Long Island native Helen Galarza, left, and roommate Holly Sigmon won...

Long Island native Helen Galarza, left, and roommate Holly Sigmon won $280,000 on the season opener of the Fox game show "Beat Shazam."  Credit: Fox / Lorraine O'Sullivan

Native Long Islander Helen Galarza and her best friend and roommate, Holly Sigmon, won big on Fox’s music game show “Beat Shazam” Tuesday night, beating out two other teams to go up against the titular song-identification app in an attempt to win $1 million. Falling short of that grand prize, they did walk away with $280,000.

The first of three teams to be introduced by host Jamie Foxx and co-host and DJ Corinne Foxx, his daughter, the duo was then joined onstage by best friends Andrew Gilleo and Erik Nielsen from Charlton, Massachusetts, and sorority sisters Sophia Lamour and Tiya Johnson from Fontana, California. This seventh-season opener marked Jamie Foxx's return as host after missing the last edition due to a medical issue.

“We tried to have a system,” recalls the Mineola-born and Hempstead-raised Galarza, 40, by phone to Newsday on Wednesday, “but that really went out the window the second we hit that stage.” Fortunately, “Holly and I know each other so well we finish each other's sentences, so I was able to look at her and be, like, ‘Oh, she needs help,’ or vice versa. But it was like we were the same brain.”

The Brooklyn roommates took an early lead, beating the others in correctly naming the first four tracks in the opening round, for $1,000 a song. But then going into the next round, for $2,000 a tune, Gilleo and Nielsen broke their streak by identifying “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee in 1½ seconds as opposed to Galarza and Sigmon's 1.98.

Following the next round, Lamour and Johnson were eliminated. The subsequent round, Corinne’s Choice, at $4,000 per song, saw the two remaining teams each win on two Ludacris tracks. Then Galarza and Sigmon missed the $8,000 final song, Ludacris’ “Get Back,” with Gilleo and Nielsen correctly identifying it to take the lead.

Continuing into the $8,000-a-song Without Words round, where contestants hear only an instrumental snippet, Galarza and Sigmon found themselves losing after the first three tunes — and then staged a comeback with the $16,000 final song, “Lose My Breath,” by Destiny’s Child, eliminating Gilleo and Nielsen.

As the sole team to face the app Shazam, for $25,000 per song, the two women talked about their dreams for $1 million. Sigmon, a South Korean orphan adopted in the United States at 4 months old, wanted to visit the country of her birth. Galarza wanted to help her mother, retired housekeeper Elsa Diaz, who emigrated from El Salvador in the mid-1970s: “[T]his money could go a long way to giving her that cushion that she needs so that she doesn’t have to worry about money or anything else anymore.”

After beating Shazam on the round's first two songs, the team misidentified the third, ending their hopes of the grand prize. Taking the next two songs, accumulating $140,000 total, they had the choice to either walk away with their winnings or double-down on a final song for $280,000 — or just $70,000 if they got it wrong.

They chose to continue, picking Galarza as the sole teammate for this single-person finale. She correctly named “Shape of You,” by Ed Sheeran.

Galarza and Sigmon watched the episode at Galarza’s girlfriend’s apartment near their own. “When she saw the final song,” Galarza says, “she was crying hysterically. She was really, really emotional.” Her mother, Galarza reports, “was just so happy. My mom didn't care about the money. She was just so happy that we were happy. She was so proud, and was, like, ‘You look so great. You look so pretty.’ ”

There was a brain-freeze however, when Galarza, who has two half sisters and a half brother, all much older than she, referred to Sigmon on air as “the sister I never had.”

The sister she is closest to, who lives in Florida, “hasn't called me yet, so I don't think she's very happy with me,” Galarza says jocularly. “My sister knows I love her to pieces, but we're pretty far apart in age. … And she knows Holly, and she knows Holly is essentially the person that I grew up with since my late 20s.” Amending her on-air gaffe, she says, “My sister definitely knows Holly is another sister.”

Top Stories


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months