Sonya Thomas is "The Black Widow" of Competitive Eating: 40 World Records ...

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June 3, 2012: 47 Dozen Acme Oysters in 8 Minutes
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Photo Courtesy of a Best Fan, John Barranco

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1. WHEN DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER THAT YOU HAD THE ABILITY TO EAT COMPETITIVELY?  Since I was a child, I have always had a good appetite, an active metabolism, and a burning desire to win. But not until I witnessed the greatest eater of all time--Takeru Kobayashi--eat 50 Hot Dogs in 2002, via my TV set, did it dawn on me that the sport was right up my alley, so to speak. I wanted to eat with him and the likes of American greats Eric "Badlands" Booker, Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, "Hungry" Charles Hardy, Don "Moses" Lerman, and Rich "The Locust" LeFevre at that table on Coney Island in 2003. So in June 2003 I entered and won my first-ever competitive eating event -- the Molly Pitcher qualifier in New Jersey. 

2. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE NICK NAME, "THE BLACK WIDOW?" Because like the female black widow spider, it is my desire to eliminate the males. In competitive eating I want to eat more or faster than the men. I want to make boys out of them.

3. HOW DO MEN FEEL ABOUT LOSING TO YOU -- A FEMALE? When I first started eatiing competitively in mid 2003, some of the men that I defeated, from time-to-time, had a tough time accepting defeat from a member of the opposite sex, especially a little one like me. Even though I am now looked upon more as one of the guys, much jealousy remains. I suspect it always will. 

4. HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR CONTESTS? I rarely train, but if I am totally unfamiliar with the kind of food I will be eating, I will sometimes practice my speed for 1 or 2 minutes--usually no more. It's not healthy to consistently eat large amounts of food in a very small amount of time. Once I set a pace, I can usually keep it up for however long the contest is; the stomach capacity is always there. 

5. IS EXERCISE A PART OF YOUR TRAINING REGIMEN? I do aerobic exercise up to 2 hours a day, 5 days per week. I'm also very physically active on my job--little sitting down or standing around--which helps keep my metabolism "revved up."

6. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOUR BODY TO RECOVER AFTER A CONTEST? I guess I'm fortunate in that my body will have digested what I eat within 8 to 12 hours. By the next day--or late that same day--I'm usually "good to go."

7. WHAT MAKES A COMPETITIVE EATER THE BEST IN THE FIELD? Successful competitive eating involves the combination of both mental and physical qualitiess. Mentally, eaters need to be focused on the task at hand. You also have to have faith in your abilities. Physically important assets are stomach capacity, jaw strength, and hand speed. 

8. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE RECORDS? Here's my "Top 10" list of the records / titles for which I am most proud (as of July 2012):

a. Acme Oysters: 47 dozen (564) in 10 minutes.
b. Maine Lobsters: 11.4 pounds of Lobster meat (44 soft shell lobsters -- from the shell) in 12 minutes. 
c. Hard-Boiled Eggs 
(1) 65 in 6' 40 seconds.
(2) 52 in 5 minutes.
(3) 15 in 1 minute
d. Buffalo Wing Festival Chicken Wings: 6.43 lbs (of meat eaten off the bone) in 12 minutes.
e. 45 Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 Minutes (Women's Record)
f. La Costena Jalapeno Peppers: 250 1/2 in 9 minutes.
g. Crawfish: 6.5 lbs in 10 minutes.
h. Downtown Atlantic Cheesecake: 11 pounds in 9 minutes.
i. 84 Lumber Baked Beans: 8.4 pounds in 2' 47 seconds.
j. Zocalo's Tacos (Soft-shell Chickem): 48 in 11 minutes.  
9. WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY DIET CONSIST OF? I eat lots of healthy foods--lots of fruits, vegetables, rice, seafood, and chicken--not too much fried food. I sometimes enjoy sweets, but only in moderation. 

10. HOW CAN YOU STAY SO THIN? YOU EAT SO MUCH FOOD IN COMPETITION. These competitions and eating events occur but once or twice a month. They are the exception--not the rule. 

