UMSL Optometry alumnus Justin Kendall scores big on FOX’s ‘Beat Shazam’ game show

by | Jun 26, 2023

Kendall and his brother, James, competed on the show June 6 and won the $1 million grand prize.
Justin Kendall on Beat Shazam

Justin Kendall, a 2020 graduate of UMSL’s College of Optometry, competed on FOX’s “Beat Shazam” with his brother and won $1 million. (Photo courtesy of FOX)

During his first year as a student in the College of Optometry at the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 2016, Justin Kendall appeared in a short promotional video for the college. He’d recently received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri–Columbia, where the classrooms are a bit larger, so he had quickly embraced UMSL’s small, family-oriented atmosphere.

And though he had just one line  – “I love my classmates” – in the video, those very classmates have been quick to recall the video lately in light of Kendall’s recent appearance on the FOX game show “Beat Shazam” with his brother.

“Everyone has kind of given me trouble about it in my class, like ‘You were always the one to get in front of the camera and put your face out there, so we’re not really surprised that you ended up being the one that ended up on TV and being on a game show,’” he said. “We always laugh about it, but it was just kind of a precursor for my eventual experience to get on television.”

Kendall, who graduated from the College of Optometry in 2020 and now lives in Columbia, Missouri, appeared on “Beat Shazam” alongside his brother, James, on June 6. Although James had applied for the show on a whim, not expecting to hear anything back, the pair not only competed on the show but went on to win the $1 million grand prize.

The brothers appeared on a special “Sibling Smackdown” edition of the show, which featured three teams of two siblings competing against each other in music trivia. On “Beat Shazam,” a short clip of a song is played and the contestants are presented with a few options to choose for the song title. The fastest person to pick the correct song wins a certain dollar amount, which goes up progressively as the show goes on.

To their surprise, James and Justin struggled a bit with a round of Lizzo songs, missing two out of four songs, but ultimately rebounded and made their way to the final round. After five consecutive songs, it all came down to one final song, with $1 million on the line. Luckily, it was one Kendall was familiar with: “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey with Phil Collins.

“It was a song that I had heard a lot growing up,” Kendall said. “My dad had a best of Phil Collins CD that played in the car frequently. It was funny because he was kind of our reason for going on the show. He always loved to hit us with music trivia and he played a plethora of different music as we grew up, so we give him a lot of the credit for getting us to that point.”

Kendall’s father – along with the rest of his family, including his wife – were able to join the brothers for the taping of the episode, which he said made the experience all the more special. He and James plan to use part of their winnings to take a family trip to the Netherlands, where his family lived for about a year when he was young.

“The biggest thing was just being able to get my whole family there,” he said. “My parents didn’t know if they would be able to get away from their jobs to film the show. Being able to do this with my brother was very special; we’ve always talked about doing something fun like this, regardless of the outcome. We just wanted to be on TV and be goofy and be able to have all of us there. In the very end, Nick Cannon, who was hosting the show at the time, actually called our whole family down – my parents, my brother and I’s wives – and we all stood there as they announced the correct answer to that last song. Our family’s always been very close, we’ve always supported each other and my parents have helped us so much to get to where we are now, so to have them there as this big, cool, full-circle moment was awesome. It was very special.”

Watch the full episode of “Beat Shazam” featuring Kendall here and catch new episodes throughout the summer at 7 p.m. CT on FOX.

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Heather Riske

Heather Riske

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens
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Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.

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