🌿 Meet Jasmine

My plant-based journey began with far-from-noble intentions. Like most women in this country, I was conditioned to endlessly chase glamour and youth, so when I met Chef Babette Davis, a sexy black vegan woman in her 60s with the body of a 20 year old, I immediately wanted to walk in her footsteps in hope of achieving similar results. Meeting Chef Babette was like witnessing a unicorn. While health culture is apart of the norm in Los Angeles, I’m from DC and my roots are in North Carolina. My female role models, while hardworking and intelligent, weren’t sipping green smoothies, practicing yoga or worried about the animals on their plates. I would see these things in health ads, but I didn’t see any thick brown-skinned girls with braids in those ads. And because the health movement wasn’t checkin’ for me, I wasn’t checkin’ for the health movement… until Babette.

Within weeks of going vegan, I effortlessly dropped a few pounds, my skin began to clear up and my increasingly annoying internal plumbing problems disappeared. Fascinated by the results, I raved to my friends about the benefits of veganism, but most of them mocked my choice. “So now that you in LA, you too Hollywood for regular food.” “You on that white people [stuff.]” It was all in fun, but very few people listened to my new dietary direction with an open mind. So naturally, I grew tired of people challenging my food choices at the dinner table. I was “over” eating garden salads at gatherings because there weren’t any solid vegan choices. And my morale kicked rocks due to lack of encouragement and I had nobody to share this journey with. I wanted to be healthy, but I also wanted to fit in, so for years, I operated as a flexitarian–still not concerned with the ripple effects of plant-based eating beyond looks and my health.

One day I was endlessly searching through Netflix, an activity that claims about 18% of my life, and I found a documentary on veganism. I don’t remember exactly which film kicked off my vegan documentary watch spree, Forks Over Knives; Food Inc; Vegucated; Fat Sick, and Nearly Dead; or Cowspiracy, but I watched them all and they rejuvenated my interest in plant-based eating. The messages in these vegan docs were compelling, but I couldn’t personally relate to the messengers… How do you expect to have a diverse movement if you only allow one perspective, the white male perspective? There needed to be balance and I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the world. The Invisible Vegan represented that change. In the research and interview phase of the film, I read books on veganism grounded in black culture and listened to luminaries such as Angela Davis speak on the industrial food complex. There was no more plausible deniability. I learned the real deal and to revert back to old habits would be knowingly embracing exploitation, oppression, cruelty, pollution and poor health. My mother did not raise me to be a vegan, but she raised me to be a woman of integrity, so I knew it was time to give up actions that hurt Gods creatures, his planet and the body he created for me.

Plant-Based Stories: Jasmine Leyva