11. DO YOU ADVOCATE A SPECIFIC DIET LIKE ATKINS OR SOUTH BEACH? Not really. Each person is different and it is important to find out what works for you. But remember, if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight--it's that simple. 

12. DO YOU BELIEVE COMPETITIVE EATING IS A SPORT? Without a doubt! It is the most natural sport of all--everybody eats. So everyone can relate to it. And it takes the same basic qualities to excel as in other sports like baseball, football, or soccer. To be successful you have to use the physical and mental abilities necessary to overcome the challenges that lie before you. This is true, for example, whether stealing a base (baseball), getting a first down (football), or identifying and sustaining the optimal eating pace for the duration of a timed (competitive eating) event, in order to eat as much as possible.

13. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? I want to be the # 1 competitive eater in the world--period! Beyond competitive eating, I also, some day, want to have my own fast food restaurant. 

14. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BEGINNERS? Eating at the professional level is not for the vast majority of people. All pro events are conducted in a controlled environment with EMTs on hand. Safety is paramount, as is eating healthy on a daily basis. If you really believe you have what it takes, you can go to the IFOCE Web site and go to the "Join as an Eater" section. Participating in one or two contests may be the best way to safely "size up" your abilities.

15. DO YOU HAVE A GIANT STOMACH INSIDE THAT LITTLE BODY? My stomach is really normal size, but over the years it has been trained to stretch quite a bit. As far as capacity is concerned, I believe I can handle up to 19 pounds of food and liquid overall (within 10 minutes). 

16. WHAT MAKES YOUR STOMACH STRETCH? I usually eat one meal per day, a huge one, spread out over several hours with a gallon or so of no- or low-calorie liquid, like diet soda or water. Again, the food I eat is generally healthy, not junk.

17. WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET OVER THE WALL? I try to burp to get some air out. When you're full, and you burp, you're fine. Oftentimes, however, by properly pacing myself I can avoid hitting a wall.

18. DO YOU EVER GET SICK AFTER A CONTEST? No I don't. The cheesecake was a challenge, however, because I'm not used to eating rich sweets, especially in such large quantities. The cheesecake was so smooth and it went down so fast! 

19. DO YOU ENJOY GETTING LOTS OF MEDIA ATTENTION? Some is fine and much appreciated. But too much can be a big hassle. My privacy and freedom are important, and as long an event is organized and planned in a considerate way I'm okay with it. I actually turn down as many--if not more--media events as I accept. And I would refuse to do a stunt which belittles the sport. Competitive eating is not a "stupid human trick," ... I take it SERIOUSLY! Don't get me wrong; I enjoy a good laugh, as long as it isn't hurtful to others.

20. DO YOU HAVE A ROLE MODEL?  When I first started eating competitively it was Takeru Kobayashi, as he put competitive eating on the map with his 50-dog performance on Coney Island in July 2001.  He inspired me.  I also look up to several other people in competitive eating like Eric "Badlands" Booker and "Crazy Legs" Conti, whose hearts and kindness are even bigger than their competitive eating talent.

21. HOW LONG DO YOU THINK YOU CAN CONTINUE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AS A COMPETITIVE EATER, AND HOW LONG WOULD YOU LIKE TO REMAIN ON THE CIRCUIT? When it's no longer fun, or when I lose the desire, I'll stop competing. But for right now, I still have much desire. 

22. IN COMPETITION ARE THERE ANY FOODS YOU AVOID? I won't eat things like cow brains, frog legs, reindeer sausage, or other "exotic" foods. There are plenty of other kinds of food to choose from, without having to resort to such dishes.  

23. WHAT IS THE SECRET TO EATING A LOT VERY FAST? Speedeating is about developing and practicing techniques like hand-speed and hand-eye coordination, as well as chewing and swallowing fast. It is so important to have LOTS of water handy to ensure food doesn't get stuck in the throat. Hence, that's why one should NEVER practice alone.

