'Jeopardy!' champ Mattea Roach on the TV quiz show's queer representation
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, May 1, 2022 12:24PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 1, 2022 12:24PM EDT
TORONTO - “Jeopardy,” the formerly staid doyen of TV game shows, is in the midst of a queer renaissance - one Canadian hall-of-famer Mattea Roach is proud to be part of.
She hasn't made a big thing out of her sexuality, but nor is it a secret. Her Twitter bio, which reads “lesbian, Nova Scotian, 19x Jeopardy champ,” was deliberately crafted to satisfy viewers' curiosity because she figured people might wonder.
Still, when an American news network tweeted about the “lesbian tutor's” impressive run - which currently gives her the sixth longest streak in the show's history - people were up in arms, saying her sexuality has little to do with her success.
Roach, for her part, wasn't so concerned.
“I think it is relevant to my 'Jeopardy!' run, not because it has anything to do with my ability to play the game but because I think it's part of a larger story regarding queer and trans contestants on this season,” the 23-year-old Toronto resident said in an interview ahead of Friday's episode.
She thought the tweet was perhaps a little clumsy - “I'm not teaching only lesbians or teaching people how to be a lesbian,” she said - but otherwise harmless, though she appreciated that people came to her defence.
Roach said she's glad to be part of a recent influx of LGBTQ contestants.
“There's been a lot of queer and trans representation on the show lately,” Roach said. “People become more comfortable sharing those parts of themselves on a show like 'Jeopardy!' as culture has changed.”
That includes Amy Schneider, whose 40-game streak - second only to now-host Ken Jennings' 74 consecutive wins in 2004 - finished airing the day before Roach filmed her first episode, she said.
“As somebody who is not the most feminine presenting and who has also been criticized before for not really fitting the mould of what a woman should look like, to see somebody else who's a member of the LGBT community being the best woman by far was really, really special for me,” Roach said.
In a series of tweets last November, Schneider said she's proud to be a queer, transgender woman and she wants people to know that, though she added, “I'm a lot of other things, too!”
“I just felt so lucky to have gotten to - in the run up to me taping the show - watch someone go on who was so dominant, who played the game her own way,” Roach said. “It strengthened my resolve that I was going to appear on the show and not really compromise in any way: my personality, the way that I dress, the way that I present myself, anything like that.”
Roach layers sweaters over turtlenecks, styles her hair in a sleek mullet and speaks on the show about her collection of tattoos - including two behind her knees honouring the Talking Heads.
And as for that tweet: if she were to be a “lesbian tutor” in the most literal sense, she said, she has an idea what her first lesson would be.
“How to have a respectful relationship with their exes. It's kind of a stereotype about lesbians that ...lesbians love to be friends with their exes.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2022.