Amy Schneider is much like us all. When she gets bored, she scours Wikipedia for interesting facts and goes down a rabbit hole of links on the internet.
Maybe she isn’t like us all: Her winnings on “Jeopardy” have exceeded $1.1 million. – the most by any woman in the show’s history, and the fourth overall in regular-season play – over the course of 32 games (and counting).
The 42-year old engineering manager in Oakland, California isn’t content with learning facts from Wikipedia. Her media diet includes The New York Times, sports and culture website Defector and many history books. Not that she’s exactly studying for the show.
“Jeopardy! covers such a wide range of things that I’m not sure it’s something you really can study for,” she says in a phone interview. “You just have to be living your life in such a way that you keep learning.”
She does have one trick up her sleeve: J! Archive is a fan-created site that contains every answer and question on “Jeopardy!” Since 1984, the syndicated edition has been on-line. In her downtime, she looks for things she doesn’t know – though it’s hard to believe such facts exist.
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Schneider thanked her mom on the Jan. 11 episode, crediting her for instilling the idea of not just learning something, but digging into details behind it. Like studying the etymology of a word instead of just learning how to spell it for a spelling bee. It also helped that growing up, “Jeopardy!” It was just something you did every day.
It took her 10 years of trying to make it onto the show. Now, she watches every night with her girlfriend Genevieve (sometimes her cat Meep joins).
Unlike recent high-earner champions James Holzhauer and Matt Amodio, Schneider says she doesn’t have that much of a strategy. On the Jan. 13, episode, Schneider tied Holzhauer’s 32-game streak of victories. This was the longest ever.
“To an extent, I think I’m pushing back a little against some of (Holzhauer and Amodio’s) strategies.” Holzhauer was particularly aggressive and started with high-value clues near the bottom of “Jeopardy!” Amodio often copied this strategy.
She zooms in to a lower confidence category if she can; she doesn’t have as many Daily Doubles to lose if there are any. She plays it straight, sticking to the top of each category.
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However, her mentors encouraged her to wager big when it matters. “I’ve definitely tried to push myself to be a bit more aggressive with what I wager on the Daily Doubles. Just because you should have faith in yourself that you’re probably going to know the answer or you wouldn’t be on ‘Jeopardy!’ You should have faith in yourself that you will know the answer or else it wouldn’t be on ‘Jeopardy!
This faith was only reinforced by her tenure as a host on the program.
“I decided going in that I was just going to focus on being myself,” she says, and be OK with the outcome.
As a transgender woman – only the second in the show’s history – she’s had discomfort over her appearance and presentation. She was forced to face her discomfort by being on television and it has made her realize that she is a charming, pleasant person. This has been nothing but “amazing.”life-changingFor her viewers as well as herself to love what she represents.
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“It’s given me a self-esteem about my image that I really never had before,” she adds.
To her surprise, Schneider hasn’t faced much online trolling, which remains common for transgender people. Sony Pictures Television, which produces the show, put her in touch with GLAAD before her episodes started airing to talk through how to deal with online hate. Namely, don’t engage.
She says, “It was a challenge to do so at times. To hold my tongue.” Recently, she found an alternative. Tweeting: “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. I have never thought of that clever idea before. You are the first to ever make it.
She said, “I was very glad that that came about me as a means of saying something to someone without engaging directly with anyone.”
Schneider keeps active on Twitter and regularly updates her followers with details about strategy and gaming. She says, “It was not something that I originally planned.” It was my first time doing it and people loved it. It’s something I have always wanted to see as a fan.
One or two pieces of jewellery Schneider has on display may have been noticed by viewers, a pearl necklace as well as a nose ring.
Genevieve gave her the pearl necklace, which she wore in her debut episode. (“Jeopardy!” Five episodes are taped each day in the Sony Los Angeles studio. The name was changed to honor Alex Trebek who passed away in 2020. Genevieve gave it to her on her first birthday after they started dating. Genevieve said to Schneider, “Every woman should own a string pearls.”
The pearls were a great way for Genevieve to be close. It was also a reminder to me that Genevieve was there waiting for my return.
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As for the nose ring, before her transition, she avoided tattoos or piercings of any kind – a commitment and permanent thing to do to your body.
“But then, transitioning is also a permanent thing to do to my body,” she says, recalling piercing her nose a few years ago. “And so once I’d done that, I was more open to it and just wanted to express myself. It was something I had always loved to see other women’s nose rings. And so I said, ‘Well, let’s do it.'”
To any transgender kids watching at home like Schneider once was, heed her words: “You can do anything that you want to do. There is no reason to consider yourself transgender. You might be the first person to see a transperson do something, even though it isn’t something you’ve ever seen before.