After Jeopardy Streak Made Her Famous, Mattea Roach Has Reflected On Representing LGBTQ+ Community As Game Show Champ

Mattea Roach on Jeopardy!
(Image credit: King World Productions)

Mattea Roach made a name for herself in the Jeopardy! history books, breaking into the Top 10 highest earners with the $560,983 she won in her 23-game streak. But outside of being unquestionably intelligent, the 23-year-old tutor attracted attention for other reasons as well. Viewers took note of her bubbly personality and casual nature — with some even criticizing her for coming off as unprofessional — leading the Jeopardy! champ to reflect on her newfound fame and how she represented the queer community by simply being herself.

The Toronto native’s 23-game streak, which came to an end on May 6, was good for fifth place in most consecutive games won. She’s also in ninth place for overall winnings (including tournaments, which she hasn’t been a part of yet) to secure the title of winningest Canadian in Jeopardy! history. Mattea Roach is also a lesbian, and one who wasn’t so surprised by fans figuring that part of her life out pretty quickly. She told NBC Out she was determined to not hide any aspect of her personality and risk taking her focus away from competing. As a result, she said she surprised even herself with how comfortable she felt on the stage:

It’s rare in real life that I’m in a situation where I’m enjoying myself so much that it just sort of comes out like that. But I do remember thinking like, OK, I knew people were probably going to pick up on the fact that I was gay, because people have been picking up on the fact that I’m gay since before I knew I was gay.

Being her authentic self did open Mattea Roach up to some criticism — mostly from fans who thought she didn’t appear to be taking the game seriously enough — which was likely more of a generation gap issue, rather than anything to do with her queer lifestyle. She approached the quiz show with an informal attitude, instead of how she would act in a workplace environment, but she said she couldn’t allow herself to worry about other people’s opinions regarding how she should present herself. 

I went on the show very familiar with people disliking me for kind of arbitrary aspects of my personality. And I was like, ‘Well, I’ve tried doing things to suit other people’s preconceptions of how a young woman should behave, and it hasn’t worked for me, and it makes me uncomfortable.’ So, I’m just going to do things my way and then people will have to deal with it.

With impressive win streaks in the past six months from Mattea Roach and Amy Schneider — the first openly transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of ChampionsJeopardy! has found itself a possibly unexpected source of LGBTQ+ representation. Roach said there are likely still members of the classic game show’s audience who have not been exposed to the queer community, giving her and Schneider the opportunity to bring their identities into people’s homes on a regular basis.

When you have somebody that goes on a long run, what it shows is that these are people are multifaceted and have different interests than what you might expect. In some ways, I’m exactly what you would expect a young gay person to act like, but in other ways, I’m not. And that’s true of any individual queer person.

Amy Schneider’s 40-game win streak ended just a couple of months before Mattea Roach first appeared, though the latter's episodes began taping just as Schneider's TV run ended. She amassed $1,382,800 to become the fourth highest regular-season winner and fifth-highest in overall winnings. 

Both recent champs will be back on the Alex Trebek Stage for the Tournament of Champions, and fans are excited to see who will be serving as Jeopardy!’s host when that happens. Mattea Roach has publicly backed Ken Jennings to take the permanent gig, but we’ll have to see as he and Mayim Bialik continue to share duties through the end of the current season. Check your local listings to see when Jeopardy! plays in your area, and take a peek at our 2022 TV Schedule to see what shows are premiering soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.