Silver Spring resident Kevin Belle, 37, had applied for a spot as a Jeopardy contestant for more than 16 years before finally appearing on four episodes that aired in recent weeks.
Belle first applied to be a Jeopardy contestant at the age of 21 while attending the University of Maryland in College Park. His application did not progress to him getting on the show, but he did not give up hope. Instead, he continued to apply year after year.
Now at the age of 37, his long-lived dream was accomplished.
“This is my first time getting an audition, and once I got that email, I lost my mind. I was so excited,” he said.
Belle progressed through the show to become a three-time Jeopardy winner and took home nearly $43,000 in winnings with the help of his love for trivia and Whiskey Ginger.
On the show, Belle, a trail planner, revealed that on top of being a trivia enthusiast, he also has a drag alter ego named Whiskey Ginger (@whiskeygingdrag on Twitter). Belle’s drag persona hosts virtual drag trivia, which started during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whiskey Ginger is usually booked through social media for corporate events but aims to expand to more virtual and in-person events, Belle said.
Belle first started doing drag in 2013 while performing in a musical, and slowly Whiskey Ginger started to become a full persona.
“She’s a little creature that must be seen,” Belle said last week. “She cannot be suppressed, so I have been doing some online trivia as her and I’ve actually been doing gigs in Rockville recently and up in Baltimore this past weekend, so I’ve been having fun with that.”
Along with his drag persona, Belle has also performed with the Rockville Musical Theatre. Both experiences helped him on the show, he said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time hosting things and getting comfortable talking to people,” he said. “When I have to put myself out there, I don’t get nervous. So that’s already one stage of something that could trip you up that didn’t trip me up.”
Belle said he was confident in pop culture and wordplay but felt his weaknesses were history and literature.
“I’m just generally a nerd, and I can recall a lot, which is good,” he said. “Once I started to really try, I made a bunch of flashcards, and I watched Jeopardy every night and kept my score, figured out where my weaknesses were… I started studying the things that I was good at but wanted to be great at.”
Belle said he was able to study and better his knowledge of literature, which helped him on the show.
“Literature was not my strong suit so I studied a lot and ended up getting a hard $1,000 question about the novel “Absalom! Absalom!” because Faulkner was on my study list,” he said.
Although it took a long time, Belle said he was happy he got on the show now, rather than when he first applied.
“I’m grateful it happened now, and I’m so grateful it didn’t happen in my 20s because I wasn’t ready yet for so many reasons,” he said. “One, I feel like I know more. And two, I’m way calmer now. So, I was able to not freak out.”
Belle works for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., working to help build a cross country multi-use trail between Washington, D.C., and Washington state.
Overall, the experience of getting on the show was beyond thrilling for Belle and a literal dream come true. Most importantly, Belle said he was happy to not only live out his dream but also highlight the positivity of drag performances.
“[Drag] is never not fun,” he said. “Everyone’s always having a good time. It’s just a supportive, welcoming community. I’m glad I got to talk about that on national TV, to show people this is not something to be afraid of.”