Name: Tonya Kay
Birthplace: farmtown in Southern Michigan
Current Residence: Hollywood, CA
Sports: professional dance and danger arts
Why did you become vegan?
At this point in my life, I have been vegetarian for 28 years, vegan for 18 of those and raw vegan for the past 11. I transitioned each shift for a different reason. Specifically, though, I went VEGAN when I was on tour with Kenny Rogers. I was a bit of an insomniac back then and was the only one awake on our tour bus when the driver pulled off to a truck stop for refueling. I was hungry and stretched my legs while wandering inside to look for food. However when I got in there, all I could find was neon colored packages and cartoon character marketing on products that I was supposed to consider food. But suddenly, I wasn't fooled. I was outraged! Perhaps I was just tired enough and just loopy enough, but in that moment I went vegan out of the pure renegade desire for real food.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I've got a lot of physical energy. My mom caught me dancing in front of the television when the Porter Brothers were tap dancing on Star Search. She asked me if I'd like to learn to tap dance and well - let's just say I took to it real quick like. Next thing you know, I'm involved in theatre and the singing and dancing community. I began teaching dance and as a teen, booked my first pro gig in Detroit, MI on the big stage. If it isn't dancing, though, it's Bikram yoga or biking or weight lifting or Pilates or pole dancing - I have the innate desire to move. And with a history of manic depression (medication-free since going raw 11 years ago!) I find that sweating HARD 3 - 5 times/week keeps me happy, exhausts my energy and maintains a figure better than the one I had at 23!
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I eat uncooked local, organic, in-season fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Essentially, I go to the farmer's market and buy what's in season from the organic farmer whom picked it only 2 mornings earlier, exchanged with a smile and conversation. No way am I cooking the smiles out of that food.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I don't use supplements since I eat high raw vegan foods. The earth is designed to support life with just the right temperature, humidity and sustenance for life. When I stopped second guessing nature, my health skyrocketed!
In your experience within acting and the media, how is veganism generally perceived?
Within the entertainment industry veganism is perceived as an animal rights thing, but raw veganism is perceived as the healthiest diet on earth and therefore it's pretty "popular" out here in Los Angeles. Even crew members on big movie sets, whom you would never expect to have considered health are educated in basics of the raw food diet. It's pretty cool. I just finished filming a lead (with stunts) in a feature film and the cast and crew really respected my lifestyle and asked super intelligent questions with a sincere desire for more information of me at meal times. I felt better than included - I felt admired!
Have you found that the exposure you’ve had has raised awareness of veganism?
Countless people, whom started out as "just fans" of mine have contacted me over the years to tell me that I changed their lives, they went off medications successfully because of me, they've changed their diets because of me, they've started a fitness program because of me. Not every performance project I do has to be ABOUT veganism. Because I know that if I do quality work, then viewers will be drawn to find out more about me and therein lies the next conversation.
How do people react when they find out that you are vegan?
I'm kind of known as raw vegan girl in the industry out here. Shoot, just last week a well-known casting director called me because a friend of his was sponsored 50 lbs of vegan food and couldn't eat it all. I was the first vegan he thought of to give it away to. Next time he calls me, I hope he's giving away a lead in an action film.
What was it like to play Princess Peach in Video Game Reunion?
Princess Peach is the EXACT type of character I enjoy playing the most. She's nasty, she's of questionable character, she speaks her mind (probably too quickly!), she tries so hard to be loved and fails consistently. When an actor plays those despicable roles with humanness and depth, the most terrible character can become more loved than the shallow "good all the time" lead. PLUS I did the biggest stunt I've ever done in Video Game Reunion - check out the explosion in episode 13!
Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?
I'm dancing in The Muppets Movie, released this Thanksgiving! My dream come true, working with Kermit and Gonzo and Miss Piggy, too. I'm also playing lead roles in two feature film released in 2012: Within The Darkness and Off World.
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
Part vanity, part habit and part renegade.
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
My good friend Robert Cheeke is one of the most driven, passionate, communal people I know. Knowing Robert is out there spreading his amazing energy gives me joy just thinking about it. And the man can dance. Watch out!