Mai Whelan is the winner of the first season of Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge. Mai — a.k.a Player 287 — won the $4.56 million grand prize during the show’s season finale that aired December 6. The 55-year-old was a cunning and at times ruthless player which helped her secure her spot in the final three. During the finale, Mai won a high-stakes game of “rock paper scissors” against Phill Cain (Player 451) in the final challenge. Mai is now a millionaire!
Keep reading to learn more about the Squid Game: The Challenge winner.
Mai was born in Vietnam.
Mai was eight years old when she fled Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon in 1975. She said on the show that she and her family were held at gunpoint by a soldier during their escape.
“And she and her family escaped to, a soldier held them at gunpoint. “And in that split second, my life was almost over,” she recalled. “That is a moment where I would never, never forget. And that moment is a driving moment for me to be strong.”
Mai is an immigration adjudicator.
Mai’s own story of being an immigrant inspired her to work in that field. Her job is an immigration adjudicator, someone who decides whether or not a noncitizen may remain in the country they are living in. Mai lives and works in Virginia, according to her Netflix bio.
Mai was in the U.S. Navy.
Mai joined the U.S. Navy when she was 18 years old “Going to the navy, it’s like going to a pack of wolves where I was bullied,” she said on the show. Mai did 20 years of service in the U.S Navy
Mai is a mom.
Mai is married with two daughters and one granddaughter. She on the show that she got pregnant when she was 19 years old.
“To get pregnant at 19 was very hard because I had to tell my family that I got pregnant,” she said. “And then my family just cut me off and I had no one. It was very hard. I didn’t know anything about motherhood. I didn’t have anyone.”
Mai already has plans for her $4.56 million.
Mai told Netflix’s Tudum that she wants to renovate her home and build a small dock for a boat with her Squid Game winnings. She wants to use the money in a humanitarian way, as well.
“My heart is with people, animals, and climate change,” she said. “If we continue what we’re doing, there won’t be a future for all the little kids growing up right now.”