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Amy Schneider—And Her “Pearls of Wisdom”—Is the Inspiration We Need Now

Vogue logo Vogue 1/14/2022 Alexandra Michler Kopelman
Amy Schneider © Jeopardy Productions Amy Schneider

As I ride out the January doldrums, the one bit of nuance and excitement I get every evening comes from watching Jeopardy with my husband. The game show reliably offers a bit of mind expansion and a healthy dose of family competition. Still, we can all use an added bit of inspiration, and that’s where Amy Schneider comes in.

Schneider, an engineering manager, recently made history as the first woman to ever win over $1 million in earnings—the fourth contestant to ever do so. In addition to her calm demeanor and depth of knowledge, Schneider clearly delights in playing the game she’s loved since she was a child. “I can’t remember a time when I was not watching Jeopardy!” Schneider explained to me over the phone on Wednesday afternoon. “I think it started when Alex Trebek began on the show, which is when I was five or six. [My streak] is hard to process. I never imagined I would make it this far. I thought I had a chance to win some games, but I never thought I would be at this level.”

And we are all so glad she is. At first, I fell for Schneider because of her impressive run and great personality. Then, I discovered her Instagram, @jeopardamy, and became a full-on stan. Her posts outline her thoughtful, considerate sartorial choices for each episode. She loves fashion, and is deliberate about each and every look. “I do a ton of my shopping at Nordstrom Rack” she told me. While she doesn’t think her fashion choices have influenced her success, they do give her a boost. “The pink blazer outfit was my personal favorite, and it just meant a lot knowing that I could feel confident that I looked good,” she says. “There are so many things that could be distractions when you need to be just thinking about the next question…having that confidence going in, I could focus on the game.”

Schneider often nods to Jeopardy! history with her clothes, such as the mock neck she wore for her 20th episode. The heather gray sweater was an homage to Julia Collins, who won 20 consecutive games in 2014. With that, Collins became the woman with the longest running streak at the time. Talk about a class act! (Schneider has since surpassed Collins, and won 29 times and counting). For the Thanksgiving episode, Schneider, who is trans, wore a transgender flag pin on her lapel. The small accessory was a purposeful decision, as she explained on Twitter. “The fact is, I don’t actually think about being trans all that often, and so when appearing on national television, I wanted to represent that part of my identity accurately: as important, but also relatively minor,” she wrote.

In addition to these gestures, I have admired Schneider’s “pearls of wisdom” necklace that she wears each game. Schneider’s girlfriend gave them to her as a gift with the explanation, “every lady has a string of pearls.” “Although I picked [the necklace] somewhat arbitrarily for the first episode, I realized it was nice having something of [my girlfriend] there with me,” Schneider says, asserting the importance of personal fashion talismans.

Speaking with Schneider, I am acutely aware of the fact that Jeopardy! films five episodes per day, a grueling pace for any savant. I am curious what, if anything, could have prepared her for this position. “Part of it is luck of the draw of retentive memory, naturally,” she tells me. “But, beyond that, it was the environment I was raised in, where [education] was valued and encouraged. My mom was a math professor, and when she was in graduate school, she would often be one of the very few women in the spaces she was in. Our society sends all kinds of messages that this sort of thing isn’t done…you may have emotional intelligence or something like that, but facts and figures [aren’t] for them. Because I grew up with my mother, I still had those messages coming at me, but I was inoculated a bit from them.”

Apples do not fall far from the tree, and Schneider is no doubt galvanizing an entirely new generation of young Americans, many of whom are entering their third year of remote learning during the pandemic. By tuning in at 7 p.m., boundless personality, inspiration, and hope awaits.

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