My name is Aja-Nikiya Estro, pronounced (Asia-Ni-key-uh) but you can just call me Aja. I am a photographer, dancer, humanitarian and animal advocate. I currently live in Saint Petersburg, Fl. I work mostly in sustainability and am the Founder of Just One Humanity, a nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty through sustainable solutions in developing countries. I do a lot of traveling for work, mostly to Malawi, Uganda and Belize currently but hope to expand into other countries in the near future. I am also the creator of Humane Apparel, a vegan clothing line promoting a more conscious culture through advocacy and tees.
Here are some links to my companies and personal profiles:
Websites: Humaneapparel.com, Justonehumanity.org, Ajanikiya.com
Instagram: @compassioncurator @ajanikiyaphoto @humane_apparel @justonehumanity
Facebook: /CompassionCurator /HumaneApparel /JustOneHumanity
What was the moment you realize that you wanted to go vegan?
After attending a lobbying event in Tallahassee, FL for animal welfare, an acquaintance (now good friend), asked me if I was vegan. When I told her I was a vegetarian because I couldn’t give up cheese, she asked me if I knew about dairy farms. I went home that very night and began doing my research on the dairy industry. I was horrified that I was contributing to such abuse and inhumane conditions. After that day, I went completely vegan.
How long have you been Vegan?
9 years ago, it will be 10 in May 2018.
Why is being Vegan important to you?
It means a lot for me to be one less person harming animals. I know I am not perfect, I am always learning new things as a vegan in many different industries, including beauty, apparel, pharmaceuticals and other products using animals. But I intend to keep learning and keep becoming a better Vegan. It’s a lifelong dedication and in my opinion, the most rewarding and effective way to contribute to animals, people and the planet. As a Vegan, I feel it is my duty to educate and promote my lifestyle to my family, friends and even the world. I am proud to be a Vegan and hope to become a real influencer of a vegan lifestyle.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Yes! Forks Over Knives, Thug Kitchen, The China Study, Animal Liberation and Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows.
Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other?
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
I love Earthlings. I also recently watched this video “If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans”, Youtube it, it’s hilarious. I will also have my Youtube channel up soon Aja Nikiya with videos on my vegan lifestyle, animal rescues, interviews, travels and non-profit work. So stay tuned!
Do you actively promote veganism? How? Please share any stories you would like.
My approach is not the in your face horror and blood and gore, I take a lead by example approach that focuses more so on the human benefit as I’ve seen that work unbelievably well. I do speak at conferences and events, schools and promote vegan alternatives and information through social media. I really try to instill compassion and empathy towards all beings in everything I do. I am working on a pilot program now for children in primary school in rural African countries to teach them compassion towards animals. I really believe in connection and education as the tools to move our society towards a more cruelty-free lifestyle.
What is your favorite Vegan meme?
What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?
“Oh, I could never be a vegan. I need my meat.” My response, “You don’t need meat, you just enjoy eating it. I bet you I can make any meat dish you love vegan.” Or, “So, what do you eat besides lettuce? My response: “Hmmm, let me see. Pasta, veggie burgers, sandwiches, pad thai, tacos, ice cream, cereal, quinoa, rice, veggies, fruit, falafel. (You get the point)
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
I love a good tofu scramble! I throw in just about any veggies but the must haves are: tofu, red potatoes, scallions, red and green peppers, onions and a little bit of Crazy Jane Salt. But I also love mac and cheese!
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Don’t get discouraged! Make sure you have enough recipes and knowledge so you don’t continue to eat the same things every day. Make time to prepare and cook at home. Keep in mind that you are saving 198 animals a year by not eating or wearing them.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
It is my lifestyle, it is the moral code I live by. I know that my clothing, shoes, makeup and other luxuries are not worth causing harm to another being. Living cruelty-free requires you to take some extra steps, do your research and make mistakes. We can’t control everything but we can control what we know. Living a cruelty-free life is the most selfless thing you can do and I consider it to be the most enlightened and evolved lifestyle one can experience.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castle Soap, Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara, Seventh Generation, Meyer’s
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
I honestly don’t have any products I can’t find a vegan version for. But, I will say finding a really tasty chocolate bar is somewhat difficult for me unless I stop at a health food store, but even then, I am not a huge fan of the dark chocolate bars.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
My first trip to Africa was difficult and is still difficult as a vegan, mostly because of the lack of availability and variety of foods. I appreciate the seasonality of the food grown here but as a vegan, it certainly limits the options. I’ve gotten much better at packing supplements and protein bars in case I run into a week-long streak of Chinese cabbage and rice.
What is one question you would ask other Vegans? Please answer it.
Do you find it hard dating people who aren’t vegan or would you date someone that isn’t vegan?
Yes! I hate sounding like a snooty vegan, but I can’t date someone that eats meat! I will say, I have dated vegetarians and along the way, they ended up being vegan and if not vegan, they really limited their dairy intake around me. It’s a tough question, but being vegan becomes part of your value system and it is really hard to break that. I think I could date someone that wasn’t vegan if they agreed to change their eating habits. That would be the only way.