Jeopardy!’s Amy Schneider: “I Get to Figure Out What Part of Me I Want to Show Next”

Some people took sanity walks to break up the monotony of 2020’s numerous lockdowns; Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider bought a sanity penguin. Specifically, she bought Penny, a stuffed animal who kept her company.

“At the time I was single, living by myself, with no roommates or anything,” Schneider tells Allure over Zoom from her home in Oakland, California. “It was a long time with no human contact. So I would post pictures of what Penny was doing every day, and it was good to have a project. I’m not crazy or anything, but talking to the penguin was really helpful.”

Nearly two years later, things are looking up for Schneider. She claimed her 39th victory on the iconic trivia show this week, becoming the most successful woman to ever compete on the franchise. But the next day — show 40 — it ended when Schneider lost to Chicago librarian Rhone Talsma.

“It may seem odd looking at my recent scores, but yes, for some reason I had a feeling [the loss] was coming,” Schneider says. “Between the grind of taping and the fact that my next milestone (beating Ken Jennings’ streak) was still so far away, I could feel that I just didn’t quite have the same motivation I’d had up until that point. “

Her winnings total $1,382,800. Schneider intends to use some of the cash to buy a house for her girlfriend, Genevieve Davis, whom she started dating last year. 

“I’ll definitely miss my time on Jeopardy!; the experience of competing on it was the most fun I’ve ever had,” Schneider adds. “But yes, there is certainly an element of relief as well. One of my first thoughts after I lost was ‘At least I don’t have to come up with any more anecdotes!’ It was nice to just get back to my life with Genevieve.”

Despite her undoubtedly changed life, Schneider has not forgotten Penny the Penguin: she has the stuffed animal’s likeness tattooed on her right thigh. Penny was the second tattoo for Schneider, who has tweeted about the inked portrait of the character Ozma of Oz who lives on her left bicep. Princess Ozma is an L. Frank Baum character who appeared in all of The Wizard of Oz book sequels. As Schneider tweeted in December. “She had been the rightful heir, but was kidnapped as a baby by a sorceress, who enchanted her to become a boy. Eventually, the enchantment is lifted, and she is revealed to be the beautiful princess she always was. So it seemed like the perfect image to commemorate my transition!”

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An electrical engineer by trade, Schneider is the second trans contestant to compete on Jeopardy. (Kate Freeman, a Michigan financial specialist, won in 2020.) She had to cover the Ozma tattoo, which was created by artist Claire Evans (@grizzleyclaire on Instagram) during tapings for copyright reasons.