Tonya Kay loves playing with fire. And knives and whips. The CEO of Happy Mandible, which caters eco-conscious meals to Hollywood production sets, likes the thrill of just missing serious bodily harm. That explains her eclectic set of hobbies: fire spinning (tracing patterns with chains whose ends are on fire), bullwhipping (cracking a whip in rapid sequence), and knife throwing. She practices knife throwing a few times a month and was the only woman competing in last year's San Diego Chuckers, a knife-throwing event. Above all, Kay considers herself a performance artist -- one who regularly burns the hair off her arms while fire spinning, has accidentally cracked herself with a whip, and has cut her palms with a knife. "The whip is the most painful of all," she says. "It's like wasabi; it blinds you with pain."
How it started
After seeing a fire spinner perform nine years ago, Kay started practicing and made her debut at the Burning Man festival in 2003.
Kay can whip a flower out of someone's hand and accurately throw knives in the dark.
Kay has appeared on The Tonight Show and America's Got Talent and has performed with De La Guarda and Stomp. She plays a character loosely based on herself in a new Comedy Central series called Secret Girlfriend.
Nine whips, five sets of fire-spinning gear, two pickaxes, one throwing shovel, and 15 custom knives made from old saw blades