'Jeopardy!' Contestant Ditches Wig To Normalize Cancer Recovery

Danielle Broadway
twitter | @Jeopardy

For many, hair loss can be embarrassing and tempting to hide. With that said, for a variety of health issues, it's completely normal. When people with cancer undergo chemotherapy, about 65% of them experience temporary hair loss. When piano teacher, Christine Whelche, was a contestant on Jeopardy! she decided to wear a wig to cover her head after cancer treatments caused hair loss. However, by her next gameshow appearance, she decided to ditch the wig for some key reasons.

She shared her story on the show.

Whelchel recently showed up for her Jeopardy! debut with a wig on, and no one thought much of it — until she shared her story. After being diagnosed with cancer in March of 2021, she just so happened to take the Jeopardy! test to be on the show. To top that off, her audition for the show landed right before her surgery during the month of May. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster.

She started the gameshow wearing a wig.

blond hair
Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

As if making a televised appearance on a popular gameshow isn't enough pressure, Whelchel had to decide whether to wear a wig to cover up her hair loss or not. Although she's thankfully cancer-free after treatment and surgery, she opted to wear a wig for her first episode on the show.

Whelchel became a champion.

After having a successful first round of Jeopardy! Whelchel felt her confidence soar. She explained,“After the winnings, I decided that I didn’t need to hide behind a wig anymore." For her next day on the show, she arrived with her natural hair in a short pixie style, and audiences were inspired.

She wanted to normalize cancer recovery.

Some may believe that when a person is cancer-free, their bodies and lives go back to "normal." However, what Whelchel hoped to make clear is that cancer recovery means healing and often regrowing hair. Showing off her short hair wasn't just a stylistic choice, it was meant to tell other cancer survivors that they're not alone. Her message resonated with many, plus, Jeopardy! host, Ken Jennings said she looked "fabulous."

Viewers are loving her unapologetic look

Others have felt free to share their own short hair pictures on Twitter after going through chemo. Watching Whelchel on the gameshow meant a lot for people who also hold reservations about the way illness can make a person look. She went from what she called "hiding" to embracing herself as a champion in both Jeopardy! and her journey.

Her story enhanced the show.

hands holding a pink cancer ribbon in front of a pink backdrop
Unsplash | Angiola Harry

It's easy for people to only think of trivia when they watch Jeopardy! After all, it's a trivia gameshow that challenges people with a range of categories and intellectual questions. However, Whelchel reminds audiences that it's also about the people who play and their stories. She may have dealt with cancer and its aftermath, but she's also very smart, loves music, and has an identity outside of illness. People with and recovering from cancer aren't monoliths, and they can do anything — including becoming Jeopardy champs!

Whlechel made bank.

dollar bills stacked
Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

She not only gained a bunch of fans, but also won $73,602 after winning four games in a row. While she was eventually defeated by Margaret Shelton during the fifth game, Whelchel remains a champ because stayed true to herself and played the game masterfully.

Her friend was happy to see Whlechel celebrated.

Twitter user, @medjournalist, was relieved to see her friend receiving so many supportive comments on Twitter after fears that social media may act unkindly. In many ways, viewers could see themselves or people in their lives reflected in Whelchel's story.

Whlechel encourages people to follow their dreams.

After her winning streak ended, Whlechel was still a bright light for all to see. She told audiences, "Just keep going forward with your dreams. Don’t let age or cancer or your life circumstance, or anything, limit you." She is proof of her own words as we she became a hero for many feeling as if their obstacles may be insurmountable.

She will go down in "Jeopardy!" history.

While Whlechel didn't make her way onto the show’s annual Tournament of Champions, she certainly made her mark. For some, her episodes were a blip in the Jeopardy! lineup of contestants, but for others — she's a trailblazer. Her decision to show the world her hair after chemotherapy is a step toward changing the narrative around healing from cancer.

Let us know what you think in the comments of Whlechel's decision to remove her wig on Jeopardy! and show off her natural hair after chemotherapy.

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