24. WHAT IS THE ATMOSPHERE LIKE AMONG EATERS ON THE PRO CIRCUIT? HOW DOES EVERYONE GET ALONG? Overall, most of the eaters seem to get along very well with one another, but there are occasional exceptions, just as in all walks of life. 

25. HOW MANY COMPETITIONS CAN YOU DO IN A YEAR? I do about one a month, on average.  

26. DO YOU ENJOY COOKING? IF SO, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD TO COOK? I enjoy cooking occasionally, but have very little extra time to do so. Because of cost and time factors, I'm pretty much a buffet person.

27. HOW DO YOU FEEL BEFORE A CONTEST? ARE YOU NERVOUS WITH BUTTERFLIES? When I first started eating competitively in the summer of 2003, I was a bit nervous before contests, but with experience I learned to totally tune out everything--the crowd, my feelings, etc.--and focus on the task at hand. The title of rapper and legendary gurgitator Eric "Badlands" Booker's competitive eating CDs, the "Hungry and Focused" volumes, say it all. An eater needs those qualities above all others. 

28. IN COMPETITIVE EATING ARE THERE SEPARATE CATEGORIES FOR MEN AND WOMEN? No, men and women compete against each other. This is because there just aren't enough women in CE to merit having separate divisions. However, once in awhile you might see separate men's and women's records for a certain food, like Nathan's Hot Dogs, which is our biggest sponsor, I might add. 

29. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE EATING EVENT? IF SO, WHAT IS IT?  Nathan's Hot Dogs, the Buffalo Wing Festival, Acme Oysters, and Wild Turkey 81 are four that I emjoy. 

30. HOW TALL ARE YOU? I am 5'5." My weight is 100 lbs.

31. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT NOT BEING ALLOWED TO COMPETE IN WING BOWLS XIV (2006), WHICH WAS NOT OPEN TO ANY PREVIOUS WING BOWL COMPETITIORS and XVII (2009), WHICH WAS NOT OPEN TO "PROS?" I really don't give it much thought. I didn't compete in the 2008 Wing Bowl either, by choice.

32. WERE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE KOBAYASHI LOSE THE MUSTARD BELT TO JOEY CHESTNUT IN 2007? Until Joey's (Chestnut) incomprehensible 50-Dog act at the Vegas (Hot Dog) qualifier in May 2006, I believed that Kobayashi was virtually invincible. But records in all sports eventually fall.

33. WHY NOT PUT A BLOG ON YOUR SITE? That's not me; that's not my personality; I'm very private, and I absolutely refuse to listen to or participate in gossipy nonsense. That's a total waste of time.

34. AS A COMPETITIVE EATER, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH? I think perhaps my greatest strength is the ability to accurately pace myself and make adjustments throughout the contest. On the other hand, many of my losses have occurred because I misjudged others or improperly paced myself, based on what I thought it would take to win. I also have really good hand speed. 

35. DO YOU HAVE ANY PREFERENCE FOR CONTEST DURATION? It really doesn't matter to me, but taking into consideration fan appeal, eaters' health and everything else, perhaps 8 - 10 minute-contests are best. The IFOCE recognized this early on. Personally, what may be best for me would harm most competitive eaters, so I would never recommend it -- a contest of an hour or more, even though that would allow me more time to enjoy my food. 

36: SONYA, WHY DON'T YOU LIST UPCOMING MEDIA AND EATING EVENTS SO THAT YOUR FANS CAN KEEP UP WITH YOU? I am asked that question perhaps more than any other. There are really two reasons. First, I guess I'm just a bit superstitious -- much like being reluctant to put up a new year's calendar in December. Second, I always like to remain flexible, not rigid, in case I change my mind or my schedule changes for whatever reason. (Also see my response to FAQ # 19.) 

37. SONYA, WHAT IS THE ONE LIMITING FACTOR THAT PRECLUDES YOU FROM BE A BETTER EATER? Without question -- speed of swallow! That limitation is worsened when I get nervous or am not focused. As I get better at that I will improve. That's why I've always believed that the sport of competitive eating is as much, if not more, mental, as it is physical. ("Crazy Legs" Conti and Takeru Kobayashi are correct in that regard.)

