Eleven years ago, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas was crowned the International Federation of Competitive Eating’s Rookie of the Year. Since then, this 105-pound Virginian has taken the world of competitive eating by storm. Thomas has had a large appetite and fast metabolism ever since she was a young girl. But it wasn’t until she watched the legendary Takeru Kobayashi in 2002 that she realized the sport of competitive eating might just be for her. She entered her first contest the following June.
When asked where her nickname originated, Thomas commented, “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.
On July 4, 2011, The Black Widow received the first-ever Nathan’s Famous Female Hot Dog Eating Championship Belt when she ate 40 hot dogs and buns at the annual event in Coney Island. However, her 11 years in competitive eating have been filled with incredible accomplishments that have become world records. From turkey to ravioli and oysters to cheesecake, no eating challenge is too big for Thomas.
As a competitor, Thomas is proud of her ability to pace herself during a challenge while having the self-awareness to rapidly adjust her tactics in the heat of the moment. She’s also known for her incredible hand speed which gives her the advantage in seafood-related challenges. During her years of competition, she feels she has greatly improved her overall stomach capacity and speed of swallow. She also differentiates herself from numerous IFOCE professionals by not practicing. As she puts it, “For me, practicing would take all the fun out of competing, and if something’s not fun, why do it?”
When not shoveling mass quantities of various delicacies into her mouth for cash and prizes, Thomas spends two hours a day, five days a week exercising to maintain her speedy metabolism. Even though she holds the record for buffalo chicken tenders and deep-fried okra, Thomas avoids these kinds of foods in her day-to-day life. Her usual diet consists of fruits, vegetables, rice, chicken and seafood mostly.
On her website, Thomas discusses the athleticism of competitive eating, “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.” It’s clear that The Black Widow is a force to be reckoned with; “ I want to be the #1 competitive eater in the world–period!”