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, 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 don't. For the first 2 years, if I was
totally unfamiliar with the kind of food I was to be eating, I would sometimes practice my speed and technique for 1 or 2
minutes, but, since 2005 I have not trained at all.
5. IS EXERCISE A PART OF YOUR TRAINING REGIMEN? I do aerobic
exercise when I can. 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 qualities. 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
8. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE RECORDS? Here's my "Top 10" list of the records / titles for which I am
a. Acme Oysters: 47 dozen (564) in 8 minutes.
(Foodablooza in Atmore, AL): 37 dozen + 1 (445) Oysters in 5 minutes.
c. Maine Lobsters: 11.4 pounds of Lobster meat (44 soft shell lobsters -- from the
shell) in 12 minutes.
d. Buffalo Wing Festival Chicken
Wings: 6.43 lbs (of meat eaten off the bone) in 12 minutes.
45 Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 Minutes (Women's Record)
La Costena Jalapeno Peppers: 250 1/2 in 9 minutes.
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
j. Zocalo's Tacos (Soft-shell Chicken): 48 in 11 minutes.
9. WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY DIET CONSIST OF? I eat lots of healthy foods--lots of fruits, vegetables, rice, seafood,
tofu, chicken, and beef--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. I (used to) participate in no more than one or two competitive eating events
a month. Now I rarely compete. I'm just too busy these days.
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 just want to do my best in whatever I do, whether it's managing a fast food establishment, serving food,
or eating food fast.
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 participate
in one or two Major League Eating contests to safely "size up" your abilities.
15. DO YOU HAVE A GIANT STOMACH
INSIDE THAT LITTLE BODY? My stomach is really normal size, but it is able to stretch quite a bit. As far as capacity
is concerned, at one time I could probably handle up to 19 pounds of food and liquid overall, depending on the food.
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.
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 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 insulting or 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.
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
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
25. HOW MANY COMPETITIONS CAN YOU DO IN A YEAR? I used to do about one a month. Now it's much
less than that.
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.
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 (at least not yet). However, once in a while you might see separate men's and women's records for a certain
food, like Nathan's Hot Dogs, which is MLE's biggest sponsor, I might add.
29. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE EATING EVENT?
IF SO, WHAT IS IT? I can't say for sure; there are so many. But Nathan's Hot Dogs, Buffalo Wings,
and Acme Oysters were some of my favorites.
30. HOW TALL ARE YOU? I am 5'5." My weight was 100-105
lbs for the first 10 years, but gradually increased to about 125 or so.
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
32. WERE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE KOBAYASHI LOSE THE MUSTARD BELT TO JOEY CHESTNUT IN 2007? Until Joey Chestnut's
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 has always been 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 always had
quick hand speed.
35. DO YOU HAVE ANY PREFERENCE FOR CONTEST DURATION? I prefer something less than 10 minutes, mainly
for health reasons.
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. 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
38. IS THERE A PARTICULAR FOOD YOU'RE EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD AT SPEED-EATING? I've probably been 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.
40. HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD DO AGAINST TODAY'S BEST FEMALE JAPANESE EATERS? They are amazing talents.
I would look forward to competing against them.
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? Through the
years, my hand speed has generally been better than that of many men, as has my stomach capacity.
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.
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.
46. SONYA, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE IFOCE RANKING SYSTEM? It's not perfect, but
Major League Eating does a pretty good ranking the their top 50. Also, rankings are more for the fans than the competitors.
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? This question was asked years ago, and since then I've eaten 47 dozen Acme Oysters in 8 minutes. I
believe I could eat over 50 dozen Oysters in 10 minutes (unless they are really large), and I could probably eat about 70
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 10. (Note: The amount of food eaten during the event listed
is not necessarily the current World Record for that food.)
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!)
68 Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut, July 4, 2012
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
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!
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
10. 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 4,000 calories per day (down from 5000 a decade ago).
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 a light snack for breakfast
the day of the event. Additionally, if the contest is early enough in the day, I will eat supper that night.
