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Return of the Queen

Drag Trivia Host Alum Heads Back to ‘Jeopardy!’ for Tournament of Champions

By Karen Shih ’09

Ken Jennings and Kevin Belle pose on "Jeopardy!" set

Kevin Belle '07, right, with Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings during the Tournament of Champions. After Belle introduced his alter ego, drag queen Whiskey Ginger, on the show, he inspired Jennings to come up with a few pun-worthy drag names of his own.

Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

The first time Kevin Belle ’07 sashayed on stage in drag, he threw on a dress he’d never even tried on from a thrift store, stepped into the biggest pair of heels he could find at Payless and hardly wore a stitch of makeup—all to entertain the rowdy “Rocky Horror Picture Show” crowd at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union with a Sonny and Cher-inspired number.

He was terrible, he admits.

Now, he’s taken his more-practiced drag queen persona, “Whiskey Ginger” (a fiery redhead named after his favorite cocktail), to the national stage, including the recent “Jeopardy!” Honors ceremony.

That’s because Belle is a three-time champ of the country’s most popular game show—and he’s been invited back to the Tournament of Champions, which airs his episode Thursday night on ABC.

Kevin Belle as "Alexa Trebek"
Belle as "Alexa Trebek." He performs only about once a month, but he’s thankful for the robust D.C. drag scene that has welcomed and inspired him, including queens Shi-Queeta Lee, the first to perform at the White House, and the late Ba’Naka Devereaux. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Belle)

While he doesn’t compete on the show in drag, he proudly shares his side gig as a performer, which includes hosting drag trivia online and winning a pageant as “Alexa Trebek,” inspiring host Ken Jennings to propose his own potential name: “Della Double.”

Belle’s episodes last spring aired on the heels of Tennessee’s drag ban. “[Talking about drag on the show] wasn’t intentionally timed,” he said, because it was taped earlier, but he’s glad he had the chance to bust the taboo around the topic. “’Jeopardy!’ is the second-most-watched thing in America after the NFL. It's in millions of living rooms, including people of all political ideologies and ages and backgrounds. I was glad to just be a normal guy, talking about my hobbies on TV.”

As a “total ham” with “very high nerd cred,” appearing on “Jeopardy!” had been Belle’s goal since he was a senior at the University of Maryland. He’d grown up watching the show with his parents, obsessively keeping score as they shouted answers at the screen. But it took 16 years for him to finally make it past the online test.

Going into taping in February 2023, the trail planner for Rails to Trails Conservancy was confident about his knowledge of geography (which he studied at UMD), wordplay and reality TV. After winning his first game, he had to fly back two weeks later to tape his next three episodes, making him one of just a few contestants to compete under two hosts: Jennings (“He’s been in our shoes many, many times so he understands the nervousness”) and Mayim Bialik (“Holy crap! I’m hanging out with Blossom!”).

Belle was thrilled to win about $43,000 and assumed that was the end of his journey, since he didn’t make the five-game threshold for the Tournament of Champions. But in December, he got a mysterious message inviting him to appear on WJLA’s “Good Morning Washington,” where Jennings surprised him with a rule change and invitation to return.

This time, he was less nervous to be under the bright studio lights, but more intimidated by his fellow competitors. He’d earned the least money of the 27 contestants in the tournament, and he had also gotten to know many of them through events and the active online presence of his fellow contestants over the past year.

“Last time, everyone was anonymous, so I could just be like, ‘I’m trying to beat you!’ But this time, I know their kids. It makes it more personal,” he said.

No matter what happens in Thursday evening’s episode, he’s excited to be competing again after brushing up on his presidents and Shakespeare—and maybe to grab a few more bookings for Whiskey Ginger.

“It’s a total dream come true to be inside of your favorite TV show,” he said, especially “to share my life authentically. I’ve gotten almost exclusively good feedback, so I’m happy.”

Kevin Belle aka Whiskey Ginger with Sarah and Buzzy at Jeopardy! Honors
Belle at the Jeopardy! Honors blue carpet and ceremony, where he appeared as Whiskey Ginger at the show for the first time. (Screenshot from Jeopardy! YouTube channel)




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