“It’s f*cking raining here!” is one of the first things I hear from the potty-mouthed punker when I get a hold of her. Calling me from Vancouver, Bif’s deep, throaty croon is as enthralling over the phone as it is pumping out of the speakers in my car.
When you hear terms like “raw food vegan,” and “cancer survivor,” images of shining lithe blondes a la Kris Carr may immediately come to mind. And when you think about a tattooed, grungy punk rocker with a passion for Mixed Martial Arts and a mouth like a truck driver, someone living a straight edge life-style is probably not what you envision. Yet Bif Naked, an Indian- born American-Canadian singer, writer, musician and poet is all of the above, and more.
Bif—whose real name is Beth Torbert—got her start like many musicians do; in a garage band. Yet the singer broke into the mainstream music scene with her 1999 hit “Moment of Weakness,” a Gwen Stefani-esque ballad about those dumb ass decisions we all make when it comes to romance. Bif is quick to open up on the subject of love, noting that she has never dated a vegan, and jokes that she doesn’t believe single datable vegan dudes exist. With two divorces and five ended engagements under her belt, this Juno award winning artist has some stories to tell, and they surface in her music.
“For me, music is an outlet for my poetry,” says the artist, who is currently working on a memoir. Bif writes songs ranging from light hearted and fun, like “Tango Shoes;” to fierce and throaty like “Fuck You 2;” to haunting numbers like “Tell on You” (“Letter to my Rapist”). Yet behind that tough, tattooed, bad-ass exterior is a wealth of warmth, compassion and understanding; Bif comes across as open and honest about herself over the phone as she does in her music. In recent years, the performer has opted out of big rock shows in favor of smaller, acoustic sets, because she found it hard to connect with her audience at the high-energy punk shows. “All I was seeing when I looked out was a mass of cell phone screens, not people, not actual fans.”
Bif currently has 8 albums (2 of which are on the way), including a Greatest Hits montage and a spoken word album called Okenspay Ordway: Things I Forgot To Tell Mommy. “I’m pretty sure the only people who liked that album are me and my mom!” Bif laughs. “I loved it!”
While it isn’t atypical for a cancer survivor to live a straight-edge lifestyle, Bif’s booze and drug free existence came about long ago, when she drank too much on one of her first tours and felt horrible for the rest of the day. “I couldn’t represent myself well, and I was really embarrassed, and I just knew I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t for me,” says Bif. Her raw food diet came about much in the same way—Bif comments that she was eating raw before raw diets were a common mainstream thing.
“A few years back when raw food started getting big, my friend told me ‘hey, you’re a raw foodist!’ I am not really into labels but yeah, that’s the way I eat.” Bif jokes that she is a raw foodist today, but if she decides to brew some Earl Grey tea tomorrow, then all bets are off.
“Honestly I’ve met so many people who think veganism or a raw food diet is just a cover for an eating disorder,” says Bif, when I ask about common held misconceptions on veganism. “But I eat this way because it makes me feel good. Sometimes I don’t understand how everyone doesn’t eat this way!”
In 2007, Bif found a lump in her breast shortly after returning home from her honeymoon with ex-husband, Sports Writer Ian Walker. Bif says that after a 13-month stretch of chemotherapy and radiation, she was never more thankful for her raw food, straight-edge life-style.
“I am pretty certain that if I didn’t eat the way I do, I wouldn’t have beat cancer. I literally would not be alive.”
The one time that Bif did veer away from her raw food diet was during chemo. “I go through stages where I just crave things. For a while, all I wanted to eat was papaya. Now I can’t look at a papaya! But during chemo, all I wanted were yam rolls. Those are definitely not raw.”
While many raw-foodists have kitchens that resemble science labs, you won’t find Bif’s kitchen full of dehydrators and other high-tech culinary gadgets. One kitchen item she can’t live without? “I have a Vitamix that’s so old. I love it! I use it probably twice a day.”
One of the things we strive to do here at iEatGrass is get past many stereotypes commonly held against vegans—you know, that we’re all aggressive and elitist. Bif does not only bypass these misconceptions; she hurdles over them, passing many more on her way.
The animal-lover (watch this funny video of her talking about removing human poop from her pup’s mouth!) used to host a Bodog Fight television show, featuring rough MMA fighters—not exactly the peace-loving persona that usually accompanies most vegans.
On top of her passion for MMA, Bif has over 40 tattoos on her body. One of her most talked about tattoos reads “Survivor,” in large letters across her left arm. But the eery thing about this tattoo—which many assume is a tribute to beating cancer—is that she got it nearly 20 years ago. Bif says her favorite tattoo is an image of the Taj Mahal.
“I know that at first tattoos were sort of like a layer of protection for me. They were a way to make me seem tough. But when I open my mouth that whole cover is blown,” Bif answers. “I am not tough at all!” Cancer survivor? MMA fight host? I beg to differ, Miss Naked—sounds pretty tough to me!
So what’s next for Bif? On top of her two newest albums awaiting release, Bif is taking on some more personal projects. “Right now I’m really focused on my book. After I get the first draft out, I’m gonna go to therapy,” she laughs. “Then I’m going to draft it again. Because right now people would read this and think, damn, that b*tch needs some therapy.”
Don’t we all.