Tell us a little about yourself.
I am the founder of the vegan fashion website Bead & Reel as well as the creator of the annual nonprofit Fair Trade Fashion Show. I’m also a writer (and the fashion editor for Vilda Magazine), yoga instructor, and foster parent to Ndotto, one of the orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
After many years in Los Angeles, I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest.
@fairtradefashionshow (Instagram), @ftfashionshow (Twitter), www.facebook.com/fairtradefashionshow
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
I was raised vegetarian and always considered myself an ally for animals, but it wasn’t until my mid-20s when I read ‘Eating Animals’ by Jonathan Safran Foer that I truly understood the horrors of the egg and dairy industries, factory farming, and animal agriculture. I immediately went vegan, however, I really struggled with it. I didn’t know any vegans to help guide me, I didn’t know what to cook or where to eat out, and I ended up failing – and feeling really awful about it. A few years later my father passed away and the grief was awful. I woke up one morning and just knew that I couldn’t be a part of separating other families, of causing anyone else that kind of grief. I went vegan again that day, but this time it wasn’t from a place of guilt or shock, but from a place of respect and love, and this new approach made it extremely easy and enjoyable. I’ve been vegan for several years now and will be for the rest of my life.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
I think waste is a huge issue (both environmentally and spiritually) so I try really hard not to throw anything away that can still be used.
Food was the first to go – I gave away my unopened and unused items to friends and co-workers. Clothing took quite a bit longer, as I would slowly replace my non-vegan styles with vegan options when they became worn out, or I had an opportunity to get something new. I would donate my non-vegan items to women’s shelters or give them to friends.
We are all working within the constraints of time, money, and patience, so I don’t think anyone should feel like they need to have a completely vegan closet and home and life right away. It’s a process, a journey!
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
For me, veganism is about aspiration, not perfectionism. There have been times when I was traveling and didn’t know what was in something I was eating, and just had to make my best judgment. There have been times when I was a guest at someone’s home, and even though I am very vocal about my veganism, not everyone always fully understands what that means and sometimes I would end up being served something with eggs or dairy. I will use it as an opportunity to open up a conversation, and to build bridges, not walls.
I have found people change most, are inspired most, when they are given space, time, and compassion, and I try to keep that in mind when it comes to how I am vegan in public.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
I am in a stage of my own activism where I generally avoid shock value. I think it can be very powerful, but I also don’t know that it’s always necessary, or healthy. I’m personally working on the fight for something, not against something, and think teaching children about compassion, connection, and how delicious (and easy!) vegan food is can be more powerful than fighting against factory farming.
What does being vegan mean to you?
I really like the Vegan Society definition of veganism which is something along the lines of veganism being the hope to exclude, as much as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation and cruelty towards animals. Humans are animals, so, I very much believe this includes how we treat each other, and I think about that all the time.
My personal vegan practice tries to include my food (I don’t eat honey, and try very very hard not to kill bugs intentionally), clothing (I don’t wear any animal products, including silk or wool), and avoiding animal testing in as many home and beauty product as I can.
I love to patronize vegan companies whenever possible, but I also will support any company – vegan –owned or not – that is providing vegan options.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
I think the biggest form of activism is our actions and not our words, so, by being vegan you are inherently an activist. Leading by example is possibly the most powerful form of activism and anything beyond that is great, but, should never be obligatory.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I used to struggle quite a bit with non-vegans (especially in the beginning of my veganism, when I was still so overwhelmed by how much cruelty exists in the world, especially towards animals), and definitely went through my “angry activist” stage and was very upset and closed off towards non-vegans, but right now I’m in a softer place and have empathy for those who aren’t ready yet, since it definitely took me a while to get there, too.
I’m still always learning, always growing, always improving, and not in any position to judge others wherever they are at and have found that the more I focus on changing myself, the more others around me are inspired to change, too.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: a serious approach to veganism
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health by T. Colin Campbell: a scientific approach to veganism
And cookbooks (since that’s the most fun part of veganism!):
Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Eaternity by Jason Wrobel
Vegan Bowl Attack by Jackson Sobon
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Cowspiracy has been very inspirational for many people I know and doesn’t have a lot of graphic footage.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
This is such a hard question because there are so many amazing vegan restaurants! Au Lac in Los Angeles is somewhere at the top of my list, just because the food is so good, and the chef and owners are truly incredible people.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
I’ve been making (a lot of) vegan zucchini bread lately and it’s been a huge hit with vegans and non-vegans alike!
Here’s the recipe: https://www.connoisseurusveg.com/vegan-zucchini-banana-bread/
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Veganism should be something that adds to your life (purpose, compassion, a whole new delicious relationship with food!). Let it be an aspiration, an inspiration, and don’t get bogged down with perfectionism.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
I went from living in Los Angeles – which is definitely a vegan food mecca – to living in a very very small rural town, so it’s been quite an adjustment. While we don’t have any actual vegan restaurants, there are several local restaurants which have a few vegan items on the menu or are happy to make something with substitutions.
I’ve now been vegan on several continents, and in many strange situations, and I really think you can make it work almost anywhere!
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
In my experience, vegans find each other. There are obvious ways like going to vegan events, joining online vegan communities, however, I have found that when you talk about it and live it, you’ll meet other vegans. I even met another vegan at the grocery store the other day (checking out vegan cheeses), in my tiny town of 3,000 people!
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
Perhaps this isn’t correct, however I really view the term “cruelty-free” as having to do with animal testing, and veganism with how we treat all animals, including humans.
But whatever the definitions, I think how we treat each other (people and animals alike) is the most important part of being vegan, or cruelty-free, or compassionate.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
Well, Bead & Reel, for fashion 😉
Vilda Magazine for vegan media.
Indi & Ary for vegan make-up
Twinkle Apothecary for vegan beauty
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
It took me a while to find the right vegan hiking boots. And, there aren’t very many vegan desserts where I live (hence, why I’ve been doing all that baking!).
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
The first time I went vegan it was a non-stop struggle! But it’s just because I wasn’t doing it for a reason that really resonated with me (guilt), and I didn’t have the proper knowledge and resources to help with a smooth transition. The second (and last time) I went vegan my biggest struggle wasn’t about what to eat or what to wear but instead with how to relate to non-vegans, which is really an internal journey towards compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and patience. And while it was a struggle, it’s also been one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve been on, realizing that veganism is as much about my relationship to animals as it is to my relationship with myself.
If nothing else, veganism has changed me into a better person, not just towards animals, but towards everyone.