At her full height, Svetla Krasteva was 2 inches shy of 5’ tall and weighed less than 90
pounds. In spite of her diminutive size, she could command a stadium with her
boundless energy. Her talents and interests kept her in non-stop motion, which also
made her an invaluable stunt performer.
In 1961, Svetla was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. As a small girl, she had natural acrobatic
talents. Logically, she was enrolled at the National Sports School, located in her home
town as part of the artistic gymnastics and acrobatic gymnastics training programs.
Her skills earned her a double Master of Sports degree, eight years on the Bulgarian
Olympic Gymnastic team, racking up numerous national and international titles; plus
four years on the Bulgarian National Acrobatics Gymnastics team, excelling in the
Women’s Trio event.
At the end of her career in competitive sports, Svetla joined the circus performing
around the world with Circus Medrano, Brazil Jack and Circus Vargus. It was when she
performed for Ringling Brothers Circus, however, that she moved to the United States.
She performed for Ringling Brothers until 1991. Shortly after, she moved to Los
Angeles where she translated her career as a circus performer to that of a stunt
Svetla’s pixie size and extraordinary abilities made her a unique stunt performer. She
was a perfect stunt double for children and other small actors. With that, her infectious
energy and charming Slavic accent, it didn’t take long for her to get noticed. She was a
logical candidate for an invitation to join the United Stuntwomen’s Association.
Over time she accumulated numerous credits in national commercials, television
shows and feature ﬁlms. Of note, she did commercials for McDonald’s, Coke, Miller
Beer, American Express and Geico; popular TV shows including Touched by an Angel,
Malcolm in the Middle, Days of our Lives, Texas Ranger; and successful feature ﬁlms
including Titanic, Independence Day, Air Force One, Jingle All the Way, Batman 2,
Batman Forever, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Rush Hour 2 and Peter Pan.
True to her nature, Svetla maintained her athletic skills daily. She was seen at Santa
Monica Beach swinging on rings and ﬂipping on acrobats’ shoulders; jumping oﬀ high-
fall towers and on trampolines at Bob Yerkes' backyard, the famous playground to Hollywood
acrobats; and regularly rollerblading in Malibu. If all that wasn’t enough, her insatiable
appetite for acrobatics drove her to the sport of tandem surﬁng in the late 1990s.
Even though she took up tandem surﬁng late in life, she was talented enough to
compete around the world, placing a close second in the 1999 World Championships
Svetla’s extraordinary life met its match in 2000 when she was diagnosed with a
malignant brain tumor. While undergoing treatments and surgeries, she continued to
work unencumbered. However, while working on Peter Pan in Australia, she was
forced to return home to start hospice under the loving care of her sister and her
husband, fellow actor Tom Foley.
On Sunday, February 9, 2003, Svetla succumbed to her cancer, leaving a huge space
in the hearts of so many. To honor her life, posthumously she was honored by sports
organizations. One included the “Call to the Wall” award created in her honor by the
United Stuntwomen’s Association in 2007 for women surfers who show “grace,
dignity and sportsmanship to the ocean.”
At 42, Svetla lived enough to ﬁll several normal lifetimes. One wonders what would
have been in store if she lived 42 more.