One celebrity in particular whose outspoken veganism has excited and inspired me is actor Michael Dorn (@akaWorf). You may wonder why a celebrity speaking out about a healthy and compassionate lifestyle is particularly remarkable in an age where, slowly but surely, people everywhere are becoming more educated about their food and their health. But hear me out on why Michael Dorn is remarkable.
1. He’s Worf.
First of all, the most significant of these reasons is his iconic portrayal of Lt. Worf. Lt. Worf is part of the Klingon race which highly values the ideals of honor, battle, and masculinity (even in its women). Klingons are a bellicose people and, due in part to their anatomy—their vital organs are reduplicated to prevent death in battle—are definitely not concerned with health matters. A favorite Klingon delicacy called gagh is a dish of serpent worms served live, which is too much even for the most carnivorous of humans. Seeing a man who portrays such an archetypically masculine character embrace and speak out about the vegan lifestyle is surprising and delightful when vegans are typically stereotyped as effeminate and sensitive.
2. He’s African-American.
Another reason why Dorn is remarkable in his veganism is that he is an African-American, and African-American cuisine, like southern American cuisine, is heavily based on animal products. African-American culture also places great emphasis on masculinity whereas, as mentioned above, vegans are typically stereotyped as being just the opposite. Along with the cultural trend of health-consciousness, many folks are discussing veganism in relation to African-American culture (notably its absence therein), but it is certainly becoming more popular (see, for example, the great cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry). Here’s a Trekkie tip for you: Dorn’s Worf, though now what many consider to be the iconic image of a Klingon, looks far different from Star Trek: The Original Series era Klingons who were played by Caucasian or Asian actors. When asked about the discrepancy in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Worf responds only, “We do not discuss it with outsiders.”
3. He’s outspoken about the health benefits of veganism.
In an interview from 2011, Dorn attributes his embrace of veganism to his diagnosis of early-stage prostate cancer. His doctor told him that he had never seen a vegetarian with prostate cancer, which prompted Dorn to convert to a plant-based diet, even cutting out things like sugar and coffee. Dorn lost weight and the growth of his prostate cancer slowed after this. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet is beneficial to health (check out The China Study if you’re interested in reading more about it) and Dorn is a strong proponent of that philosophy. If that’s not enough to make you vegan cupcake lovers consider cutting back on the sweets, I don’t know what is!
4. He’s creative.
Dorn is a prolific actor and, now 60 years old, is still as active as ever thanks to his healthy lifestyle. He’s currently working on piloting a new sitcom described as a cross between Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and 30 Rock (check out its Indiegogo fundraiser here) and is rumored to be working on a new Star Trek spin-off starring (Captain) Worf. I’m pulling for six seasons and a movie.
5. He’s a sweetheart.
In addition to all of these great things about Dorn, he is a fantastic spokesperson for veganism because he is downright patient and kind and willing to discuss his lifestyle openly and honestly. His positive attitude goes a long way toward breaking down stereotypes of angry vegans. For example, when he was once asked about whether he misses meat, Dorn replied that sometimes he misses hamburgers and fries, but that he can eat fries as a vegan and that veggie burgers are great if you dress them up—which was a way more diplomatic and peaceful solution than busting out his bat’leth.
Photo: Gage Skidmore