Game of Thrones may be over, but for some, the love for the fictional world of dragons, drama, and moody sips of wine lives on. Ditto our girl crush on Nathalie Emmanuel, the actress who played Missandei, the elegant, ultra-intelligent advisor to Queen Daenerys. Our love for the English actress is based on more than the character she portrays, however. As it turns out, Emmanuel is a vegan yogi—a girl after our own hearts!
In an interview with Women’s Health Magazine, Emmanuel explained that yoga has helped her become more in touch with her body: “One of the biggest lessons I learned from yoga is that your body doesn’t do the same thing every day and that’s totally fine. Whatever you could do yesterday, that’s great, well done, but you might not be able to do it today. You might not even be able to do it tomorrow. It’s about not judging yourself and allowing yourself to be wherever you’re at. That’s my favorite thing about yoga.” In addition to yoga (which she teaches, by the way!), she enjoys boxing, running, and swimming.
Emmanuel credits her passion for fitness with bolstering her confidence. “When you achieve goals in fitness, you teach yourself that you can do hard things, and if you can conquer that hard thing, you can do other hard things. Exercise, fitness, reaching goals, smashing personal bests—they give you confidence and that’s why I like doing them,” she says.
One of Emmanuel’s personal goals over the years has been taking control of her health, including from the inside-out. Enter veganism—”I was hanging out with my friend Mel Wells who’s just a fantastic goddess of a woman—we were hanging out in LA and she was starting out on her nutrition course and was dealing with women’s relationship with food and their bodies. She’d tell me about what she was learning; that coupled with my family’s own medical history, we’ve had lots of conditions in the family, made me want to take control over what I put in my body,” she says.
“So I ate vegan for one week at first—I would have reassessed if it made me feel really ill, but it made me feel really good, so I carried on for another week, and then I felt even better. People kept coming up to me and telling me I looked glowy and my eyes looked really bright, so I kept going.”
After falling in love with the results of veganism, Emmanuel found vegan cooking to be quite doable. “When I see my plate looking ridiculously colorful and it’s got loads of different food on it, it makes me so, so happy.” She does recommend becoming familiar with the various nutrients you need, however. “You do have to learn a lot about where you can get the nutrients that you would normally be getting from animal products. I have an Instagram collections bookmark where I save nutrition stuff like that.”
Her favorite vegan foods? Pancakes and Jamaican “aki ‘no saltfish’ ” (which is sans fish, of course!). “If I can find pancakes that are vegan and gluten-free, as I have a gluten allergy, I will go in. I like topping them with strawberries, banana and maybe a bit of maple syrup, even a bit of vegan butter. But my favorite meal if I can be bothered to cook it, is rice and peas and aki ‘no saltfish’, I call it. I basically make the same Jamaican dish, sometimes I add greens like kalalalou or spinach, but without the saltfish. I’ll fry some plantain and steam some veg to go with it, too. I love it.” Sounds delicious!
Okay, I’m officially inspired to jump on my yoga mat—or fry some plantains!
What are your favorite homemade vegan meals?
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Photo: Nathalie Emmanuel via Instagram