“Just like the first time around, a lot of preparation dealt with the psychological side of the game,” said Schneider, the quiz show’s top female earner and first transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. “For eight months, everybody told me I was going to win, knowing there was no guarantee at all. I knew I would be going up against a bunch of very good players. In the semifinals, in one game, you could have a little bit of bad luck with a Daily Double or whatever and that might be (the end). Getting my mind prepared for that kind of pressure was the main thing I was doing. I also tried a different approach to Final Jeopardy by doing a little bit of practice with writing down the answers. I also saw a lot of ‘Jeopardy!’ episodes that piled up on my DVR and (practiced) clicking my pen to get back into the rhythm and do my best.”
The 43-year-old fan favorite made her “Jeopardy!” debut in November. She didn’t feel she had anything to prove during the tournament, but acknowledged her competitive instincts definitely kicked into gear.
“Am I competitive person? Not in general,” she admitted. “But if I’m in a competition, I’m extremely competitive. I’m not competitive in my career or personal life, but if it’s a competition I cannot help but take it very seriously. I really wanted to show that it wasn’t a fluke, that I’m really good at this.”
Opportunities of a lifetime
After her exciting reign concluded Jan. 26 having been defeated by Chicago librarian Rhone Talsma, Schneider saw her Twitter following and celebrity status as a pop culture icon grow. In addition to being named one of People magazine’s “Women Changing the World in 2022,” she visited the White House March 31 in support of International Transgender Day of Visibility.
At the White House, she met with second gentleman Doug Emhoff, Admiral Rachel Levine, the nation’s highest-ranking openly transgender official, and greeted the press in the Briefing Room. She didn’t intend to take any questions from the press but when the moment arrived, she relied on her knowledge of a popular Emmy Award-winning drama to calm any nerves.
“I’ve seen ‘The West Wing’ and I knew how this sort of thing worked so I thought let’s give it a shot,” she said. “So, I answered a few questions for a bit and once I got one that I felt uncomfortable with I bailed out of there. But it was just one of the most surreal and cool moments of my life. I hadn’t previously been to the White House, so it was a brand new experience.”
Most recently, Schneider received invitations to the Toronto International Film Festival and the U.S. Open. She participated in Open Pride Day at the U.S. Open which coincided with Serena Williams’ final winning match.
“I can’t even express what it was like to see Serena play her last win, especially the atmosphere,” she said. “Serena did not look like she was about to retire. It was also great to meet Billie Jean King, who was very genuine and inspirational. Billie Jean King took her success in tennis and pivoted from that to use it to do so much good in the world. She’s somebody I really admire, and I would love to be able to have any kind of impact the way she has.”
Love and marriage
On Feb. 24, Schneider, a University of Dayton alumna, announced her engagement to her girlfriend, Genevieve Davis. On May 9 the couple tied the knot in a small, courthouse ceremony.
On Twitter, she remarked, “A year ago today, I was in LA, waiting to fulfill a dream. The year since has been full of good days, but by far the best one was May 9th, when Genevieve and I got married. Without her, none of the other good days would have happened. I’m so lucky to share my life with her.”
Looking back on her wedding, Schneider is grateful for its simple beauty.
“Once it happened, we knew we could say what we wanted about it, especially for legal reasons, but when you’re actually there and saying the words it’s real,” she said. “To have a wedding that was so personal, that was just about us in a very quiet, intimate way, was really beautiful.”
Schneider says she and Genevieve are hoping to have a larger, fully planned wedding next year to include family and friends. And make no mistake, she wants all eyes on her when she walks down the aisle.
“I’ve been married before but I haven’t been a bride before,” she said. “I want everybody to make a big fuss over me and all of that sort of thing on my wedding day.”
A mission of empowerment
As her trans advocacy expands, Schneider, who served as the Celebrity Grand Marshal of the San Francisco LGBTQ+ Pride Parade, is in the process of writing her first book. She admits the creative process has been slow but is committed to the ultimate goal of sharing valuable insights that can empower others.
“Writing a book is really hard and it’s not going as fast as one would hope,” she admitted. “But overall, I’m happy with it and I will get there eventually. The book, more or less, is a memoir kind of showing what I’ve been thinking about all through my life, how the curiosity and openness that I have, that my parents gave to me, has really been behind not just ‘Jeopardy!’ but so many good things in my life that have gone well because I had an open mind. My goal is for the book to be sort of the center of what I’m doing going forward.”
She’s also more confident about establishing a platform bolstering the importance of identity, inclusivity and self-love.
“The core things I want to (express) are the astonishing power of visibility and how unexpected the magnitude of what my appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ seems to have meant to a lot of people,” she said. “I really want to encourage everyone to be their full self as much as possible because it can inspire others. I also want to speak up for the trans community often under attack these days.”
HOW TO WATCH
“Jeopardy!” airs weeknights at 7:30 on WDTN Channel 2.
Tournament of Champions begins Oct. 31.