Amy Schneider, the “Jeopardy!” contestant who recently became the show’s top female earner and only the fourth person to take home more than $1 million in prize money, discussed the best part of being on the show in her first live interview.
Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, California, on Monday told “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos that being able to represent the transgender community on TV has been a highlight of her experience.
“I think that the best part for me has been being on TV as my true self, expressing myself and representing the entire community of trans people,” Schneider said. “And just kind of showing a different thing than maybe some people have seen, of just being a smart, confident woman and just doing something super normal like being on ‘Jeopardy!'”
Stephanopoulos asked her what the secret to her success has been, and she said she never expected to do as well as she has.
“The main secret is just being curious and spending my life learning a lot of stuff,” she said.
The host asked her about her lightning-fast buzzer technique. Schneider said she practiced at home with a ballpoint pen, but now she uses “instinct and feel” to know when the time is right.
In November, Schneider became the show’s first transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, an annual competition among 15 players who have earned the most money from the prior season.
But just a week earlier, after wearing a trans Pride flag pin on the show, she wrote on Twitter that she “didn’t want to make too much about being trans, at least in the context of the show.”
“I am a trans woman, and I’m proud of that fact, but I’m a lot of other things, too!” she added.
She said she specifically chose to wear the pin during Thanksgiving week.
“Thanksgiving is a holiday that is all about family,” she said in the Twitter thread. “And that can be hard for anybody who has been ostracized or otherwise cut off from their family … a group which, sadly, still includes a disproportionately high number of trans people, especially trans youth and trans people of color. So, it felt like a good time to show my membership in, and support of, a community that might be having a hard time right now.”
Schneider’s winning streak has been meaningful to some trans people.
“Watching her win is so great for the trans community that needs victories,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She delivers them with a smile.”
Another person said the trans community has been worn down by “lies” lately and that Schneider is a “breath of fresh air.” Schneider’s historic run came at the end of the deadliest year on record for trans people. Also in the last year, dozens of states considered legislation to ban trans girls from female school sports teams and to block trans youths’ access to gender-affirming health care.
During Monday’s “Good Morning America” interview, Stephanopoulos asked Schneider if she was prepared to be as famous as she’s now become.
“No, not really,” she said. “I mean, there’s a bit of a gap between the taping and the airing, and so I did have some time to, like, get used to the idea. But I didn’t really know what it would be or how famous is ‘Jeopardy’ famous, and so it’s been a lot, but it’s mostly been just really fun.”
Not every aspect of Schneider’s fame has been positive. Earlier this month, she shared on social media that she had been robbed. She said she was fine but her ID, credit cards and phone were stolen.
“I then couldn’t really sleep last night, and have been dragging myself around all day trying to replace everything,” she said in a tweet.
However, her fame has brought some perks. Last week, LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD presented Schneider with a special recognition honor as part of its annual GLAAD Media Awards, which celebrate media projects that spotlight diverse segments of the LGBTQ community in innovative ways.
Schneider said on Twitter that she was “honored and humbled” by the recognition.
“Of all the things that have come out of my Jeopardy run, I will always be most proud of any good that I’ve managed to do for the trans community, so this acknowledgment means more than I can ever say,” she said.
Schneider has the opportunity to make history again Monday. She’s tied with contestant Matt Amodio for second place on the list of contestants with the longest winning streaks, both with 38 wins. If she surpasses him, she’ll be second only to host Ken Jennings, who won 74 consecutive games in 2004.