This fall, NYC nonprofit Animal Ashram held its fundraiser evening at Flirt, an upscale toxin-free beauty salon on the Upper East Side. Hosted by the founder of Animal Ashram, actress, and author Leesa Rowland, the soirée was buzzing with animal-loving guests, vegan eats by socialite Cornelia Guest, all-vegan raffle prizes like Cri de Coeur x Arden Wohl boots, and positive vibes!
A vegan for *decades,* Leesa was a warm and gracious presence even while handling hostess duties with dozens of guests. Here she reveals her thoughts on doing good, looking amazing, feeling happy and living your best life.
PD: Thank you so much for sitting down with us, Leesa! First things first: when did you become vegan, and what convinced you to embrace it?
LR: I’ve been vegan since when I was young. I could never understand why people eat cows and pigs, while petting their dogs or cats. Every animal has a soul and personality. There are so many, non-cruel options to nourish our bodies. We simply don’t need to eat animals.
PD: What’s really impressive is that not only do you practice veganism, you also founded Animal Ashram, a no-kill, no-cage shelter in NYC.
Do you sometimes hear critics ask, “what’s the point of saving just a few animals’ lives, either by being vegan or rescuing homeless animals? What difference does that ultimately make?” How do you respond to that?
LR: Saving animal lives takes dedication and conviction, but it’s important to remember that every small step makes a difference because every life matters. Yard by yard, everything’s hard; inch by inch, everything’s a cinch. If we all cared for others, just think how far ahead we’d be. All souls must get involved to make the biggest possible difference. The belief that we all have souls, feelings, and emotions can be a huge motivator.
PD: Not only are you an activist, you’re also an actress and an author of Discovering the It Factor Within You: Developing Your Charismatic Personality. At Peaceful Dumpling, we’re also all about inspiring people, especially women, to take chances and live life to the fullest.
What’s the advice you wish you would have gotten in your early 20s? (Or advice you would give to your 20-year-old self)
LR: Readers of my book will understand that we all share this planet at the same moment in time. We are all in this together. This includes the loving creatures who exist to give us joy and companionship. They are here with us now and forever. In my 20s, I wanted the world to be perfect, but now I see that loving and caring for the creatures around us is of utmost importance. A perfect world may seem very distant, but loving other will get us closer.
PD: It’s so common, especially in NYC, for people to equate success with happiness. How do you define your success and/or happiness?
LR: My heart directs my actions. I love life…..all Life. When we love and care for someone, our conscience is clear. All of God’s creatures feel love. They need love. They give love. When you see love in their eyes and feel love in their hearts, nothing else matters. Success is a by-product of love.
PD: The idea in your book, that charisma is what develops when you pursue your unique talents and passion with which you were born, is so compelling, and I can’t agree more. What’s really interesting is that you also link charisma with karma. What’s the relationship between the two?
LR: I have surrounded myself with amazing people who love me unconditionally. It’s easy to understand the link between charisma and karma when you find peace in your heart. The most amazing thing is to discover our God-given central axis. We all have talents. We all crave and feel love. When we are confident with ourselves and our passions, we can fall in love with another being. Karma is how we respond to our most intimate connections.
PD: Speaking of karma, what are some ways people can “easily” practice good will in their daily lives? What do you wish people would take up?
LR: Benevolence is a conscious state of mind. When you love someone, it’s all about relinquishing your sense of self in favor of another. We do this when we fall in love & marry. We do this when we adopt a pet. To give another being our total love and devotion is the most wonderful gift we can give.
PD: You look absolutely glowing, by the way. Can you tell us about your cruelty-free beauty routine?
LR: When you feel beautiful, you are beautiful. When I am confident that the world is at peace, I feel beautiful.
PD: What about your fitness routine?
LR: I work out with Susan Simon, my personal trainer 3 times a week. She keeps me centered and focused. I need this to reinforce my centrality. I also do a combination of yoga and cardio on my own twice a week.
When Leesa isn’t busy being an author, vegan advocate, NYC socialite, and a head of her own charity, she also finds time to whip up delicious vegan meals. Here’s one of her favorite recipes for a creamy, winter-perfect pumpkin soup.
Leesa Rowland’s Amazing Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Vegan, gluten-free, low-fat
1 Red Onion, Chopped
2 cloves of minced garlic
4 cups fat-free vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups of light coconut milk
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 cup frozen corn
3 red potatoes, diced
2 Tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup or agave nectar
1/4 tsp each sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg
- Add onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add broth and bring to a boil.
- Boil potatoes. Stir in potatoes and corn and reduce heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
- After it has simmered, mix in the coconut milk and pumpkin and cook until heated through. Mix in maple syrup or agave nectar.
- Add sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg.
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Photos: Patrick McMullan Company, Leesa Rowland