What makes a great Jeopardy! contestant?
A great Jeopardy! contestant could be someone--actually, I think the reason I did well last time was because I just--I had fun, it was just a game! I think that there are other people who are--y'know--they're just so wicked fast on the buzzer, and they're [snaps fingers next to noggin] very quick. Y'know. Very quick recall, then they know everything. So... [Laughs] That makes a very good Jeopardy! champion, I think!
How will you celebrate if you win?
How will I celebrate? Well, one of the things I'm gonna do is go back to Italy. Um... And, y'know, I don't even know. I'm trying not to think about it too much! [Laughs]
Is it true that you throw your own Jeopardy! viewing parties?
Yes, I haven't lately, but, yes, that was a tradition for awhile. We would have to have--for Shakespeare's birthday--I would celebrate Shakespeare's birthday and we would play Shakespeare Jeopardy!
Your brother was a Jeopardy! contestant. What advice did he give you?
Yes, my brother was on the show, and, uh, he was up against Jerome Vered. (And he lost, of course.) So, uh, ever since then he had been saying "Celeste, you have to go on to Jeopardy! to redeem the family name. So, um... [Laughs] So, yeah! So, I came on, and won, and it was a good thing. [Laughs] And he did tell me that it was much more fun to watch me, uh, playing the game than it was for him to be playing the game! [Laughs] So...
Have people treated you differently since your appearance?
My friends have all been very excited about it. Nobody's recognized me or anything, but, uh, yeah, my friends have all been very excited, and like to tell other people. Like when we're out to dinner, they love to tell the waiters, or... [Laughs] "Yes, this is a five-time Jeopardy! champion!..."
Tell us about your sudden-death tiebreaker!
Yes! In my semifinal round, we had a sudden-death tiebreaker, I really thought--Christian Haines is such a power player, and we ended up tied at the end of Final Jeopardy!--I did not see that one coming. Um, and then we had to do a sudden-death tiebreaker where we had to--one of us had to ring in first. And he's so good on the buzzer that I just thought, "Well, it's been a good game!" But, but somehow I knew the answer, so... So, I won! [Laughs]
How did you feel going into the final game?
The final game, I felt pretty good. But as the game progressed and I started to fall further and further behind Doug, I was getting a little nervous there, so, and, uh, and I agonized over that Final--over that Final wager.
How did you determine your Final Jeopardy! wager?
You know, I had to figure out if I get it wrong and he gets it wrong, plus yesterday's winnings, y'know, how much do I need to bet in order to come out ahead of him--y'know, all of that stuff, um, which took me forever to figure out! [Laughs] So...
How does it feel to be the Tournament of Champions winner?
I don't even know. I'm--I'm--actually, I think I'm starting to shake right about now, so... [Laughs] I'm feeling... a little overwhelmed, so... It doesn't seem quite real yet!
How will you spend your $250,000 prize?
I haven't even thought--I tried so hard not to anticipate--you know, "What am I gonna do if I win this?"--although, I always knew that if I won I would somehow arrange to get back to Italy again, so... It was just such a wonderful experience. And, of course, I'm going to be able to finish my Ph.D. without worrying about getting a job quite yet.
Your brother was a Jeopardy! contestant too. How will he react to your win?
He will be ecstatic. He was so happy for me the first time I went on, and every night after the show, he would e-mail me and say, "We just saw you again, and you just seemed so relaxed, and seemed like you were having so much fun, and, and you did so well, and I'm so proud of you, um, and I know that he is going to be thrilled with this, so..."
Lastly, what advice would you give to future Jeopardy! contestants?
My best advice is to come on, and if do get on the show, that remember it's a game. I--I think that the times when I've done the best are when I've had the most fun. And I have sort of forgotten--I haven't been obsessing about the scores or, y'know, trying to strategize too much. I've just been having fun. So, I think that that's the best advice.
Congratulations on your impressive victory, Celeste!