For Birmingham nanny Emily Milan, becoming a Jeopardy! champion fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams, but getting a shout out from one of her favorite actors may have been the best prize.
"They put the test online and you can take it once a year, which I've done since I was in college," Milan, 30, said about her efforts to get onto the game show. "My boyfriend and I are into game shows. We take the test every year. If you get a high enough score, you do an in-person audition that they hold around the country."
Originally from Plymouth, Milan attended Eastern Michigan University and earned a degree in elementary education before starting her work as a nanny in the Ann Arbor area. She later moved to Nashville for a stint, before moving to Birmingham last summer.
While Milan qualified for the game show in 2015, she didn't get a second call for the in-person audition that year. After qualifying a second time, she got a call in May of 2017 to audition for the show. In January of this year, she flew to Culver City, California for a taping of the show.
"I didn't think they would call," Milan said, explaining that she had already started a new nanny position in Birmingham when the show requested she go to California. "They depend on me to be there, but they were excited for me. The kids were over the moon to the fact that I was going to be on TV."
Taped over the course of three days in January, Milan was a three-day champion, earning a total of $46,001 by the end of her fourth appearance, which aired in late March and early April.
"I told my parents right away that I was going to be on the show. My mom isn't a fan of flying. Only my boyfriend came with me. He's great keeping a secret," she said. "We didn't tell anyone about the results. You can't spoil it before it airs. You have to sign papers. The kids pestered me every day, but I was steadfast. Nobody knew until it aired."
Milan was defeated on her fourth appearance by a newspaper reporter from Indiana. But her final episode resulted in a fantastic consolation prize, after sweeping a category dedicated to Reese Witherspoon movies.
"I went to that one right away," she said. "I love Reese Witherspoon, and I knew all those answers. I thought she might see it."
Indeed Witherspoon did catch the show, reposting the clip to her Facebook page with the caption, "You gotta be quicker than that Daniel," referring to another contestant. "Way to go Emily. Jeopardy! this made my day."
Witherspoon also posted a direct shout out to Milan on her Insta Story, with a photo of herself and the caption, "You're the best, Emily!"
"I'm kind of glad it happened on the last episode," Milan said about the brush with Witherspoon. "I lost, but they just remember the Reese Witherspoon thing."
While Milan's time on Jeopardy! is done, trivia remains part of her life. Competing in several pub trivia teams in recent years, she and her boyfriend of 10 years, Sean, meet with other trivia whiz's each week in Berkley.
"I believe there's another team that has had someone on Jeopardy!, but I haven't talked to him," she said. "We do place most weeks. It's a thing I'm good at. I have a pretty strong memory."
Photo: Laurie Tennent