Suzy Favor-Hamilton, a three-time U.S. Olympic runner turned Las Vegas escort, will release a memoir entitled Fast Girl: Running from Madness next week.
In December 2012, The Smoking Gun revealed that Favor-Hamilton was working as an escort earning $600 per hour under the alias Kelly Lundy. According to Favor-Hamilton, she became involved in that lifestyle after a bout with depression and the use of prescription drugs.
Following the revelation of her secret life, Favor-Hamilton was dropped from her sponsorship deals with Disney and the Rock ’n’ Roll race series. She returned to the public’s eye by running the 2014 L.A. Marathon as a charity runner and opening up on her website’s blog.
An exclusive excerpt from the book can be read in the latest issue of SI.
The following interview has been transcribed by Chris Chavez and Larry Mondi and has been edited for clarity.
Maggie Gray: You said that being an escort was more rewarding than being an Olympian and winning races. Why is that?
Suzy Favor Hamilton: I remember exactly where I was when I had that thought in my head. For me, running the Olympics, it was always so stressful. I think it was part of my bi-polar—in that the anxiety that I’ve had my entire life was just so much to deal with, and I had never really spoken up because I thought if I speak up about my insecurities or that I have a weakness, I am showing other athletes that I am weak. They will have an advantage over me. I always kept everything inside, and that pressure just built.
But when I was an escort, it came natural. It was so easy. It was so fun and the high from my mania was incredible. The high felt better than running races and winning. So I know as bad as that sounds, at that time because of the bipolar, because of the [antidepressant I was taking], the hypersexuality that I was experiencing it was above and beyond the biggest high.
GRAY: You were diagnosed as being bipolar after you were outed. How closely was your medical condition linked to your risky behavior?
FAVOR HAMILTON: The risky behavior was because of the bipolar and because of [the medication]—mainly [the medication]. If you Google [the medication] and bipolar, you’ll see that one of the side effects is hypersexuality… if you look at bipolar, you’ll see that things that describe it are risky sex and hypersexuality also. [The medication], I know brought on the hypersexuality. On top of that, having bipolar made it completely out of control. I was delusional. I couldn’t see what I was doing was wrong. It to me—as bizarre as it is—it felt completely normal like something I was meant to do every day.
GRAY: Just talking about how the medication affected you, you also described being an escort as something you loved.
FAVOR HAMILTON: Yes.
GRAY: So what did you love about it?
FAVOR HAMILTON: Well, I loved the feeling of mania, the manic feeling. I had experienced ecstasy toward the end of my escorting. I can describe it like the drug ecstasy but even a bigger high. I loved that feeling. I just chose an outlet. An alcoholic chooses alcohol. A drug addict chooses drugs. My release was sex. On top of that, I got this incredible high and I was able to turn off my entire life by doing this. I was incredibly happy. I had all the money I had ever wanted. I was spending like crazy. The money I was making, I had no idea I was spending that much money. Also another symptom of bipolar is uncontrollable spending.
GRAY: I’m assuming if there is the mania that goes with being bipolar, there has to be a downside as well.
FAVOR HAMILTON: Right.
GRAY: What was your lowest point?
FAVOR HAMILTON: Suicide was my lowest point. I was mainly manic. When I would go and leave Vegas, I would come down and my depression would come back. Those were my lows, when I went back to my real life as Suzy. But when I was the person that I had created, Kelly in Vegas, I was euphoric. Also [the medication] was keeping me high, but I was feeding that mania. I was feeding what my brain needed at that time. I never wanted to come down. I knew what I could do. I could use alcohol, I could use the sex, I could use the spending and I could stay high for as long as I wanted. But when you took me out of that environment, I went back to being depressed.
GRAY: Working in the sex industry is often dangerous. Can you describe a time when you felt threatened or uncomfortable when you were with a client?
FAVOR HAMILTON: I was incredibly naive about it all. I felt that the escort firm was screening everybody [and] that I was 100% safe. Obviously, there is no guarantee for anything. But I never [thought] that I would be in any danger. I felt like they were all screened, they had reviews … that everything would be OK. I once had a taxi cab driver that made me feel a little uncomfortable, and I also had one situation when I did a threesome with two men, and this was not through the escorting agency. It was me, on my own. Looking back, it was completely crazy that I took this as something that I would never get hurt. I'm lucky, because I am alive to be able to tell my story.
GRAY: You said that the thrill of sex eventually wore out, and that you needed to tell your clients that you were an Olympian to raise the stakes. How did revealing your past change the experience for you?
