For readers not yet familiar with you or your work, please share how and why you became a vegan.
When I was young, I got involved in singing and performing. The whole health aspect came from taking care of my voice and body and then I realized, at the age of 15, meat came from animals. Of course I knew that before, it just never was something I actually thought about. So I then confronted my parents and told them I didn’t want to eat meat anymore. That proved to be difficult: there weren’t a lot of substitutes and I had to depend on the creativity of my mum who did most of the cooking. While my dad wasn’t too pleased with my decision – meat is ‘mandatory in your diet’ besides the fact that ‘it’s normal to eat animals, that’s what they’re here for’ – my mother got me some frozen vegetable burgers. Sweet and not very tasteful. My vegetarian period didn’t last long. And since I had no people in my environment and network who were vegetarian or vegan, I simply switched the aggressor of my vegetarian section in my brain off.
Ten years later I met a very dear friend who was a vegetarian. I worked part-time as a model at that time and had quit dancing and performing – I had fallen in love with my husband and wanted to spend most of my time with him. This friend got me thinking about the whole animal-industry again. Since I cooked my own meals, it was easier this time so I stopped eating meat. I haven’t eaten any meat since then. I recently switched from being a vegetarian to vegan. The whole dairy industry went from appealing packaging to appalling reality when we moved from the big city to a mansion in the middle of nowhere; I saw so many cows and sheep and goats with their babies who would be or were already departed, for our so-called benefit. It was either me giving up the cheese or them giving up their life and happiness.
How has this decision effected other areas of your life?
My decision to become a vegan has inspired a lot of people. I love to inspire (and educate when asked), always have. I lost some friends along the way, but that’s good. I believe it’s time for change when it’s presented to you. I believe in the power of goodbye: when people do things that hurt you, your loved ones or your feelings, it’s time to set them free. I don’t want to be responsible for their negativity. I have some great friends who cook more and more vegan food, we have dinner parties that include no meat or dairy at all. It inspired them to at least eat vegetarian. Most of my family is supportive in that sense, yet I sometimes hear it’s difficult for them to cook seperate things for me when we eat together. I respect that, yet it frustrates me sometimes that some relatives make it about me.
I have a great husband for over sixteen years now, who has been supportive all the way, though he still asks me sometimes to buy him some meat. But I must be honest: he told me – after a few weeks of vegan breakfasts, lunches and dinners – that since I ‘decided to eat nothing’, I cook better meals. Now there’s an effect that means everything to me.
As a model and a creative director, have you ever had to refuse work for a company with conflicting ethical beliefs or practices?
Well, I am retiring from the the modeling industry as we speak. There are a lot of uninspiring, self-involved and shallow people in the entertainment industry who only care about image, not who suffered and died for them. And it’s not just leather or fur, it’s the most expensive meals that involve poor animals. I have worked with the biggest names, companies and magazines in the industry, yet they are so small when it comes to being a true inspiration. When I met my husband – the love of my life – I decided to work part-time in the industry and do something that actually matters and could change something for the better. I simply went to an organization that specializes in treatment for people that need help. I got the job, went to school again and I now work as a therapist with parents that experience difficulties in raising their children and in maintaining a safe environment. You could say I went from creating the perfect outside to building a better inside. And that’s where inspiring people are found. Makes me smile when I think about it.
Have your personal beliefs had an influence on your professional work?
Very much so. A lot of people do things because that’s what they’re taught. Eating meat and dairy is like a religion, you are taught it has the right type of protein and calcium you can’t live without. You’re taught to simply fry it in a pan and cut it for bread or pour it in a glass. It’s so easy to live like that, it makes people think it’s too difficult to give it up. Mostly because they think it’s about the animals. But when I point out what meat and milk does to their bodies, it makes them think again. I know a lot of models that are not using meat and dairy because I told them the truth. And a lot of people I gave treatment to are now more aware of what a plant-based diet can do. And I am the living example that you don’t have to be a tie-dye hippy in sandals with grey straw hair. However, it’s not just about eating, it’s also using animals for entertainment. Like dolphinariums, circuses and zoos. I discourage people to go there when it’s a subject of conversation.
What inspires you?
All the animals do. And the people who intellectually challenge themselves instead of making up excuses for their lifestyle. Like my amazing husband and my dear friends. Not to mention my friend and personal trainer – the well-known Guy Droog: he investigates all and everything to make people aware of what they’re doing to their bodies. He unfortunately eats meat yet he feels positively challenged to give me his best. My vegan points of view inspire him and his determination to question and experience everything inspires me.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m a plant-powered man, vegans are cool!
A huge thanks to Nadine Raia Desiderio for conducting this interview.