'Jeopardy!' champion Amy Schneider on what her winning streak means
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
When Amy Schneider was in eighth grade, her class voted her most likely to compete on "Jeopardy!" That prediction became a reality last November. That night in Final Jeopardy, Schneider came back from second place and won, besting then-five-day champion Andrew He.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")
KEN JENNINGS: Amy Schneider, with $31,600, you are our new "Jeopardy!" champion.
AMY SCHNEIDER: It was just kind of overwhelming, just something I've been wanting my whole life. And to get it so unexpectedly at the last second was just really a special feeling.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Schneider grew up in Ohio, and she credits her parents for nurturing her love of learning and her lifelong obsession with "Jeopardy!"
SCHNEIDER: I can't ever remember not watching "Jeopardy!" It was one of the things that was just on every night and I would watch with my parents.
CHANG: After that first win, Schneider won again and again and again. And she started on a streak that went on to shatter records, often taking home huge totals.
(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)
JENNINGS: Fifty-thousand-dollar game.
That's $56,000 today.
That gives you $61,800, your biggest payday to date.
SHAPIRO: Schneider admits the game can get pretty tense, but she's got a strategy for that.
SCHNEIDER: So to sort of pump myself up before each game as I was standing at the podium, I kind of run through the lyrics of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" because it was just so fitting to the moment. Like, he says...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOSE YOURSELF")
EMINEM: (Rapping) You only get one shot. Do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
CHANG: Last Friday, with an astonishing 28th consecutive win, Schneider reached a major milestone.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")
JENNINGS: ...With a 28-day total of $1,019,600. Amy Schneider, you are just the fifth millionaire in "Jeopardy!" history and only the fourth to do it in regular-season play.
CHANG: Wow. In addition to millionaire, Schneider also holds the titles of highest-winning female contestant and the first openly trans contestant to qualify for the show's Tournament of Champions.
SHAPIRO: Over the course of her record-breaking run, Schneider has captured the hearts of trivia nerds and catapulted to fame. And although she's dealt with some misogynistic and transphobic harassment online, she says the response overall has been positive.
SCHNEIDER: It really is, like, a much smaller percentage than I expected, honestly, of negative, you know, feedback that I've been getting. I thought it would be worse. And, like, as anyone should on the internet, I stay out of the comment sections, and that's good for my mental health.
CHANG: At the end of the day, Schneider doesn't let the bigotry get to her, focusing instead on the positive impact of her visibility.
SCHNEIDER: So someone wrote on Twitter, somehow, after two to three years of conversation, you being on "Jeopardy!" every night has taught my dad to be accepting of trans people. You're the first person he's used correct pronouns with, an 83-year-old man saying, this isn't too hard. Thanks for your message of love. And that is just one of the best things I could hear. And that I've been able to do that, give people that experience - and if I'm helping them, that's what I want to do most of all.
(SOUNDBITE OF MERV GRIFFIN'S "JEOPARDY! THEME")
SHAPIRO: Jeopardy champion Amy Schneider. Tonight viewers find out if she's got what it takes for win No. 29.
(SOUNDBITE OF MERV GRIFFIN'S "JEOPARDY! THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.