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Jeopardy! fans know Amy Schneider as a fierce competitor and a fount of knowledge about most everything, but she wants people to know that she loses her phone in her apartment just like the rest of us.
Schneider, who notched 40 consecutive wins on the show in her 2021/2022 run — only host Ken Jennings had a longer streak — writes candidly about her time on TV, as well as her experience with fame, her struggle with her body, how she knew she's trans and more in her candid new memoir, In the Form of a Question: The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life.
"As I was writing it, I was also adjusting to being a public figure and in particular a kind of representative to a lot of people of the trans community in the sense of being the first trans person that many Jeopardy! viewers had gotten to know," Schneider tells Yahoo Entertainment. "I became very conscious of the fact that, while I certainly was trying to be as much my authentic self, it was a very limited self."
Schneider was actually the first trans contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions in the show's history. But she felt like her appearances were setting an impossible standard for trans people that even she couldn't live up to, so she decided to lay it all out there.
Wanting to show 'the less acceptable aspects of my life'
"I wanted to show all the sort of messiness and the less acceptable aspects of my life," she says. "Like, my sexual escapades and drugs and things that are part of me. And they didn't prevent me from being, you know, that successful, smart, nice lady they saw on TV."
There was also the trans community itself to consider, and she really did.
"A thing that became important was for other trans people and, in particular, other trans people who are pre-transition, early in their transition or questioning themselves. It became a thought in my mind of like, What are the things I wish somebody had told me in the years leading up to my transition and just after?" Schneider says. "And I've heard from a couple of trans people that they did resonate with a bunch of [the book]. And that's really important to me... That's a particular group of people I really hope it can help."
Chapter titles include "When Did You Know You Were Trans?," "OK Then, So What Have Your Experiences With Drugs Been Like?," "How Did You Lose Your Virginity?" and "What Did You Win on Jeopardy!?"
"It was an emotionally intense experience, more so than I kind of expected," Schneider says of writing it, "because all the stuff I talked about is kind of stuff that I've been really like thinking through the last few years... So I didn't expect writing it all out to to be that because I'd been thinking about it so much."
The writing was so emotionally taxing that it really affected her mood, even when she wasn't at her laptop.
And that's understandable. One of the incredibly private subjects Schneider writes about is how, looking back, she sees clues throughout her life that she was trans, although she didn't actually transition until her late 30s. There was the fact that in her first marriage to a woman, before she had come out as transgender, she became an avid cross-dresser, keeping it hidden from everyone. Then the future Jeopardy! champion's wife left her in 2016, and, in the aftermath, she went back to cross-dressing in private regularly. Then one day she realized that, if she died at the time, she would be buried in a suit and tie.
"If I could only wear one outfit for all of eternity," Schneider writes, "I needed it to be pretty."
By 2017, Schneider made her transition. She married Genevieve Davis in May 2022.
Struggling with her body image
Schneider's relationship with her body is another topic that she writes about in heartbreaking detail.
"I hated my body, hated the way it looked, the shape it had, the texture of its skin, everything," she writes. "If I liked a girl, then how could I justify asking her to look at it or, God forbid, touch this droopy awkward mess I inhabited? Girls deserved better than me. They deserved someone who knew how to play by boy rules, someone who could pass a test in the only subject I always failed."
Schneider wrote that she felt her body "could only ever be a source of shame and weakness and embarrassment."
Today, she feels differently, but it's complicated.
"It's a world better. I mean, it's night and day for the most part," she says of her relationship with her body now. "It was always shame because it was just like, it looked wrong and it had all this hair on it... and then I came out, I went on hormones and, and did various things to fix that dysphoria thing. And that made a huge, huge difference."
Fame has come with its own pressures.
"Being on TV and being a public figure and being, you know, all of these things," Schneider says, "then it was like this different kind of anxiety about my body and being judged in a different way, just the same way that women are judged in general and less about my gender identity."
On a much lighter note, Schneider explains how she's spent some of her Jeopardy! winnings, which total more than $1.6 million: "Probably the biggest single purchase was getting courtside tickets to a [Golden State] Warriors game, which I never thought I'd be able to afford," she says. "Beyond that, it's been smaller things. My wife and I really like kind of fancy dining... tasting menus and things like that. So kind of indulging in those things a little bit."
Also, she was able to quit her day job and stop worrying about making rent.
In the Form of a Question is available Tuesday, Oct. 3 at bookstores.