Nearly a month ago, musicians Jay Z and Beyonce embarked on a 22 days vegan challenge. The news traveled throughout the internet so rapidly and flooded my newsfeed on Facebook for weeks. My thoughts were very mixed and I needed to digest this idea of celebrities taking on veganism in some shape or form. Celebrities can be looked at in many ways; some admire them and some loathe them. They’re glitzy and glamorous. They don the latest fashion and drive upscale vehicles. They eat at “it” restaurants and walk the red carpet throughout the world. But with this fame and fortune comes responsibilities.
The news about Jay and Bey’s (as they’ve been nicknamed) diet was received by many people of the vegan community with a lot of praise, criticism, and skepticism. Through my “research” (aka reading and some trolling) I realized that many believe that the two are inauthentic. I guess it’s hard to swallow that two of the richest celebrities on this planet have taken on a diet that is compassionate towards animals. The truth as many of us found out was that the duo didn’t decide to take on the challenge for animal welfare. Jay Z just turned 44, and he mentioned that the reason he began his plant based diet was for spiritual and physical cleansing reasons. Many vegans expressed that this is not veganism; that veganism is a lifestyle. I won’t sit here and say that I disagree, because the truth is that I do agree. What I will say is it was made very clear by the two that this wasn’t a vegan challenge. Heck, Beyonce even pranced around town in fur and animal print, via luxury vehicles (most likely sitting their bums on leather seats). This is a “no-no” in the vegan world and obviously she was trampled on when she walked out in public like this.
Perhaps she did it to mock us or maybe she just doesn’t know the name of the game, but I think having these two try out a plant based diet was a huge advance for the vegan movement. We are very aware of the structural system that animals are raised in for food, clothes, or scientific research, so I won’t get into it here. I also don’t expect these two people to have any clue about it (they have fashion lines that include snake skin footwear). When it comes down to the nitty gritty of all this “controversy”, having two celebrity stars step out into the public, where millions of people are watching or reading about them, allows veganism and plant based diets to reach mainstream. Media outlets like Access Hollywood, MTV, and Huffington Post covered this story, which reaches many people across the board. They covered some of the important bullet points, such as the fact that plant based diets are essentially beneficial for one’s health. How huge is that?!?! While this doesn’t mean that all of these readers/viewers have transformed their lifestyle or even their diet, it does mean that the word vegan has broken down some barriers.
I also want to touch the matter of aggressive criticism for people who do not completely take on the essence of veganism (food, clothing, products, etc). As Sara Sohn, founder and owner of Sweet & Sara marshmallows, said in her interview with us last year, “strive for progress, not perfection.” It took me almost a full three years before I became a full time vegan. My first year began with cutting out animal meat, my second year consisted of me pulling fish from my diet, and almost all of 2013 was a transformation into veganism. Everyone’s journey is different, and the act of judging does not promote any sort of change. We must embrace people with compassion, the same way we do with animals.