Mattea Roach talks drag, hate comments and weed | City | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
In her Reddit AMA, Mattea Roach says going from being a relatively anonymous private individual to a local public figure basically overnight was "intense!"
In her Reddit AMA, Mattea Roach says going from being a relatively anonymous private individual to a local public figure basically overnight was "intense!"

Mattea Roach talks drag, hate comments and weed

What we learned about Halifax's Jeopardy! champ during her Reddit AMA.

This spring shall go down in history as the era of Mattea Roach. We’ll fondly remember this period as the time Halifax tuned in to watch the Jeopardy! superchamp sweep the competition night after night; fought with Torontonians over who gets to claim her as their own; and groaned when the New York Times called Cape Breton a town.

But all good things must come to an end. Roach (did you know she was born in Halifax? That she went to Sacred Heart School? That her parents are from Cape Breton?) ended her streak on May 6 after taking home 23 wins and $560,983 USD. She earned a place in the Jeopardy! hall of fame as the 5th-best J! player of all time, both in terms of games won and cash winnings.

In true Nova Scotian fashion, we aren’t done talking about our home-grown celebrity. Roach answered burning questions from her fans during a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) on the r/Jeopardy subreddit Thursday and Friday. Here’s what we learned about the Jeopardy! star:

Dealing with media attention was the most challenging part of Roach’s Jeopardy! experience

Roach has said she wasn’t nervous during her Jeopardy! games. For her, the onslaught of interview requests from journalists, especially in Nova Scotia (sorry!), that followed was more nerve-racking. During the AMA she writes:

I think the most challenging part of Jeopardy was actually doing press. I'm not a naturally extroverted person and so having to be "on" for a good portion of every day for five weeks (because there was heavy press interest in Atlantic Canada before my first game even aired) was quite draining. I was obviously very thankful for the support I got from Canadian media from the jump, but going from being a relatively anonymous private individual to a local public figure basically overnight was intense!

She has impeccable taste in music

We know Roach has two Talking Heads tattoos, but her favourite band is New Order. Her all-time favourite album is their Power, Corruption & Lies. “New Order has been my favorite band for over a decade, and PC&L is their magnum opus in my view,” she writes.

Roach also shared which artists she’s seen and plan to see this year, including: Pillow Queens, Big Thief, Mavis Staples, Kraftwerk, Bikini Kill, and an Angel Olsen/Sharon van Etten/Julien Baker triple bill. Another favourite artist is David Bowie, whom she dressed up as for Halloween last year.

Roach says her knowledge of The Smiths’ lyrics was her “weirdest route” to a correct Final Jeopady! response over the course of her run on the show. The question was “In 1939 he was buried near his last residence in France, but his body arrived in Galway en route to final burial on Sept. 17, 1948.” Roach “for some reason became convinced” that the answer was one of the writers named in the song “Cemetry Gates” (Keats and Yeats are on your side/While Wilde is on mine). She arrived at the correct response, Yeats, to win her 17th game.

She loves drag

Roach’s favourite Rupaul’s Drag Race alumni are Sasha Velour and Katya. She writes:

I think they're both queens who bring a lot of intellect to their drag (albeit in very different ways), and they each have a little extra something that makes them very special to me. With Sasha I really love her understanding of drag as an art form that has a lot of political potential, and with Katya I connect with the way that she uses her off-the-wall humor to deal with a lot of tough subject matter.

She also gave a shout-out to Toronto drag artists Seyoncé and Alexandher Brandy. Her favourite drag show she’s attended is fellow Halifax native Fisher Price’s “A Drag Tribute to the East Coast.”

Roach’s friends help her deal with hateful comments

While Roach gained a lot of fans during her run on Jeopardy!, no one is safe from Twitter trolls. Roach says she expected strong reactions to the way she played the game­–both positive and negative. “I’ve been a polarizing figure for basically my whole life,” she writes.

It's quite upsetting and demoralizing to read through people insulting you based on your appearance, making homophobic comments, etc. I also noticed a lot of people playing armchair psychologist and making a lot of projections about me being arrogant, unsportsmanlike, disrespectful to other players.

She says the best way to deal with online criticism is to ignore it, which is easier said than done. What helped Roach the most was reading hate comments with her friends.