38. IS THERE A PARTICULAR FOOD YOU'RE EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD AT SPEED-EATING?  I'm perhaps best in various forms of Seafood (Lobster, Oysters, Shrimp, Chicken Wings, etc.), because of my quick hands. I'm also very good at Hard Boiled Eggs, for the same reason.

39. EATING CHALLENGES SEEM TO BE POPULAR THESE DAYS. WHY DON'T YOU COMPETE, AND IF YOU DID HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD DO? While I'm under contract with the IFOCE, I'm not allowed to, except with special permission, which I have not yet asked for. If I were to compete in them, however, I'm fairly sure I'd win each one I attempted. I'm not bragging, just confident..  

40. HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD DO AGAINST TODAY'S BEST FEMALE JAPANESE EATERS? Japanese Gluttonous Queens Natsuko "The Gal" Sone and Hatsuyo "The Witch" Sugawara can really pack away a lot of food. They are amazing talents. I would look forward to competing against either or both of them, should that opportunity ever arise. 

41. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A SEPARATE COMPETITIVE EATING CATEGORY FOR WOMEN ONLY?  I used to say absolutely not, but as long as women get their fair share of recognition, why not?  I hope more women become competitive eaters, however, because the sport needs them. 

42. MS THOMAS, WITH FANTASY SPORTS SO POPULAR THESE DAYS, IF YOU HAD YOUR CHOICE, WHAT WOULD A FANTASY COMPETITIVE EATING COMPETITION BE FOR YOU?  They'd be much like the competitions now, with respect to food type and event time.
43. SONYA, WHAT ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE OVER YOUR MALE OPPONENTS?  My hand speed is better than that of most men, as is my stomach capacity. Also, because of my totally natural training technique, which is virtually no training at all, I do have staying power in this sport. I eat the same way now as I did 10 years ago. That is, I eat for enjoyment and to replenish calories that my body burns so very quickly. Not only do I exercise, but I'm on my feet--moving--50-60 hours a week at my job. So do I want to practice speed-eating? I should say not! I practice for speed for a couple of minutes at a time, perhaps once every month or two. As such, I'm confident that I'll be able to remain very competitive in this sport for many more years, should I choose to.

44. ARE THERE ANY NONWINNING EATING PERFORMANCES THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF? Yes. That's a great question because oftentimes if a competitor doesn't win the performance is forgotten altogether, regardless of how great it was. The one that sticks out for me is when I lost to (now World Champ) Joey Chestnut in a 10-minute Gyoza (stuffed Japanese Dumpling) contest from Aug 26, 2006. He out-ate me 212 to 210. Though I lost--by only two Dumplings--I've little doubt that Joey (and possibly Kobayashi) was likely the only person on the planet who could have scored a vistory over me that day in that food, which is why Gyoza is my very favorite nonwinning performance. (Go to http://www.rafu.com/community_1_1_1.html.)

45. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE SPORT OF COMPETITIVE EATING BEING THE CULTURAL PHENOMENON THAT IT APPEARS TO BE TODAY? It's really hard to explain, and this is just my opinion. But there is a hunger for dramatized reality TV today and competitive eating (CE) fits very neatly into that genre. Everybody eats, so every living thing can associate with CE, but very, very few people can speedeat massive quantities of food. So there is an inherent appreciation of Major League Eaters who can consume several days' worth of food in just a few minutes. 

Major League Eating (MLE) has a diverse cast of colorful characters with distinct personalities.  These range from mild-mannered eating machine (and current World Champ) Joey "Jaws" Chestnut to the more animated, dreadlock-laden "Crazy Legs" Conti to man-mountain Eric "Badlands" Booker, to the beautiful, talented Juliet Lee.  

46. SONYA, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE IFOCE RANKING SYSTEM?  It's not perfect, but Major League Eating does an excellent job ranking the their top 50.  I cannot complain at all.