FAVOR HAMILTON: The thrill actually didn’t wear out. It was that you needed to take the thrill higher and higher. Just like a drug addict. Eventually they need a higher drug. Maybe it’s not working and they go to a higher level or a more dangerous drug. For me, with the sex, I needed to make it riskier and more dangerous, even though I didn't see it as dangerous.
GRAY: And by so by telling them your past as an Olympian, that satisfied another aspect of this for you?
FAVOR HAMILTON: Absolutely, it made the thrill even higher. It made the client, in my mind, think, ‘Well, OK, I have this Olympic athlete who never gets tired and she can go, go, go.’ This is an even bigger thrill and for me, it intensified that high. Again, somebody who had just stepped into this world knowing really nothing about it, I thought that the men had more to lose, that there was no way they would ever say anything to any media or anything. I never even thought it through, that they would use a false name, or false emails. It just never occurred to me because I thought they wanted this as much I did.
GRAY: Suzy, your husband has been very supportive and has stuck by you. Why do you think he supported your choice to become an escort?
FAVOR HAMILTON: Well, he definitely didn’t support it. He was trying desperately to get me out. I had sold him on the idea that I would try it once or twice. I got sucked in. I did not want to leave it. He did try. But he also, in looking back, he enabled me. He didn’t know who to turn to. He couldn’t just call my parents and say, “by the way, your daughter is an escort in Vegas.” He felt that revealing my identity would ruin my reputation forever and he protected me. But he also kept trying to get me out.
I was not going to leave this world. As hard as he pushed, there was no way I could leave this. I was the happiest I had ever been. In looking back, he’s even told me, at that time, our marriage wasn’t going good; he wanted the manic Suzy over the depressed Suzy. So I was easier to deal with. I honestly thought I could live this life with him and we could kind of go our separate ways, and consider our relationship as an open relationship even though that wasn’t something that he was doing. I kind of justified everything I was doing.
Obviously, in my mind, he is the hero, because he could so easily have taken my daughter. He could have left and deserted me. After the story came out to the media, he actually read a book called The Unquiet Mind, and he discovered that my illness was a legitimate illness, bipolar. He, at that time, decided immediately that he was going to focus on my disease. He wasn’t going to focus on the actions, on the behaviors, on the destruction I was doing, because he found out that his wife never meant to hurt him. I just lost [the] reality of my maternal instincts and that I was a wife. I completely lost touch with reality.
GRAY: You mentioned your daughter. She was born in 2005. Have you decided what you are going to tell her about your life as an escort?
FAVOR HAMILTON: I think a lot of people are surprised that we have already educated our daughter. First of all, [we told her] that her mommy’s mind wasn’t working right. We slowly, with help from psychologists and a sexual therapist who deals with children, [learned how] to talk to our daughter about this. We talk to her all the time, and if she has any questions about it. She knows exactly what I did in Vegas. There is no secret to her. We want her to know that growing up, we don’t keep secrets from her; we want to have an open, honest relationship with her. And she understands that behavior was part of the illness. It was what I needed to survive. Let me tell you, she’s nine right now. Kids know so much more than we think they know, or give them credit for, when it revolves around sex. The Internet is available for anything that they can see. By educating her now, at an early age, she’s adapted to it and looks at this in a way of understanding and compassion. She’s not focused on the sex.
GRAY: If you hadn’t gotten caught, would you still be an escort?
FAVOR HAMILTON: Absolutely. Without a doubt. I don’t see any reason why I would have left that world. I didn’t want to leave that world. It fed my mania. It accomplished everything that my high was looking for. I would not have had medication. I would not have been diagnosed with bipolar. I would most likely be dead, though, and wouldn’t be able to tell this story and help others, and that’s a scary thought, to really think about where my life would be and the damage that I would have caused my daughter growing up without a mom because of this illness. That’s still hard for me. You know, I could cry right now just thinking about that and I’ve cried in so many interviews about the pain that I have caused so many people, and that’s the worst part of dealing with all this, the pain that I have caused.
I hope that the book won’t cause more pain to my loved ones, but I do feel that it is very necessary to tell this story because there are so many people silently suffering, whether it’s at their job or at home or in a relationship, and can’t speak out because of the stigma or the fear of losing a loved one or losing a job and so many people could be helped because there’s so much available to us in terms of help. But so many people feel like they can’t step up and ask for that help because of the stigma. It’s time that we as a society look at bipolar in a serious manner, that we look at mental health in a serious manner and I really believe that we are starting to do that. But there is such an unknown with bipolar and the sexual aspect to it that people don’t want to talk about it. It’s time that it starts being addressed. Let’s face it, sex is a part of our world. This is, for me, in my relationship, sex is important with my husband, it’s something we share together and it shouldn’t be the topic of taboo that we can't talk about.