For those who don't already know - the popularity of eating contests and competitions has been snowballing for years! It's now an international 'sport' with hundreds of contests held worldwide every year! We wanted to get you the low-down on this weird and wonderful world - that's why we caught up with one of the world's top competitive eaters - Sonya 'The Black Widow' Thomas!
How did you become a competitive eater?
In 2001, I watched Takeru Kobayashi on TV, eating hot dogs at the annual Fourth of July eating contest at Nathan’s in Coney Island. As I was watching, I thought to myself, “I think I can do that!” Well, my friends just laughed. But, I really thought I’d be good at competitive eating. So one day in 2003, I heard they were having a qualifier contest for Nathan’s at the Molly Pitcher Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike and thought “what the heck, I’ll give it a try.” When I showed up, the announcer guys who wear those straw boater hats, kind of laughed at me when he saw my size — 5’5’’, 100 lbs. So, they put me at the end of the table away from the cameras and reporters, with the big guys all in the middle of the table. When the contest began the announcer started reading off the totals from the big guys in the middle of the table. “And this guy’s eaten six hot dogs, and this other guy’s eaten eight,” etc. Then someone whispered into the ear of the announcer. “Hey, wait a minute folks,” the announcer said. “This tiny woman at the end of the table HAS EATEN 15!” Later someone told me the camera guys with the camera on their tripods began hopping down to the end of the table where I was eating. By the end of the contest I had eaten 18 hot dogs and had qualified for the Nathan’s contest on July Fourth in New York. The announcer guys in the straw hats turned out to be George and Richard Shea of the International Federation of Competitive Eating and they immediately signed me onto a contract with the organization.
After the contest, reporters and everyone were talking about how this little women killed all these big guys at an eating contest and they began comparing me to a Black Widow spider and the name stuck. Since then I have eaten at hundreds of contests, participated in events and interviews all over the world, established over 39 world records, and have had a great time doing it!
What was your most impressive victory and what did you have to eat?
There are three events that come to mind:
Several years ago they had asked me to do an eating demonstration at one of those music festivals. They wanted to see how many hard boiled eggs I could eat in 10 minutes (a la Cool Hand Luke). The previous record was 38 eggs in 10 minutes and the festival sponsors bought 65 eggs. When I got there, there were thousands and thousands of screaming rock fans and they kind of laughed when I walked on stage when they saw how small I was. But when I began eating they went quiet — kind of in awe of how fast I could eat. But with every egg I ate, the crowd roar grew louder and louder until they were in a frenzy. Cheering me on and yelling, “SONYA! SONYA! SONYA!” After 6 minutes and 40 seconds I had eaten all 65 eggs. It was the only time a sponsor actually ran out of the food I was eating. And with eating records usually being 6 or 10 minutes, I am the only competitive eater to have an eating record of 6 minutes and 40 seconds they didn’t have any more food to eat.
Oysters was another fun record. I ate 46 dozen oysters in 10 minutes. After the contest, someone had said the overall record was 50 dozen oysters, and it took that guy four hours to establish that record. The contest sponsors wanted to know if I wanted to try to beat the overall record, and I wound up beating the two hour record with 52 dozen oysters in about 14 minutes.
Most recently, I beat the best and number-one eater in the world, Joey Chestnut, at the Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, New York. I ate 181 wings in 12 minutes – a new world record. I’m pretty proud of that.
How do you like to keep fit and what do you eat on a normal day?
As a manager in the fast food industry, I am on my feet all the time and I love to keep busy. At home I like to run on the treadmill for hours. Besides the food I eat at contests, I don’t eat like that all the time. I eat pretty normal healthy meals — a lot of rice, fish, vegetables, and fruit.
How long do you want to keep competitive eating?
As long as I keep on having fun. I’ve been blessed to have some of the best fans in the world and I want to keep on making them happy and proud of me.
I love seafood and I also happen to be pretty good at eating it. I have the lobster record, fried shrimp, oysters, clams, catfish, crawfish, etc. But lately, I’ve had these incredible cravings for crunchy chicken tacos.
Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas
What’s your all-time favorite meal – if you had to choose just one? Leave your comments here! And to know more about Sonya and her delectable appetite, you can go visit this link