There was Ken. And then James. Followed by Matt. And now: Amy.
Amy Schneider is the first woman Jeopardy! contestant to win over $1 million. Her successes are more numerous than the pearls on her signature necklace. Her winning streak, which began on November 11, is 30 games and counting as of January 11, putting her in fourth place among all Jeopardy! contestants since the show lifted the cap on consecutive wins in 2003. Schneider is the most successful openly trans competitor in the show’s history. Cinching her icon status in a pop music category last week, she got an Olivia Rodrigo question right and a Nickelback question wrong. She is simply a sensation.
In the world of die-hard Jeopardy! fandom, that means Schneider has picked up a steadfast community of wholesome, whip-smart nerds—loyal trivia-heads united in their memory of arcane facts, and their insistence on answering in the form of a question. Among fans, Schneider is known for her loose curls, string of pearls, and sense of humility despite her historic winning streak. “You are a brilliant, lovely woman who has great cardigans,” one supporter wrote to Schneider last week, exemplifying Jeopardy! fan energy to perfection.
Maybe it’s because my best Jeopardy! memories are watching with my grandma, who, into her 90s, would scan the board like an eagle-eyed general surveying a battle plan, but I see intense poignancy in the Jeopardy! loyalists and Schneider supporters in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Jeopardy! has been on air since 1964—Schneider herself has said, “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t watching it.” In 2020, the median age of a Jeopardy! viewer was just over 64 years old, Ad Age reported. It’s reasonable to assume that for many of these viewers, Schneider’s streak on Jeopardy! is the most time they’ve ever spent watching a famous trans person, or a trans person, period.
“How do you remember all that information?” a married couple wrote to Schneider on Twitter. “We are 79 & 75 and can’t remember what we ate for breakfast! Keep going dear you are amazing.” One fan wished Amy a hearty “You go girl” from their 87-year-old mom, while another commented, “My 95 y.o. dad and I talk about you by phone each day.” “My 97 year old dad & I love to see you,” chimed in another. “We watch with my 89-year-old mother,” wrote one woman. “She’s so proud.” One fan filmed her grandmother toasting to Amy: “If the boys can win millions, you can win millions!”
Schneider’s story is already the stuff of legend—an occupational hazard of winning big on a show punctuated by personal anecdotes. In eighth grade, Schneider’s classmates voted her Most Likely to Compete on Jeopardy. She has joked that her “preferred musical genre is ‘sad lesbians,’” but she listens to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” before each day of competition. When she hit the $1 million mark, she credited her mother, who used to help her study for spelling bees. Schneider has also spoken movingly about her pride in being, suddenly, an extremely visible trans person. “It’s definitely been the most rewarding part of the whole experience,” she told The Advocate. She has shared with her fans that one of her go-to karaoke songs is “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, “which resonates so strongly with how I felt as a little closeted trans kid.”
And she’s found ways to laugh in the face of trans-hating trolls who seek to diminish her successes. “I’d like to thank all the people who have taken the time, during this busy holiday season, to reach out and explain to me that, actually, I’m a man,” she tweeted. “Every single one of you is the first person ever to make that very clever point, which had never once before crossed my mind.” She ended with an emoji “prayer-hands” flourish. “Laugh all the way to the bank, Amy,” responded Christy Karras, a season-33 Jeopardy! winner. “Your fellow women of Jeopardy have your back.” Beneath Karras’s comment, two more women Jeopardy! contestants chimed in, forming a chain of support.