47 SONYA, YOUR TWO FAVORITE WORLD RECORDS ARE ACME OYSTERS AND HARD-BOILED EGGS IN WHICH YOU ATE 46 DOZEN IN 12 MINUTES AND 65 IN 6 MINUTES 40 SECONDS, RESPECTIVELY. IT HAS BEEN SEVERAL YEARS SINCE YOU ATE EITHER FOOD. HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD DO TODAY?  I am confident that in contests of those same lengths, I would increase my previous totals, but perhaps not by much. I believe I could eat 50 dozen Oysters in 10 minutes, and I am quite confident I could eat about 80 HBEs in 6 minutes, 40 seconds.

48: SONYA, OF ALL THE WORLD RECORDS IN COMPETITIVE EATING, CONSIDERING ALL THE DIFFERENT FOODS AND TIME LIMITS, WHICH ONES DO YOU THINK ARE THE GREATEST? This is so subjective, because the opinion of every eater and every fan will be so very different. But I've picked 12, listed in order of preference: 

1.   50 1/2 Hot Dogs and Buns in 12 minutes, Takeru Kobayashi, July 4, 2001: He doubled the previous world record and this is THE achievement that put competitive eating, as we know it, on the map!
2.   93 Krystal points in 8 minutes, Takeru Kobayashi, Sep 27, 2009 (Nondunking Rules!)
3.   68 Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut, July 4, 2009
4.   58 Johnsonville Brats in 10 minutes, Takeru Kobayashi, Aug. 5, 2006: I was the defending champion before that day with 35 Brats, to put things in perspective.
5.   103 Krystal Hamburgers in 8 minutes, Joey Chestnut, Oct 28, 2007: Kobay did not participate, but had the previous record with an unbelievable 97, yet Joey exceeded that total..
6.   46 Dozen Acme Oysters in 10 minutes, Sonya Thomas, Mar 20, 2005: I ate 6 dozen more about 15 minutes later to break Boyd Bolut's 4-hour endurance record.
7.   212 (chicken and vegetable) Gyoza in 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut, Aug. 19, 2006: I finished second to Joey that day with 210. .  
8.   21 lbs of Grits in 10 minutes, Pat Bertoletti, Sept. 29, 2007: Pat put an exclamation point on both speed and stomach capacity that day!
9.   15.25 lbs of Strawberry Shortcake in 8 minutes, Pat Bertoletti, June 17, 2007: That's a lot of cake in such a short amount of time.
10. 57 (17.7 lbs) of Cow Brains in 15 minutes, Takeru Kobayashi: (2002): I listed it, but I don't even want to think about it.
11. 7.5 lbs of Buffalo Chicken Wings in 12 minutes, Joey Chestnut, May 21, 2007: And that's off-the bone!
12. 8.8 lbs of Asparagus in 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut, Apr 26, 2008: Joey gets better and better! He truly is "The Future of Competitive Eating!"
13. 44 Maine Lobsters (11.3 lbs of meat, from the shell) in 12 minutes, Sonya Thomas, Aug 13, 2005: I was partnered with one of the greatest Lobster crackers on the planet -- Geoff.

Again, this is just my very, very subjective opinion. Each and every record you see at the IFOCE Records page (http://www.ifoce.com/records.php) is absolutely phenomenal, as are the people who set them! And don't forget about the participants who put up outstanding totals to push them into that record-setting territory.

49. SONYA, WHY DON'T YOU POST ON SOME OF THE BLOGS OUT THERE? IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO READ YOUR OPINION ABOUT THINGS? That's the whole reason for my Web site -- especially this page. Even though I visit and read some blogs on occasion, I can say what I need to say right here. Blogging is just not my style. (Also see my response to FAQ # 33.)

50: HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHANGE OF CONTEST LENGTH, FROM 12 TO 10 MINUTES, FOR THE NATHAN'S CIRCUIT?  At first I was disappointed, but now I simply accept it. 
51. HOW MANY CALORIES DO YOU EAT IN 1 DAY? I am not much of a calorie counter, but, if I had to guess, I would say roughly about 5,000 calories per day. But I burn at least that many calories per day, even when I don't exercise. 

