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Christie Jephson '08 appears on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Christie Jephson '08 answers questions from host Al Roker on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

When Christie Jephson ’08 went to see a taping of the popular TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in New York City last summer, she never dreamed she’d soon be in the “hot seat” herself.

But in November, the 20-year-old journalism major from Abington, Pa., found herself fielding questions from guest host Al Roker.
Jephson walked away with $8,000 in winnings on the episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? that aired on March 7.

“On a whim, my mom went online and applied for tickets to see a live taping,” Jephson recalls. Also on a whim, at the taping, Jephson, her mother, and brother all decided to try out for the show, which involved a quick survey about themselves, a timed multiple choice test, and a personal interview of the people who passed the test.

“A few weeks later, I received a postcard saying I made it into the contestant pool; I had only tried out for fun—I never thought I’d make it that far!” she says.

So in November, Jephson headed back to New York, this time to test her trivia knowledge in front of the entire audience. “The week I was taping was Celebrity Guest Host Week, so I didn’t get a chance to meet Meredith Vieira,” she says, referring to the show’s regular host. “At first, I was disappointed; but then when I arrived at the studio, I discovered that my host would be Al Roker—he was great. He cracked a lot of jokes, which made it much easier for me to stay calm in the seat.”

Actually, climbing into the seat was more difficult than staying calm once she was there, Jephson says.

“To be honest, I was almost more nervous about falling than I was about what would happen once I started answering questions,” she says. “Before we started taping, the producers had us practice getting into the seat one by one because the seat isn’t bolted into the floor. Once I was safely seated, it was a pretty surreal experience. My brain completely froze up, and I probably couldn’t have spelled my name with 100 percent confidence!”

One thing that did help her confidence level was all the support she got from her friends and family leading up to the show. “The girls in my sorority (Alpha Gamma Delta) would shoot random facts at me every time they saw me—just in case it ended up being one of the questions on the show,” Jephson says. “My mom sent trivia books to Lehigh for me to look through, and my guy friends tried to teach me must-know sports trivia. But there was no way to know what questions I was going to get and I didn’t want to psych myself out, so I tried not to think about it too much.”

And that support extended to the day of the taping. Her mom, Linda, accompanied Jephson to New York, and sat in the audience as Christie's on-air companion for the show.

So how did she do? After correctly answering the $1,000, $2,000, $4,000 and $8,000 questions, Jephson wasn't certain of the answer to the $16,000 question.

So Jephson used the show's "Phone-a-Friend" option, calling her former Abington (Pa.) High School English teacher. Her friend was unable to give Jephson a definitive answer on the $16,000 question.

Rather than simply guessing, Jephson decided to walk away with the guaranteed $8,000 that she had already won. If she had guessed incorrectly on the $16,000 question, she would have fallen back to $1,000 in winnings.

The $16,000 question was: “What well-known political figure's last car was a 1949 Studebaker, which he drove during college? A) John McCain, B) Al Gore, C) Ralph Nader, D) Howard Dean.”

The correct answer was “C.”

All in all, it was a great experience for the junior, who hopes to one day be a broadcast journalist.

“I am pretty nervous to watch myself on television,” she says. “I can’t remember a lot of the time I was in the seat, because everything was so surreal and moving so quickly.”

--Elizabeth Shimer

Photo courtesy of Valleycrest Productions

Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007

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