Entertainment

There have been only a few transgender ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants. One is a former Fresnan

Fran Fried, a former Fresno Bee assistant editor, will appear on “Jeopardy!” on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Fried is believed to be the third transgender person to appear on the popular game show. Fried stands next to the show’s host, Alex Trebek.
Fran Fried, a former Fresno Bee assistant editor, will appear on “Jeopardy!” on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Fried is believed to be the third transgender person to appear on the popular game show. Fried stands next to the show’s host, Alex Trebek.

A former Fresno resident is believed to be one of a handful of transgender contestants to appear on the “Jeopardy!” game show.

Fran Fried, 56, makes her debut on “Jeopardy!” at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The trivia game show airs locally on ABC30 (KFSN, Channel 30.1).

Getting on the show fulfills a childhood dream for Fried, who has been watching “Jeopardy!” since it first went on the air in the early ’60s.

Fried is a former Fresno Bee employee, working for five years as an assistant editor. She was laid off in the spring of 2009 because of downsizing. A couple years later, she moved back to her native state, Connecticut. She now lives in Prospect, a suburb of New Haven. A cafe and a tavern in town planned to throw viewing parties.

It isn’t the first time Fried has tried to get on “Jeopardy!” She took the show’s written test in 2004, 2007 and 2010, reaching the audition level on each occasion. This time, she hit the jackpot – so far.

Fried said she made the decision to transition in 2008 while living in Fresno. By 2009, she was presenting fulltime as a woman.

At one point she asked a show official if “any other members of my tribe” had ever been a contestant. The official didn’t understand the reference. Fried explained she is transgender. She was told she wasn’t the first, but probably the third.

Being on national TV – her appearance was taped in August – doesn’t bother her in the least.

“On one hand, I don’t think about those things because I’m comfortable with who I am. I’ve been accepted by the people around me, and I’ve got a lot of friends,” Fried said. “I’ve been blessed that way. But I’m also well aware what others might think or say.

“It’s been pretty much open season on our civil rights. It’s still legal to discriminate against transgenders in 31 states. Legal. Can you believe that?”

On her Facebook page, she describes herself as an “accidental civil rights activist.”

At a “Jeopardy!” audition in New York City, Fried took a 50-question exam, then participated in a mock game of about 10 questions. The show’s contract prevents Fried from discussing any results until after the episode airs.

Fried has a broad music background (and an encyclopedic mind for trivia). She has worked as a disc jockey and has a show on Cygnus Radio called “Franorama 2.0.” So she felt comfortable being on stage and in front of an audience.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that 9 million will see me,” Fried said with a laugh. “It just never crossed my mind.”

“But it doesn’t bother me now, either. It feels surreal. That’s about it.”

At the end of Fried’s run on the show, she asked a “Jeopardy!” contestant coordinator if she was selected because she was transgender. The coordinator said no, they simply loved her personality.

“My family is fine with me and with who I am,” Fried said. “I lost maybe two friends, but I gained hundreds of others that I cherish.

“I’m hoping for the day when it’s not a big deal for someone like me to be on ‘Jeopardy!’ 

Bryant-Jon Anteola: 559-441-6362, @Banteola_TheBee

Former Fresno resident appears on ‘Jeopardy!’

  • Fran Fried’s debut: 7 p.m. Tuesday, ABC30 (KFSN 30.1)
  • Fresno connection: Fried was an assistant editor at The Fresno Bee for five years.
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