For some, the resolve to go vegan happens instantly, meat forever banished from their tables. For others (myself included), becoming vegan begins with a transition, a period of including fewer and fewer animal products in meals until the craving is simply gone.
Whatever group you fall into, it never hurts to have a few vegan role models inspiring you to make healthy choices. For example, when I became vegan in 2012, I had yet to meet any vegan friends (and Peaceful Dumpling didn’t exist yet!), so I gathered ideas from books and prominent vegans in the media (including Natalie Portman). And while I’m not on board for unchecked celeb worship, I do think it’s worth applauding famous figures who use their celebrity for good.
One such figure is dancer, actress, and mother Jenna Dewan Tatum. In an interview for LA Times, Dewan Tatum explained that her decision to go meat-free happened at an early age: “When I was 10 or 11, I saw a [TV] program on slaughterhouses. I just remember being blown away, utterly traumatized. And I declared the next day that I was never eating meat again. And I didn’t—it started then.” After about 22 years of being vegetarian, the actress went vegan in 2013. “As I got older, I learned more, and as I understood about the sufferings of factory-farmed animals it just tears into you.”
Dewan Tatum’s veganism goes beyond her diet and extends to fashion and beauty. In a video for PETA, she explains the horrors of “exotic skin” products—purses, shoes, etc., made with the skins of snakes, alligators, and other reptiles—and urges viewers to opt for faux alternatives: “There are a lot of different things you can find. You just have to ask. Not only are you helping animals and not promoting cruelty, you’re saving money.”
Health is another motivator for Dewan Tatum’s veganism. “After going vegan, I felt so much better. My skin cleared up, I had a ton more energy, and I just felt clearer in the head,” she said.
As an ultra-fit dancer, Dewan Tatum relies on fresh produce and whole foods with a Mediterranean flair: “Lots of tahini, tabbouleh, lots of salads, a lot of hummus—I think my daughter must eat her weight in hummus—lots of avocado. We love Mediterranean and Mexican food. And we’re a big fresh-vegetable family. I choose whole, real foods.”
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In addition to eating whole foods, Dewan Tatum told Women’s Health that she relies on “power workouts” to feel and look her best: “I love 45-minute power workouts. I get in, do my thing, and then I’m able to go pick up [my 3-year-old daughter] Everly from school. It gives me energy.”
Dewan Tatum doesn’t want anyone to think she’s perfect, however. She enjoys a little vegan comfort food like all of us: “When I cheat, it’s chips and salsa—I generally don’t want to cheat with animals. I want to cheat with French fries.”
Although Dewan Tatum has been criticized for implying that veganism doesn’t work for everyone (including husband Channing Tatum, who tried to be vegan for a while), the actress makes a good point when she notes that the work of shifting paradigms is a long and complex journey. If anything, Dewan Tatum’s grappling with different cultural forces (traditional, meat-loving American cuisine and up-and-coming progressive veganism) illustrates an important fact: Veganism doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The vast majority of us vegans have non-vegan family members and friends who we love dearly, and we’re challenged to live amongst varying viewpoints with grace while hoping to inspire—not force—those around us to make healthy decisions.
Indeed, Dewan Tatum hopes that more people will become attracted to veganism sooner rather than later for their own sakes:
“What makes me sad is that people often wait until they’re already sick before they start to explore shifting these paradigms. We’d all be so much better off to shift way before, while you’re healthy […] Regarding beef and dairy and all the antibiotics they pump into the animals—you’ve got to intuit it’s not something good for your body. Good nutrition isn’t a cure-all for all illness and disease, but thankfully we’ve come to a place in life and science where we truly understand we are what we eat.”
Who are your vegan role models?
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Photo: Wikipedia Commons, The Humane Society; (hummus) Jennifer Kurdyla