Exclusive Interview with Tonya Kay

Image result for tonya kay

Exclusive Interview
with professional dancer
& raw food athlete


Tonya Kay

Posted with permission from
Raw Food Planet
(Raw food international directory,
created by the folks at
Vegetarian Travel Guide)  

Photo by Peter Randolph.




What three foods do you view as the most essential to your athletic well-being?

As a professional dancer, I train an average of 17 hours/wk. My activities include company rehearsals, gigs, dance classes, core training, physical therapy, Bikram yoga, hiking and dancing like at the club, of course! Unlike many other athletes, my sport is not competitive (with anyone but myself) nor does it involve a routine set of perfectible motions. A dancers’ edge, rather, lies in her ability to maintain an expert level of strength, flexibility and coordination at all times, allowing her to master any motion the physical form might do, make it look easy, and bare her soul wide open while doing it.

Consuming in-season, local, organic, raw vegan foods has been nothing short of miraculous in my life – as an athlete as well as a human being. Eating in-season, local, organic raw vegan foods, I am light inside, have a reliable energy source, recover quickly from stress and injury, sleep consistently and wake rested, fluctuate only five pounds either way around my average weight, build lean, long muscle effortlessly, and radiate a glow visible from the stage to the second balcony.

The raw vegan foods I find most beneficial to my personal athletic training are first and foremost; water. I consider it a food, for certain, and choose to drink simple spring water or well water I bottle myself. In lieu of that, I get my 4 – 5 liters/day from a basic charcoal filtered tap water or as a last resort, refill jugs from reverse osmosis vending machines. I use water to hydrate, nourish, and “keep things flowing”. For me to really accept water’s energy into my body, the water must be cost-free and waste-free. I don’t believe that the basic necessities of life, like air, water, sunshine, sleep and love should have a price tag. I also don’t believe requiring the manufacture, recycle or waste of a petroleum plastic bottle have anything to do with clean water.

Other vegan foods I find essential to my athletic training are leafy greens, like kale, romaine, green lettuce, and hijiki, nori, dulse and wakame sea vegetables. These foods have amazing alkalizing effects, which assure the body functions at its natural highest potential without inflammation, degradation, or exhaustion. And, contrary to popular belief, muscle is built from amino acids. It is true that the body breaks down hard-to-digest proteins into amino acids, but why not give it direct access to muscle’s building blocks by feeding it the most amino acid dense foods on earth – easily to assimilate leafy greens.

Finally, water rich fruits, such as apples, kiwi, strawberries, cherries – AVOCADO! – they all have profound energy and mood effects. It’s a natural high without the side effects, and when it comes to professional dance, the crowd expects more than a stellar athletic performance, they expect you to shine like a star doing it. Fruit highs are mandatory just before any performance.

What effects have you observed on your spiritual life since becoming a raw foodist?

I have always considered myself to be a deeply spiritual artist. I have been an avid ritualist since my early teens, with ever evolving, personally refined practices. I owe no allegiance to any one way of being and base my continually answering the question of manifestation: is my current belief system serving me? Is my faith helping me be the woman I wish to be? Are my practices creating the world I wish to live in? In that way, raw vegan foods have become, next to dance, my most powerful living rituals. What elicits more profound results, in accordance with my will, than the actual manifestation of health, happiness, clarity and light directly attributable to the foods I place in my body. The results are quantifiable!

Also notable to my spiritual development as a long-term vegan who then stopped cooking her food, is a general sensitizing. I can feel people from much further away, I can hear messages from within and without much more clearly, I see things that were not visible before. This sensitizing makes me appear to be almost psychic compared to my former self, but I recognize these powers as developments of my natural state rather than additional talents. My dreams are precise and poignant. My art is honest. My sexuality is alive. My being is filled with integrity.

Since you are constantly on the road…could you give our readers some tips to help them maintain an all-raw diet while traveling?

The first comment I get from well-meaning acquaintances as a touring performing artist is “I used to be a vegetarian, but I started eating meat while traveling”, as if a strange breed of aggressive airborne fish might force themselves into weary vegetarian travelers’ mouths when anywhere but in their own kitchen. I went raw while on tour in the Off-Broadway show, STOMP, I performed for three years on the road, living out of hotel rooms, and eating at whatever city’s restaurants. Outside of touring, I am a natural gypsy who has not paid rent in six years and take it from someone who knows travel, not just vacationing, that the raw vegan diet is the most effortless health conscious way to eat, especially while traveling. Not only can a genuine smile, a direct request and a creative budget bring out a chef’s finest fresh fancies at the Colorado Springs steak house, but guacamole wrapped in lettuce leaves are a sure hit at even the south-side of Chicago Mexican hole-in-the-wall.

Fortunately, most cities over 500,000 tout one or even two raw restaurants, but even smaller cities now boast juice and smoothie bars. As a basic mono eater however, I prefer first thing upon arriving in a new city, to hitch a ride to the nearest health co-op where I can procure in-season, local, organic produce for the day or week depending on the length of my stay. And in Danville, KY, for example, where there is not co-op available, even the local Walmart (a last resort of course) carried organics – go figure!

Internationally, I have traveled to Japan, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Canada and have had no trouble at all using the above principals and an open mind. The ability to see outside of the box is what got me into the raw vegan lifestyle, it will be my asset while I am in it, too.

And remember: just because it is free, doesn’t mean you are hungry. Just because the attendant dangles the complimentary corn syrup roasted peanuts in a single serving plastic bag in front of your aisle seat, does not mean you have to eat them. Actual travel days spent in an airplane, in a car or on a bus are very stressful on the physical body. I have found it beneficial to refrain from eating during actual travel, doubling my water intake. I feel much better when I get to my destination, I have not produced a bunch of “portable food” waste, and I’ve effectively “stayed raw” in spite of those darn malicious flying fish.

What raw food books/people had the most influence on your decision to go raw?

I have been a vegetarian since age eight and a vegan since age seventeen. My decision at twenty six years old to stop cooking my vegan food was based entirely on a friend’s claim that raw food had reversed a major illness in her life, the desire as a severe manic-depressive to exist medication-free for the first time in my adult life, and the taste of the carob/avocado/date pie at Go Raw Cafe in Las Vegas, where I was doing aerial stunt-work in the Off-Broadway show De La Guarda. Not only have I dropped the medications and the psychologists, but I also no longer take antibiotics for “acne”, no longer put hormones in my body to “control birth” and no longer tolerate toxic situations or relationships for even a moment without taking action to eradicate them.

Now that I have been raw for four years, there are certain standout raw fooders that I admire even today. I admire Ani and Ede of Portland’s Smart Monkey Foods (smartmonkeyfoods.com)because they are raw food all-stars who use only organic ingredients and are the only company that packages their raw bars in compostable corn-based plastic. I admire Don Weaver of Remineralize (remineralize.org) because he is a shining example of what being raw for 27 years can do and because of his evolutionary work with rock dust. And finally, I admire Teddy Yonenaka (phatteddy.com) because of the way he has embraced the changes in his body as a 39 year old S.A.D. to raw vegan transitioner and because he is the most pure expression of himself that I have ever seen anyone be.


TONYA KAY is a raw food athlete, professional dancer, cast-member of the Off-Broadway phenomenon STOMP, waste vegetable oil driver and full-time gypsy. Her DVD, ‘How To Spin Poi With Tonya Kay’ is available at kayosmarket.com, teaching the techniques used in fire spinning ‘n a fantastic way to tone the core and upper body, center for meditation, and explore movement as artistic self-expression. For her current performance, teaching and lecture schedule, visit www.tonyakay.com

©2006-2011. Peter Firk. All rights reserved.

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