I found the most helpful thing when I saw particularly hurtful comments in my mentions was to read them out loud with friends until I could laugh them off. I think it was helpful to remind myself that the people whose opinions I value most are the ones who also know me best and have the most accurate assessments of my character (including flaws - I'm very lucky to have friends who will call me out on my nonsense when I actually do step out of line)

Roach writes she felt supported by the communities that matter most to her.

I'm especially thankful for the support I received from my home communities (Nova Scotia and Toronto specifically) as well as from LGBTQ+ fans of the show. Those are the communities that I was hoping to represent well while on the show, and so to receive affirmation from those communities meant a lot!

Roach started building up her trivia knowledge at a young age

At 23, Roach is the youngest Jeopardy! hall-of-famer. She attributes her early success to the fact she began acquiring knowledge that would be useful on the show when she was very young.

I remember being a kid of 4-5 and spending a ton of time poring over an Atlas and memorizing capitals, flags, where things were in relation to one another, etc. I would describe my memory as "sticky," so when I learn bits of trivial knowledge like that I tend not to forget them too quickly.

She also grew up playing Trivial Pursuit with her dad, loved Wheel of Fortune as a kid and spent several years on a debate team. She gained an appreciation for Jeopardy! in high school.

I always liked how Jeopardy lends itself to playing along from home, and I think I also appreciated how it was a show that celebrates knowledge. I remember feeling a subtle pressure in a lot of social settings in high school to act like I wasn't sure about things that I knew for a fact were true, so to watch a TV show with the exact opposite ethos was quite nice.

She smokes weed

“I mean, it’s legal in Canada so I don’t see the harm in answering this one,” she writes. “Yeah, I absolutely do smoke weed (not daily, but at least once or twice a week).”

Roach says she’s recently gotten into cannabis-infused drinks for when she’s having trouble sleeping. “For instance, the night before most of my Jeopardy tape days.”

Roach didn’t study much before her Jeopardy! appearance

The fact that Roach never used her flashcards and didn’t prepare for the show until three weeks before airing obviously didn’t hinder her ability to become Canada’s winningest Jeopardy! contestant. She writes:

I only started preparing after I got the call to appear on the show (prior to that I had assumed that any preparation would be a total waste of time because I didn't think I was going to get cast). My prep consisted of reading games from the past couple of years on J-Archive, watching currently-airing episodes of the show, and that's pretty much it. As I famously said to Ken in an Overheard segment, I bought a bunch of flashcards with the thought of perhaps using them to bone up on subject areas that I'm particularly weak in, but then I didn't end up writing anything on them at all.

Roach says she’s going to brush up on science and US-specific categories before she competes in the Tournament of Champions this fall.

She’s a big fan of Amy Schneider

In the time leading up to Roach’s turn on Jeopardy!, Amy Schneider’s legendary 40-game winning streak was airing. Schneider and Roach are the first- and second-longest-running female contestants in J! history, and the two will go head-to-head in the Tournament of Champions. Out of everyone in the TOC, Roach says she’s most excited to meet Schneider.

I found her run to be hugely inspirational and I don't think I would have played as well if I hadn't had the privilege of watching another queer woman school everyone in the weeks leading up to when I taped my episodes.

Roach addressed the transphobic comments that have been made about Schnieder, which discredited her as the longest-running female champion.

She is a woman, and to deny that is an act of needless cruelty! I also thought a lot of the comments claiming that Amy doesn't count as a long-running female champ because she's trans weren't just deeply rude to her, they were also deeply misogynistic in general (I saw a number of commenters on Twitter outright stating that men have a biological advantage over women in trivia, which just isn't true). I also think there's a deep irony to the fact that transphobic people on Twitter are claiming that I'm "the best female Jeopardy player" when a lot of those same people are quite homophobic and would likely be perfectly happy to turn their pitchforks on me if they didn't have Amy to direct the majority of their vitriol at.

Lightning round

Here are some more miscellaneous tidbits we gleaned from Roach’s AMA. Her all-time favourite book is Fun Home by Allison Bechdel, and her favourite place in Canada is Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Her go-to comfort meal is mac and cheese, and she loves puffins.

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About The Author

Kaija Jussinoja

Kaija Jussinoja is a news reporter at The Coast, where she covers the stories that make Halifax the weird and wonderful place we call home. She is originally from North Vancouver, BC and graduated from the University of King’s College in 2022. Jussinoja joined The Coast in May 2022 after interning at The Chronicle...
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