Local Woman Takes on Jeopardy!

Photos by Ani GASPARYAN
A viewing party was held at Kobeissi Properties for Brenda Gant when she appeared on the game show Jeopardy!


A local resident was found on television on Friday night, battling wits on Jeopardy! while friends and family gathered to watch at a viewing party in La Cañada.

Brenda Gant, an office manager and bookkeeper, was one of three contestants vying for thousands in prize money.

Her path to the game show began 20 years ago when she first took the test to be on Jeopardy! with her father, but she hadn’t been able to get on the popular trivia show back then. She tried again in 2018 and was chosen.

The process of becoming a Jeopardy! contestant includes passing a 50 question Jeopardy! test and audition. Applicants who pass those two rounds are placed in a contestant pool and, if chosen, are invited to compete within 18 months of their audition. Gant assumed she hadn’t made the cut when her 18 months had almost passed … until she received a call.

“They called me and said, ‘Come down in three weeks,’” she said. “It was a very hectic three weeks right before the holidays (with) me trying to study while going to work and doing everything else.”

During a break in the TV show, Gant (left) shares with family and friends some behind-the-scenes trivia of being on the popular show.

Gant added that she had taken the recent Jeopardy! test more for fun than with the expectation that she’d actually get on the show.

Friends, family and coworkers gathered at Kobeissi Properties in La Cañada, where the viewing party was held, to watch as she competed, cheering each time she appeared on the screen to answer a question. During commercial breaks, Gant shared bits of trivia with her peers about being on the show. She described the set, what contestants were told between tapings and what it was like to meet host Alex Trebek.

Mary Ann Davis, an addiction counselor and high school friend of Gant’s, said that she was pleased that her friend got on Jeopardy!

“I think it’s amazing she got on this and I’m proud of her,” she said. “This is really unique and fun. We’ll never be invited to a party like this again.”

She added she thinks Gant is very intelligent and had been the valedictorian of their high school class.

Gant had three weeks to prepare for the competition and said that it was difficult to study in that short amount of time. She said in preparation for the show she checked out books from her local library and had to make four trips to her car to bring them home.

She entered the final round of Jeopardy! in second place, with a score of $12,800.

Hana Oshima, an office manager who volunteers with Gant at the Community Scholarship Foundation of La Cañada Flintridge, said that it was exciting to see Gant competing on the television screen.

“It’s actually very cool. I would love to do [Jeopardy!] but it takes so much brains and [having] nerves of steel to be on a quiz show,” she said. “I think it’s awesome that she did this.”

Gant said the hardest part of being on Jeopardy! was dealing with her nerves and being quick enough to press the buzzer before her competitors – something viewers can’t see by watching television.

“[The showrunners] tell you to start pressing it like mad and you can’t see it but we’re all mashing the buzzer. Sometimes you feel like you’ve got it in first but then they call the person next to you,” she said. 

Prior to being on Jeopardy!, Gant lived in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. She said that she missed out on a lot of popular culture references on the show because she hadn’t been living in the country to understand them.

Friday’s final Jeopardy! question was from the category “Quotes About 19th Century Authors.” The question was, “This author ‘showed that abysses may exist inside a governess,’ a heroine who was a ‘commonplace spinster.’”

Gant lost after guessing the quote belonged to Emily Bronte when the correct answer was Charlotte Bronte.

Gant said that the experience of being on Jeopardy! was rewarding in itself.

“I would have liked to have done better but just being a member of the [Jeopardy!] club is really special to me,” she said.