down.  

Overall, it’s an experience I’ll cherish forever, and being able to do it on Duke’s behalf has made it even sweeter. Filming was obviously super nerve-racking, but I was proud of myself for just being there, and I was proud to represent Duke in such a national way. Duke fans are so passionate all over the country, so I hope I have some supporters when my episode airs! It’s been the wildest experience of my life so far, and I’ll never forget it. 

[UPDATE] Anna Muthalaly enjoyed her time on the "Jeopardy!" National College Championship but didn't advance to the semi-finals.