From Victory to Philanthropy: Netflix’s Squid Game Winner Mai Whelan’s Journey

by | May 30, 2024

Netflix's Squid Game Winner Mai Whalen's

From Victory to Philanthropy: Netflix’s “Squid Game: The Challenge” winner Mai Whelan is on a journey to embrace authenticity, resilience, and giving back to the community. Scoring a massive $4.56 million dollar prize was just the beginning for this remarkable 56-year-old contestant. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Mai has navigated through numerous life challenges, from being a Vietnam refugee to serving as a U.S. Navy veteran. Her extraordinary journey and experiences positioned her uniquely among the 456 contestants, leading to a transformative victory and a new chapter dedicated to philanthropy.

Netflix: Squid Game The Challenge Winner Mai Whelan

Squid Game: The Challenge. Mai Whelan in Squid Game: The Challenge. Cr. Pete Dadds/Netflix © 2023

Triumphing in “Squid Game: The Challenge” was a testament to Mai Whelan’s determination and strategic thinking. However, this victory was more than just a personal achievement; it became a platform to amplify her voice and support meaningful causes. Inspired by her life’s struggles and the discipline to overcome them, Mai is now focused on using her newfound fame to make a difference. Currently, traveling across the United States, visiting and supporting various nonprofit organizations. “Winning Netflix’s “Squid Game: The Challenge” was an incredible experience for me, but it was only the beginning of a much larger journey,” exclaims Mai. Sitting with Gurus Magazine, Mai peels back the layers of her truth, passion and authenticity.

Credit © Daniel F. Scherl,

Credit © Daniel F. Scherl,

What is your truth? I come from a background of discipline and struggles, and always striving to overcome my challenges. Overcoming adversity without succumbing to self-pity has been a key part of my journey. Through perseverance, I found my path and clarified my goal: to make a positive impact on our world. That is why I wanted to use my platform to help others. 

At the moment, I am in an RV, spearheading my new project Mother Mai. A six-week road trip across the United States connecting with 23 non-profit organizations. To not only help them monetarily but to learn and help provide the resources they need, the best I can. 

What is your passion? Coming from a background marked by discipline and struggle, my passion for helping others was ignited at a young age after seeing a commercial where a child in Ethiopia was suffering from hunger. Well, it really did good for me because it touched me internally and seeing this child covered in flies, with a big belly, nothing to eat and medical support. It touched me so deeply when I got my first paycheck, I immediately donated it at the age of 16 to “Save the Children”. I knew right there that I wanted to help people. My passion would be and still is to help the world to be a better place.

Our road trip is not just a journey across America but a mission to support and raise awareness for various nonprofits. We have carefully selected organizations that align with our causes, including those focused on animals, people, and the environment. 

What is your Authenticity? I emphasize the importance of remaining genuine in a world full of pressure and noise. Authenticity fosters real connections and helps build a supportive community. As I reflect on my experiences and valuable lessons it’s important to stay true to yourself. My true self is competitiveness. However, as I navigated the complex dynamics of relationships during the show, there was significance in stepping out of one’s comfort zone to truly understand and connect with others. 

One of the players before he came to the show, had to tell his family that he was coming out. The pressure to come out to one’s family was so impactful he lost track and motivation to compete. He was sad because his family couldn’t accept his truth. I was there to help him navigate life because I empathize with all these young adults and people during these times. I want them to know there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can overcome anything you put your mind to, but the biggest part is to learn from your mistakes.

Personal triumphs can be leveraged to create positive change. Mai’s commitment to authenticity, resilience, and community service is a beacon of hope for many. “This experience has fueled my desire to give back to the community and to write a memoir. My memoir promises to delve deeper into my personal experiences, struggles, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way, ” says Mai. Fans can currently follow Mai on this journey and learn more about her upcoming projects through her newly launched site: As well as her much anticipated memoir. Single-handedly Mai is exemplifying that with passion and dedication, we can overcome any obstacle and make a significant difference in the world.

Mai Whelan CREDITS: Photographer, Lindy Lin @lindylinphoto Glam Ashley Cornett @ashleyceemakeup

CREDITS: Photographer, Lindy Lin @lindylinphoto Glam Ashley Cornett @ashleyceemakeup


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