As the first Black Mastermind champion and resident know-it-all on ITV’s The Chase, you’d think that Shaun Wallace had always been a bit of a swot, but it appears he didn’t do that well in some of his exams.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time, Shaun, aka The Dark Destroyer, told podcast host Kate Thornton that despite his ability to learn facts and figures, he actually found exams quite difficult.
“I was gifted academically, but there’s a difference between having a computer-like mind and knowing how to be a student, and I didn't know how to pass exams,” he explained.
“You can actually recite chapter and verse, but that's not what they're looking for in an exam, especially under the pressure of time – and it took me four times to pass O-Level English language.”
Wallace, who in 2019 was ranked 286 in the World Quizzing Championships, says that most people think he was born clever, but he believes it’s more to do with attitude than in-born talent.
“People look at me now and they thought I was born clever,” he said. “No, you're not born clever. You're natured. And you're nurtured. And you've got to have it within yourself to want to actually achieve something.”
The champion quizzer who revealed that his biggest personal achievement is qualifying as a barrister, said as known faces, it’s important that he and his fellow Chasers use their fame for good and inspire a generation to achieve their dreams.
“People look up to us now as role models,” he told Thornton.
“I'm a bit uncomfortable with the phrase role model because I'm human, just like everybody else - and the one thing when you put a role model on a pedestal, if they fall from grace, the fall is swift.
“I say to people, I'm a goal model, right? Look at achievement I've set, but don't just match my achievements, surpass them.”
One dream Shaun never thought he’d realise was becoming Mastermind champion in 2004.
“I never thought in a million years that's something I could do,” he said about winning the prestigious title.
“When I won mastermind at the age of 44, I sat there for two minutes, and they had to film the complete ending, because I sat there, tears of joy or just running down. And I thought myself, what are people going to think when they see what's happened?”
His specialist subject on the show was FA Cup Finals and after winning with 24 points, he retired as it was the “ultimate” win for him.
“I'm always asked what would I prefer to win - Mastermind championship or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” he said.
“And it would always be the Mastermind championship every time, because you can spend a million pounds and then you haven't got that anymore!”