Amy Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, California, became the first woman to surpass $1 million on Jeopardy! on January 7, 2022, making her the most successful female contestant and one of the five millionaires in Jeopardy! history.
Jeopardy! is an American television show where three contestants are presented with clues in the form of answers and must phrase their responses in the form of a question. The show, distributed by CBS, occurs every night from 6-6:30, following Wheel of Fortune.
Beginning her winning streak in November 2020, Amy has won 34 consecutive games as of January 17, 2022, becoming one of the dozen people to win more than five consecutive games.
She is not the only person to win so many consecutive games. Ken Jennings, the current host after Alex Trebek’s passing in November 2020, holds the record for the longest winning streak of 74 games in 2004.
“She’s been doing an awful lot of winning around here,” said host Ken Jennings.
As the most successful female contestant, Amy hopes to encourage other women to participate. “Jeopardy! has been a boys’ club … and a lot of it is about all the messages that you get from society that this isn’t what women do. That women don’t know things,” Schneider says.
Not only is Amy the first woman to surpass $1 million, but she is also the first transgender person to qualify for the show’s Tournament of Champions.
As with any rise to fame, Amy’s popularity has been both positively and negatively received. While Amy said that most of the comments are positive, there is a still a powerful, yet subtle undergrowth of negativity.
“It really is a much smaller percentage of negative feedback that I’ve been getting,” she said. “I thought it would be worse. And as anyone should on the internet, I stay out of the comment sections, and that’s good for my mental health.”
Amy uses her newfound publicity to advocate for transgender acceptance. “But at the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that there’s people out there threatening my brothers and sisters in the trans community,” she said. “Here I have a chance to say something about it, and I can’t be completely silent. I don’t necessarily want to be super-activist about it and constantly banging that drum. But I can’t be silent either, when I know that there’s so many people in danger of real hurt and harm from political policies.”
Amy has been planning for her debut on Jeopardy! for years. “She was voted most likely to be a Jeopardy! contestant based on her geography and spelling bee prowess,” according to AP News.
As more and more contestants rise to seven figures on Jeopardy!, people wonder if the game is getting easier. But according to Michael Davies, the show’s executive producer, it may be the opposite. “I actually think the show may be getting harder,” he said, noting that the subject matter covers an ever-wider range of material. “Let’s face it, so few people read the same books anymore or watch the same TV shows. And we have massively diversified the history, cultural and pop cultural material we expect our players to compete over.”
Contestants also have access to the J! Archive, a website that has clues dating back to the 1980s, helping them to prepare for the show.
Additionally, the pandemic gives contestants more time to prepare as tapings are delayed. According to New York Times, “Schneider was invited onto the show in fall 2020, but the taping was delayed, and she didn’t compete until about a year later, giving her more time to practice with the clues from previous games and correct gaps in her knowledge.”
Amy, on the other hand, “views a well-prepared contestant as someone who has long been an intellectually curious person—not someone who crams before the test,” said New York Times. Regardless of the extra year, Amy says that “you just have to live a life where you’re learning stuff all the time,” to succeed on the show.