8 Black Celeb Vegans and the Benefits of VeganismDec 22, 2020 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
With little representation in the vegan community, the number of Black vegans is relatively low but is growing. A Pew Research Center survey has found that 8% of Black Americans are strict vegans or vegetarians, compared to just 3% of the rest of the United States population. More celebrities are moving to a plant-based diet, using their influence to promote healthy lifestyle choices. These eight vegan celebrities are praising the major health and humanitarian benefits of vegan diets, and branching out to create more vegan products.
Venus and Serena Williams
Venus Williams has been a vegan since she was diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome which is an autoimmune disorder that causes fatigue and joint pain. “I'm not perfect, but I live a plant-based lifestyle,” said Williams in an interview with ABC News. Serena Williams adopted a vegan diet in 2017 after giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia. Her fashion line, S by Serena also includes vegan leather.
Nigerian-British actor Cynthia Erivo is best known for her portrayal of American hero Harriet Tubman in the film Harriet. She’s been a vegan for seven years. “I don’t have dairy because I’m a singer and, quite frankly, I don’t want to mess around with my vocal cords and how those behave, and dairy is an allergen for me,” said Ervivo to Healthyish. “I was cutting so many things out of my diet for health reasons, and it ended up that being vegan was the most correct way for me to treat my body.”
R&B singer Mýa had been a vegetarian for a long time before she decided to be a vegan in 2014. The Grammy Award-winning artist has starred in several PETA campaigns about living vegan and wearing animal-friendly fashion. Mýa has published a free online guide to going vegan and is the founder of the vegan wine Planet 9 Fine Wine by Mýa, which she launched in 2018.
Senator Cory Booker made history in 2013 by becoming New Jersey’s first Black senator and has been a vegan since 2014. He’s known to promote his ethical vegan politics and weigh in legislation to save animals’ lives. “I believe that Americans do care about cruelty to animals...I think there’s a lot of legislation we could be doing to stop sort of corporate power from reigning over the power of individuals to have freedom of choice, to see more compassion, to see a focus on public health,” Booker told VegNews earlier this year.
Taraji P. Henson
Actor, singer, and author Taraji P. Henson decided to become vegan after a doctor’s visit to address her troubling painful stomach aches. “It took a doctor in Macon, Georgia, to say, ‘If you don’t change what you’re doing, you’re going to get stomach cancer.’ I said, ‘Say no more.’ So I switched everything up out of necessity,” said Henson in an interview with Livekindly.
Award-winning director Ava DuVernay was awarded the Most Beautiful Vegan Celebs of 2018, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch by animal rights charity PETA. The filmmaker has called going vegan a social justice issue for Black people. She tweeted back in 2017 saying “like many food trends that seem new, Black veganism has historical roots. For a lot of Black people, it's also about social justice and food access. The food we've been eating has been killing us.”
Four-time NBA champion and host for numerous award shows, John Salley has his vegan wine brand, The Vegan Vine. It produces four wine - using non-animal-based fining agents and sustainably grown at Clos LaChance Winery near San Jose, California. Salley is also one of the early investors in plant-based meat brand, Beyond Meat.
The soulful singer has been a vegan since 1997. "It’s just what’s best for my body. If I was a Lamborghini I would want to put the best gas in it," she told People. She has been very vocal about veganism. “Vegan food is soul food in its truest form. Soul food means to feed the soul. And, to me, your soul is your intent. If your intent is pure, you are pure,” Badu told VegNews.
Why go vegan?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults are 60% more likely than White adults to be diagnosed with diabetes, 20% more likely to die from heart disease, and 40% more likely to have high blood pressure. Sadly, many of these health disparities are often due to economic and social conditions that are more common among Blacl people than White people
A 2019 study found that a vegan diet may decrease heart disease and stroke risk in African Americans, and the results concluded that a vegan diet in African Americans reduced bad cholesterol levels by 14%. Another 2019 study published in Circulation showed the vegan diets lower the risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) among Black people. A plant-based diet may also lower the risk of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.
The research shows that Black people would benefit from veganism and more celebrities are promoting a plant-based diet. Power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé offered free tickets to fans if they went vegan, rapper Jaden Smith launched a vegan food truck for the homeless and Snoop Dogg is an ambassador for Beyond Meat. With more representation of Black people in the vegan community, we could see more Black people choosing a plant-based diet.
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.