- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2007

Just in time for summer, there’s a new hot dog lady in town.

Juliet Lee, 41, of Germantown, is heading to Coney Island, N.Y., next month for the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest after winning a qualifying competition Saturday.

Devouring one hot dog after another, Miss Lee dominated the qualifying event in Norfolk by doing what she loves to do — eat.

“I like to eat,” Miss Lee said. “I’ve always eaten a lot.”

Miss Lee — all of 5 feet 4 inches and 105 pounds — polished off 26 hot dogs in 12 minutes, out-eating her competition by 10 hot dogs and sending her to the championship round.

Flanked by 13 behemoths and sandwiched between two men weighing nearly 350 pounds apiece, Miss Lee was “in exquisite form,” said Major League Eating Chairman George Shea.

“It was nothing short of spectacular,” he said. “Her performance was inspiring. … She’s very elegant. She was just in the zone, and the crowd went crazy.”

Miss Lee, a hair salon owner originally from China, said she began eating competitively last summer and professionally about six months ago.

She has competed in seven contests, winning two of them. Her first victory was in an amateur pizza-eating contest sponsored by a Three Brothers pizza restaurant in August.

She said she always eats a lot, but her metabolism and active lifestyle help maintain her slender figure. Between her salon, her children, swimming three times a week and yoga, she said she is constantly busy.

“I always have something I have to do,” she said. “I’m always running around.”

Miss Lee’s frame is strikingly similar to the 5-foot-7, 105-pound Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, 39, of Alexandria, who holds the women’s record in the Nathan’s Fourth of July Contest and came in third with 37 hot dogs in last year’s competition.

Mr. Shea said Miss Lee’s size is not unique in the world of competitive eating. Although in the past the industry was dominated by “big lugs,” now the top 15 eaters, like Miss Thomas, are all slender, he said.

Miss Lee is ranked 39th among top eaters worldwide by the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

“Without question, I wouldn’t be surprised if she moves up quickly,” Mr. Shea said.

Though Miss Lee was the only ranked eater at the event, she said she was not expecting the competition to be easy.

But Mr. Shea said he thinks other top eaters chose to skip Saturday’s competition in favor of other qualifying events because they knew Miss Lee would be there.

Miss Lee will face some tough competition at Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Contest, in which many top eaters will be on hand. Last year’s winner, Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, ate 53.75 hot dogs in 12 minutes, according to the Nathan’s Famous Web site.

But Miss Lee said she isn’t fazed by her opposition during the race. “I just go very fast … and I try not to look at [my competitors],” she said.

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