55. SONYA, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO COMPETE AGAINST MALES? YOU DON'T GET PROPER CREDIT FOR
YOUR ABILITY. Thanks for that vote of confidence. I have to compete against men because there are not enough women around who
compete in Major League Eating (MLE) to merit a separate league, though more and more women are competing these days.
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 remain competitive against both men and for several more years.
56. HOW MANY HARD -BOILED EGGS DO YOU
THINK YOU CAN EAT TODAY IN 12 MINUTES? I'm fairly certain I could do nearly 100.
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 do 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. Over the years my speed improved also.
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, ALL THESE YEARS OF COMPETITIVE
EATING MUST HAVE TAKEN A TOLL ON YOUR BODY. HOW SOON WILL YOU RETIRE? My health is fine, and I want it to remain
that way. I may never fully retire, but I am definitely competing far less these days.
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!
62. SONYA, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE YOUR FAVORITE VICTORIES OF ALL TIME? Here they are in order of
- 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
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
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--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? In my younger days, if I had been permitted
to participate in challenges, I would have done extremely well!
67. YOU'VE BEEN EATING COMPETITIVELY FOR 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 since I first started. 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 always had to rely on capacity and
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 extra-special 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 and animal/nature shows. Regarding movies, 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 also 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
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 and
the level of talent is much higher.
74. SONYA, WHAT ONE THING SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER TOP COMPETITIVE EATERS? Other than my relatively
small size, 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?
75. HOW HAS YOUR
WEIGHT AND HEALTH CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED EATING IN 2003, AND HOW HAS THAT INFLUENCED YOUR FUTURE AS A COMPETITIVE
EATER? My age has changed, of course, but my health has not, and I plan to stay
heathy. Since 2003, I continue to eat very healthily, day-to-day--lots of fruit, vegetables,
tofu, and seafood, and almost no chips (or other salty snacks), sweets, or other junk food.
76. THINKING BACK TO
2003 WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED, WAS IT DIFFICULT TO ENTER A SPORT THAT WAS DOMINATED BY MUCH LARGER MEN? As I have mentioned
many times before, when I first started I felt
like an invader in a man's sport. But, because I was so motivated about competing, I didn't care who thought what about
me, unlike most women, who were probably very concerned that competitive eating might make them "un-lady-like,"--
that it might make them appear gross. That doesn't seem so much a concern anymore, as more women are becoming competitive
eaters. They're having fun.
WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED DID YOU FEEL AS IF YOU HAD SOMETHING TO PROVE? WHAT ABOUT NOW? When I first started, I
just wanted to prove to myself that I was as good as I thought I was, that I could beat much larger men sometimes, and I did
win my fair share of events. I probably recorded over 50 victories through the years, and set several dozen World Records
along the way. As such, given my past accomplishments, I no longer feel as if I have anything to prove. In time,
virtually all records get broken, and I am happy for those great competitors who have broken some of my records, and I'll
be happy for those who break my records in the future. I've had much fun along the way. I still do.
78. SONYA, WHAT PREPARATION ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE
AN ASPIRING COMPETITIVE EATER? I am not the best person to ask about preparation, since I do not practice at all.
Any talent I might have is only natural ability. So, I can only say, be safe at all cost, and if you must practice,
be sure to have an EMT standing by.
79. AFTER MORE THAN A DOZEN YEARS OF EATING COMPETITIVELY, HAVE YOU NOTICED
ANY CHANGES IN YOUR HEALTH AND PHYSIOLOGY, AND IF SO, WHAT EFFECT DOES THAT HAVE ON YOUR EATING ABILITY? Sure, there
have been some changes, physiologically, but my health remains fine, overall. I don't have to take any medication, even
though I am now over 50. My blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, etc. are all fine. However, more related
to competitive eating, over the past few years it has become more
difficult to swallow quickly, and my metabolism has slowed down It's like my body saying, "Hey, give me a break!" After
forcing things down my esophagus so quickly for so many contests, my body is fighting back. It's watching out for me,
and that's a good thing! As such, I don't attend contests very often, and I quit "practicing" altogether years
ago. Priorities change with age.