52. WHY DO YOU WORK 50-60 HOURS PER WEEK? First, I live in the very expensive Washington DC area. (BTW, I sometimes work more than 70 hours per week.)  Second, I'm a very proud BK Store Manager, and I have to be the best at my job. I must set the example in food service, serving the best customers in the world: our men and women military members. Managing my BK fast food restaurant is my first love. Plus, it's my managerial job that puts food on my table and helps me make ends meet. Competitive eating, as much as I love it, is merely a pastime.

53. SONYA, WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE, AND WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS? I like mostly soft rock, and I love The Carpenters, Amy Grant, and The Backstreet Boys.

54. I HAVE READ THAT MANY EATERS FAST FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS PRIOR TO A CONTEST. IS THAT THE CASE WITH YOU? No, not at all, I not only have to eat the night before, but if the contest is scheduled for late afternoon or evening, I will have something for breakfast the day of the event. Additionally, if the contest is early enough in the day, I will eat supper that night. I have to. My body metabolizes food so quickly.

55. SONYA IT SEEMS TO ME THAT YOU ARE CLEARLY THE TOP COMPETITIVE EATING FEMALE IN THE WORLD. MY QUESTION IS WHY DO YOU HAVE TO COMPETE AGAINST MALES? YOU DON'T GET PROPER CREDIT FOR YOUR ABILITY. Thanks for that vote of confidence. First, I must say that in all fairness to other lady competitive eaters outside of Major League Eating (MLE), it's only heresay as to whether I'm the best or not. I'd like to think I am, but until I eat against them I really don't know. Second, I have to compete against men because there are not enough women around that compete in MLE to merit a separate league. While I will admit that men have an advantage over women in all sports -- to include competitive eating -- I feel that I am good enough to stay in the top 10 of the MLE rankings for quite some time -- men or no men.

56. IT HAS BEEN QUITE A WHILE SINCE YOU LAST ATE HARD-BOILED EGGS IN COMPETITION. HOW MANY DO YOU THINK YOU CAN EAT TODAY IN 12 MINUTES? Twelve minutes is a really long time for Eggs. I am fairly confident that I can eat 100 in 10 minutes. 

57. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR VICTORIOUS RETURN TO THE ACME OYSTERS CONTEST THIS YEAR (2009) AFTER A THREE YEAR ABSENCE! WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREPARE, AND HOW WILL YOU PREPARE FOR NATHAN'S THIS YEAR? Thanks! I didn't do anything to prepare for Oysters, nor will I practice eating Hot Dogs. Hot Dogs are not part of my day-to-day diet. In fact, the only time I eat them and most other contest foods are at the contests.themselves. (Also, see my response to FAQ # 4.)

58. SINCE BECOMING A RECOGINIZED COMPETITIVE EATER IN 2003, IN WHAT ASPECTS OF COMPETITIVE EATING HAVE YOU IMPROVED THE MOST? When I started I was a good eater with excellent capacity and okay speed. Today I still have excellent stomach capacity, but my speed has improved quite a bit, especially my speed of swallow.

59. OF ALL THE CONTESTS THAT YOU'VE PARTICIPATED IN SINCE YOU STARTED EATING COMPETITIVELY IN 2003, WHICH DO YOU MISS THE MOST? The U.S. Open of Competitive Eating (from 2005) and Wing Bowl were two of the most fun events I've ever participated in.

60. SONYA, EIGHT YEARS OF COMPETITIVE EATING MUST HAVE TAKEN A TOLL ON YOUR BODY.  HOW SOON WILL YOU RETIRE?  Look, I don't think about retiring.  My total cholesterol is less than 140, and my blood pressure is less than 130/80; and that's without any prescription drugs (nor do I take vitamins). Like I said before, I eat competitively, on average, about once a month.  I do not practice, because I want to enjoy my food, not waste it. I know and eat good food: lots of fruit, veggies, and fish. I also eat lots of hard boiled eggs, because I love them. I eat sweets once in awhile, but only in moderation. 

