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'Jeopardy!’ champion Amy Schneider on her accidental journey into the hearts of America

Over the weekend, the software engineer opened up to TODAY backstage at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles.
The 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards - Inside
GLAAD award special recognition winner Amy Schneider attends the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton on April 2, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.Stefanie Keenan / Getty Images for GLAAD
/ Source: TODAY

There’s just something about Amy. 

"Jeopardy!" champion Amy Schneider has reached people in a way no other transgender person has done before, and maybe it's because of the universality of the platform they saw her on. But not only did they see her, they really got to her know her after she competed on 41 episodes, making her the second longest winner in history behind Ken Jennings, snagging $1,382,800 in the process.

“I knew going into it that ‘Jeopardy!’ has an older fan base; people who wouldn’t have seen a trans person as much,” Schneider told TODAY backstage at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 2. “It was certainly something I worried about a bit, but I decided, I’ll just be myself and whatever happens, happens.” 

Well, what ended up happening was America absolutely fell in love with the software engineer from Oakland, California. Not only because of her insane intellect and fierce Final Jeopardy skills, but also because of her gentle demeanor and warmth.

“It was such a great opportunity to be the first trans person in that particular stage, in that particular forum, to represent the trans community in that kind of way,” she said. “I’m so excited for all the people to come after me to make it normal, but it was really an honor to be the first.”

This was all celebrated on Saturday at the 33rd annual GLAAD Media Awards when Schneider was awarded with special recognition for her record-breaking time on the hit ABC game show.

Since its inception in 1990, the GLAAD Media Awards honor fair, accurate and inclusive representations in entertainment of LGBTQ people and have grown to be the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world. Other notables honorees from the evening include Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Kacey Musgraves, the “Saved by the Bell” reboot on Peacock, Marvel film "Eternals" and “Hacks” on HBO Max.

“To me, it’s such a good feeling that I’ve been able to do something to help all of us out but also repay all the generations before me that had much more difficult circumstances.”


But even with so many stars in the crowd and onstage, the person everyone was unequivocally excited to see was Schneider, who hosted a drag queen version of "Jeopardy!" that was full of hilarious questions and answers.

“For Amy being on 'Jeopardy!' — it elevates trans visibility in such a significant way and in such an unexpected place,” Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, told TODAY backstage. “One of the things is that now we’re coming to see LGBTQ people in our stories on television shows and on streaming but on a game show? And one that is held to such a gold standard? To have someone like Amy representing the community openly and proudly has been transformative.”

The 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards - Inside
Amy Schneider and GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.Stefanie Keenan / Getty Images for GLAAD

On Saturday, Ellis also presented Schneider with a sweet oversized thank you card, that included hundreds of messages and notes written from fans expressing their appreciation and love for her.

"You also have to think about who 'Jeopardy!' reaches ... this demographic that we can’t necessarily always get to," Ellis explained. "A lot of times it’s grandparents with grandkids. I know my mother watches it with her grandchildren. So this is touching demographics and generations together."

Schneider says when people come up to congratulate her in person, it's evident that every type of person is a "Jeopardy!" fan.

"There’s no one age, gender, ethnicity ... none of that," she said. "It could be anyone saying how much they love the show, and I think that’s what's really great about it.” 

White House Press Briefing
Amy Schneider at the White House on March 31, 2022. The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Im

For now, Schneider is continuing to use her accidental journey into stardom for good, by advocating for her community, of course. Just last week, President Joe Biden marked Transgender Day of Visibility on Thursday, March 31, by hosting her at the White House. She used the invitation and moment to speak out against bills being passed at the state level affecting transgender people.

When confronted with the idea that she's loved and has been able to be a bridge for people not really ever seen before, Schneider says it's overwhelming.

“It’s hard to process, for sure,” she said. "To me, it’s such a good feeling that I’ve been able to do something to help all of us out but also repay all the generations before me that had much more difficult circumstances."

"It’s a really good sign for this country," she added. "Once it clicks for people, that trans people, that LGBTQ people, are just people and don’t deserve to be treated any differently than anybody else, then they don’t go back on that. Once someone learns that, it’s mostly a one-way street from there."