Katie or Kyriaki Chonacas is the perfect case of a multi-talented person. She is an actress, a singer, a model and a marathon runner. She is also a philanthropist, having helped in raising crucial funding for kids with special needs. We have seen her in small roles next to Nicholas Cage in “Bad Lieutenant” and also next to Pacino and De Niro in “Righteous Kill”. Kyriaki talked to us about her childhood, the challenges she has faced so far and also about how proud she is of her Greek heritage.
Tell us a few things about your childhood and where you grew up.
I really appreciate my childhood and where I grew up more than ever, and I feel it took me getting out and following my dreams to understand the true meaning behind it all. I grew up in small town suburbia Livonia, Michigan. I was the girl always wanting to entertain my family and friends. Making people laugh and seeing the positivity I could create by uplifting their spirits really helped me connect to myself. It helped me realize what I was meant to do with my life. My dad really understood my personality, and really inspired me to have structure in my life. He was a cross-country runner growing up, and he incorporated his understanding into my life through my own running. After I really started taking off in my career, I realized he was more of a Life Coach to me than anything else. My mom really taught me the essence of beauty and creation. She is the epitome of beauty and elegance. She has really helped ground me as a creative person by helping me understand no matter how beautiful or talented you are, it comes from the inside, not the outside. My Yia Yia is my best friend. She is always there for me unconditionally and she has taught me the importance of my Greek heritage. Family has always been important to her, and as I’ve grown as a person my understanding of these influences stand really prominent in my day-to-day life. It seems the more I experience in life, the closer I get to my heritage and the more important it becomes. My family IS my core, and when life gets tough, I always know I can center myself by turning to them.
Tell us about the challenges you had to face so far.
Life for everyone is a challenge. I view my career as my life. Each moment is a stepping-stone and with each success comes more challenges. At the beginning of my career, I was told I was too short to model. As a child I was taught no one can stop you, except you, so I’ve always loved a good challenge. For every 99 rejections just 1 “yes” makes everything worthwhile. What I have found more challenging isn’t the art side of the business at all. Artists have this natural aura when it comes to creation. The most difficult challenge I have faced is finding the right team of people in the business. After all, it is “show business”. A team, quite like a family, is there to ground you and uplift you at the same time. It’s really important to have your career centered just like your life should be. I am still working everyday on making sure the most positive influences are apart of my team, and with every challenge in my career, I know they will be with me every step of the way.
You have successfully combined doing many things together. How do you do it?
Everything is connected in life. You, me, the air we breathe, everything. This also applies to entertainment. Acting, singing, and dancing go hand in hand. A lot of times my meetings implement every aspect of the business. I went out for this one movie a couple of years ago and the writer and producers became my friends. One year later they were both working for a new social justice network Halogen TV. They offered me a tv show last July I went to Brazil and shot the tv show titled “noble exchange” It will air this May 2011 in America. I have learned it’s very important as an artist to be able to use many different forms of creation as outlets. I even paint 3D art as well, which will be on my website soon. As far as overall, “finding time”- that’s why I am glad my heritage was so prominent as a child. Structure in day-to-day life plays an important role in time management, and as an artist – time can be your worst enemy and overwhelm you, or it can be your biggest fan and motivate you to do more.
How was it working with famous actors like Nicholas Cage and Al Pacino?
WOW- “WithOut Words”. Thomas Cook a very inspirational person put those words in my mind one day. He said, “Katie, when you have those moments in life where nothing you can say will explain the feeling you get- remember the true meaning of the word, “Wow”. I was truly floored when the director, Werner Herzog, called me personally and invited me to come work on the Bad Lieutenant alongside Nicholas Cage. After living in the mere thought for a month, I flew to New Orleans to shoot the film. Every new set brings new truth to life, new relationships. I am so appreciative to be able to say I’ve met such influential people, and now I’m able to take the pieces of their character that really touched me and influence others in my own way. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro really made me feel I was around my own family and friends. My entire life had lead me to this point and I was ready with open arms. The professionalism and positivity on set was so refreshing, and although it was brief; it was certainly a monumental moment.
How did you decide to become a professional runner?
My father, Panagiotis Epthimios Chonacas, turned me onto running in 6th grade. Since it was his tool in teaching me about life, I ran through college as well on a two-year scholarship. At one point, I was the fastest runner in Michigan and ranked 6th in the Nation. Once I got intrigued with modeling, I started entering into beauty pageants. After I won one, I became apart of this foundation www.teamintraining.org where I raised $4500 and donated it to kids with leukemia and lymphoma disease. This compelled me to run in a marathon in Alaska, which was such an invigorating experience, and I am so happy I was apart of something that could potentially change someone’s life for the better.
How important for you is helping Children who have problems?
It means the WORLD to me. At 17 years old, I remember sitting in front of the television and a commercial for Children International came on. I picked up the phone right then and Children International sent the kit to help right away. Since, I have sponsored 7 children from the program in the Philippines, Dominican Republic, and Chile. In the future, I am planning on starting my own foundation, so stay tuned. I love life so much and I feel it is very important to pay those blessings forward always.
What is your relationship with Greece?
Our family has a monastery on the island of Selenia, Salamina. Papou Eftimios, my grandfather, was born in Galaxidi. Papous Efthimios’ grandfather, Panagiotis Tsonakas, has a monument in his honor, along with many other war heroes in Vounohora, Galaxidi.My grandfather’s wife, YiaYia Koula, whom I also consider my best friend; was born in Marmaro, Chios. Her sister, Thea Gerondisa, dedicated her entire life to the church. Her name was Evagelia before becoming a nun and then her given name was Chrysovlantou Monachi. For over 40 years people would go to St. Irene’s to visit the family church and see Sister Gerondisa. She dedicated her life to the Lord and helping others. She passed away less than a year ago and its been very hard on my family, especially my Yia Yia who moved to America many years ago with my papo to give their 3 children a better life. The church is still open and I encourage everyone to stop by! Sister Gerondisa was such a sweet lady and I hope to carry on my Greek heritage she so lovingly upheld.
What are the things like mostly about Greece?
I love the islands of Naxos, Siros, Chios, and of course Salamina. The architecture and culture is so rich and wonderful. I find myself eating so much because the food is the best in the world!!!! Every time I visit I find the locals so nice and inviting. I love that I am able to speak some Greek, and find it even more endearing to learn as much as I can after my visits. I have a few Greek friends in NYC where I recently moved, and its been so nice having them around. Their positivity is so powerful. Also, their willingness to give me a helping hand really makes me happy and feel very welcomed to my new home.
Tell us about your future plans.
My future plans are to continue to progressively develop myself as a person. I want to continue to help others on a grand scale through my art, and through my actions for society. I really want to be remembered for the impact I have, positively, on people’s lives above all else. I would love to create with some Greek artists, directors, writers, actors, film and music producers. I would love to do some modeling campaigns in Greece and spend more time there! This would make my family so proud. I just started creating with a new company www.zo-tv.com I am really excited about cross connecting on both coasts and all over the world. I also hope to have a BIG family one-day, hopefully with a nice charming Greek man to carry my families’ legacy. My website is www.kyriakisunday.com, www.twitter.com/katiecoco .You can find all my videos on www.youtube.com by typing in Katie chonacas, kyriaki Sunday and Katie coco. I also started a new blog which is www.kyriakisunday.blogspot.com/ .My music is avail on I Tunes under Katie Coco.