61.  SONYA DO YOU AND OTHER COMPETITIVE EATERS PURGE AFTER CONTESTS?  If you mean do we throw up after eating, I can only speak for myself, and that answer is absolutely not!  Look, I need ALL of the food I consume, whether it be at a contest or not.  I have a very high metabolism, because I work hard, and am on my feet 10-12 hours per day, 5 days a week.  I love my food, and I need what I eat.  That's why competitive eating is a natural fit for me. 

62.  SONYA, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE YOUR FAVORITE VICTORIES OF ALL TIME?  That's a great question, becaue I was just thinking about that.  Here they are in order of personal significance:

Wing Bowl XII, February 2004, Philadelphia, PA (I've never been so high and so proud!  This was the most fun I've ever had in my life!)
National Buffalo Wing Festival, September 2010, Buffalo, NY (For once, I was able to finish ahead of the top-ranked eater in the world, Joey Chestnut.  "Jaws" is awesome!)
Nathan's Molly Pitcher Qualifier, June 2003, Cranbury, NJ (I was able to finish ahead of established champs like "Beautiful" Brian Seiken [Pickles] and "Crazy Legs" Conti [Oysters] in my first-ever competitive eating contest.  This is so special, because had I lost I would have never competed again.  I am not kidding. I would have been done with competitive eating.)

63.  SONYA, AS THE BLACK WIDOW, WHAT ARE YOU REALLY LIKE INSIDE, PERSONALLY?  I am a really sensitive person, and my feelings get hurt easily.  However, as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  So I have adapted and I am stronger now than I ever was.  I am intimidated neither by size, gender, nor words.  Words are so cheap, but action speaks loudly and that's what I'm about.

64.  LOOKING BACK, WHAT ONE THING HAVE YOU BOTH ENJOYED AND DISLIKED THE MOST ABOUT BEING ON THE COMPETITIVE EATING CIRCUIT?  I dislike all the traveling.  It is often expensive, boring, and time consuming.  When I travel, it is not a vacation; it is work.  And when I return to my regular job, I have to work even harder to catch up.  The best part about all this is my wonderful fans, and I mean that sincerely.  Though I am always very confident, fans make me feel special.  (Children are the best; they melt my heart with their innocence and honesty.)  Even when I was thoroughly booed by a hostile crowd at Wing Bowl in 2004 and 2005, I realized I was booed because the tens of thousands in attendance knew I was a serious threat to their local, much-loved champion.  I considered their reaction, as negative as it was, a wonderful compliment, just as if they were my fans too.  They reacted out of respect, knowing I was not there to play, but to do damage at the table, and that I had the ability to back it up.  That's special! 

65.  SONYA, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON COMPETITIVE EATING RANKINGS AND YOUR PLACINGS IN THEM?  I have to admit that for the first couple of years I was in competitive eating I paid lots of attention to how I was ranked; I wanted to be # 1 or nothing.  Anymore I don't care, because I've come to realize that rankings are really for the fans, not so much for the eaters.  My ability and my records speak for themselves.  Outside of that it's all opinion and politics, which I'm not into.  I'm for real, and I am who I am. 

66.  BECAUSE OF CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS YOU ARE PROBABLY PROHIBITED FROM DOING EATING CHALLENGES, BUT HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD DO IN MOST FOODS?  This comes up a lot, and let me just say that if I were permitted to participate in challenges, I have never seen or heard of a challenge for just one person that I would not be successful in.  I would also succeed individually in most two-person challenges.  I hope this clears things up.  

67.  YOU'VE BEEN EATING COMPETITIVELY FOR 8 YEARS NOW (SINCE MAY 2003).  IN WHAT ASPECTS (OF COMPETITIVE EATING) HAVE YOU IMPROVED THE MOST?  I think I'm a much smarter eater, which comes naturally with more experience; I know my strengths and my limitations.  I'm also a very good judge of my competition, which has improved a lot over the last 8 years.  My stomach capacity and hand speed, which are my two best assets, have improved a bit, but not as much as that of some other eaters, but those two qualities were pretty good to start with.  My jaw strength remains excellent, but not as good as most men.  Men have larger and stronger muscles, and larger mouths; they can stuff their mouths with more food at the end of a contest.  So to keep up I have to rely on capacity and hand speed.  

