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Vietnamese descendant wins record $4.56mn in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’

Vietnamese descendant wins record $4.56mn in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’

Friday, December 08, 2023, 12:33 GMT+7
Vietnamese descendant wins record $4.56mn in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’
Mai Whelan, winner of the Season 1 of the Netflix reality competition show ‘Squid Game: The Challenge.’ Photo: Netflix

Mai Whelan, a 55-year-old woman of Vietnamese descent, recently emerged victorious in the inaugural season of streaming pioneer Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge,’ securing a cash prize of US$4.56 million, the highest in reality TV history.

Following nine intense episodes, the reality competition unveiled its ultimate victor among 456 participants.

Whelan, who is currently residing in the U.S. state of Virginia, was named the winner in the final episode that aired on Wednesday.

A reality series adapted from the 2021 South Korean blockbuster drama ‘Squid Game,’ it engaged contestants in challenges reminiscent of the original, including the iconic Red Light, Green Light, and the nerve-wracking glass bridge. 

In addition, the show intensified the challenges by eliminating the contestants or offering advantages for each episode via other novel games and rules.

Outshining 453 other competitors, three finalists -- Whelan No. 287, Phill Cain No. 451, and Sam Lantz No. 016 -- featured in the program’s concluding episode, engaging in two final games of chance to determine the fortunate winner. 

Eventually, Mai emerged as the lucky one, consistently triumphing in different rounds to secure the key to open the coveted prize vault containing the record-breaking prize of $4.56 million.

A scene from the Season 1 of the Netflix reality competition show ‘Squid Game: The Challenge.’ Photo: Netflix

A scene from the Season 1 of the Netflix reality competition show ‘Squid Game: The Challenge.’ Photo: Netflix

“It was a relief to go back to normal life and not worry about getting eliminated,” Whelan told Netflix’s official companion site Tudum

“I needed that after two and a half weeks of intense go, go, go, and emotional ups and downs.

“But the person that came into [the competition] is me. 

“I’m still Mai, and she hasn’t changed — except that I came out stronger.”

While winning is nice -- life-changing, even -- Mai is ultimately more concerned with just how far the $4.56 million could reach beyond her own backyard. 

Once she has done renovating at home, ideally including building a small dock for a boat, she is setting her sights elsewhere, according to Tudum

“My heart is with people, animals, and climate change,” she told Tudum about how she plans to spend her winnings.

Following the conclusion of the inaugural season, Studio Lambert, the producer of the show, has initiated casting for the next season, slated to air in 2024.

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