68.  I've been asked to compare former and 6-time Nathan's champ Takeru Kobayashi from Japan with current world champion Joey Chestnut.  They both not only have extraspecial competitive eating (CE) talent, they are the two greatest competitive eaters of all time.  Since Kobay was the first in that category, he was my inspiration for getting started in CE.  What makes Joey and Kobay the champions they are?  They both have desire that never quits; they never give up; they have supreme confidence.  Even with the supernatural talent they both possess, they would not have accomplished what they have if they did not believe in themselves; that's what makes champions!  All current and aspiring competitive eaters can learn much from those attributes.  

69. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO WATCH ON TV or VIDEO?  Though I have very little time to watch TV or videos, I enjoy watching Korean Soap Operas.  I like comedies best.  "Meet the Parents" and the sequels that came from it are some of my favorites.  They make me laugh; they are so funny.  I like game shows also, like "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy."

70.  WERE YOU OFTEN FACED WITH PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T THINK YOU WOULD BE VERY COMPETITIVE, BECAUSE OF YOUR PETITE FIGURE?  HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH IT?  The notion of people discounting my eating ability because of gender and small size was most prevalent during my very first contest at the June 26, 2003 Nathan's Molly Pitcher Qualifier in New Jersey. It was quite funny, actually. Members of the media set up their cameras in front of "Crazy Legs" Conti, the main focus of the event, who was one of the favorites to win. He was at the center of the table, and I was near the end, discounted as someone who just showed up for a free lunch. The contest was 12 minutes long. With a couple of minutes left, after it was announced that I had the lead, all cameras were moved from the center and placed in front of me. I finished with 18 Hot Dogs and Buns (HDBs) and won. Three people (including Crazy Legs) tied for second with 15. For my first few contests, I was dismissed as a wannabe, but over the next few months I gained a reputation as being a pretty good eater, and I wasn't overlooked from then on. 

 71.  DO YOU RECALL ANY FUNNY OR EMBARRASSING SITUATIONS THAT HAVE HAPPENED SINCE YOU BEGAN EATING COMPETITIVELY?   A few years ago I saw that registration for a 10-minute Rocky Mountain Oyster contest had opened up, so being very confident about my Oyster-eating ability, I enthusiastically signed up.  A day or so went by and I discovered what Rocky Mountain Oysters actually are (bull testicles).  I immediately withdrew my registration. 

72.  WHAT IS YOUR BEST FOOD FOR WHICH YOU DON'T HAVE THE WORLD RECORD?  That would be Jalapeno Peppers.  Pat "Deep Dish" Bertoletti is the greatest Jalapeno Pepper eater walking the planet.  He smokes everybody.   On the one occasion I (barely) beat him out of several times I faced him, I consumed 250 1/2 in 9 minutes, 40 of which I ate in 1 minute of overtime.  But even that was not as good as Pat's record of 275 in 8 minutes, which he set on May 1, 2011.   

73.  OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN COMPETITIVE EATING?  For one, there is more money available to be earned, especially for the top half dozen or so competitive eaters.  When I first started, in the Nathan's Hot Dog Finals, for example, there was no purse money.  Now, not only is there purse money, but there are separate men's and women's divisions.  Also, competitive eating seems to be more popular, the level of talent is much higher, and there are more competitive eaters with higher level talent. 

74.  SONYA, WHAT ONE THING SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER TOP COMPETITIVE EATERS?  Other than my very small size (105 lbs), which is obvious, as I have pointed out many times, I do not practice.  If you go online you will not find even one video of me practicing for an upcoming event.  The only "prep" I get is my previous contest.  For me, practicing would take all the fun out of competing, and if something's not fun, why do it?