I'm a health nut. I freely admit it. I have been one since my early onset of childhood liberation I chose to express as "vegetarianism". Until I turned 11 years old, it was something I never knew existed. My parents and sister all ate meat. We very ate healthy, rarely any sweets or candy, no white bread (unless it was Italian) and never any cola. But we ate meat, like all good American households did. All the books I had read as a bookworm and knowledge seeker, back in the early nineties, never mentioned this wonderful, now glaringly apparent fact. It was not like it is today, in those days. It wasn't as media popular to do it, it wasn't as publicly celebrity endorsed as it is now. But I had still managed to find this truth: I could choose to live without eating meat.
Modeling Olivia Diamonds in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo by Thorsten von Overgaard.
Wow! What a revelation! Of course I didn't want to eat meat anymore, I never, ever liked the stuff. I just didn't think there was any choice in the matter. My mother, being originally form Detroit, Michigan, and raised on pork chops and white bread, would
make every diner fully based around meat. Especially, fried chicken. I remember being roped in to help her, against my will, I begrudgingly put down my science fiction book and moped over to wash a whole chicken in the sink. It was entirely fascinating to me. I discovered that the chicken had a full set of intestines. These guts needed to be taken out. I did so, not as grossed out as I thought I'd be. This thing was science! I laughed as I explored the strangeness of this dead creature.
Veggie Alley, fresh and delicious! Posing pretty in Seattle, WA. Photo by photographer Neil Jordan December 2011
My mother quickly yelled at me form the front room. "Joy! Stop playing with it! That's our dinner tonight!"
Ugh. Now I was properly grossed out. You see, dead things didn't bother me. Animals, bugs, I could and would on occasion happily dissect it if it had died humanely, never killing it for pleasure. But eating it? That's a different story. I didn't want to actually ingest that animal. To me, it felt the same as if I had decided to eat a tire! So I became known to fight the battle, by supplying family picnic sandwiches with thinner and thinner meat, until they were nothing but lettuce, tomatoes, and bread. My parents all laughed about it. My sister happily added more meat to them. I piled on ketchup over my fathers weekly Sunday grilled burgers. I slathered those suckers until they were soaked. I asked my dead to cook it extra, extra, extra, extra well done.
Healthy headshot. My favorite acting headshot, shot outside my favorite Starbucks in Sunland, California by friend and artist Joan Banks.
If it was burnt it might count as something other than a cow. I don't to this day remember where I came across the idea, but I think it was at school. I was 11 years old. A girl had told me she was "going vegetarian" and gave up meat "for the baby animals". I was intrigued. Maybe I could do it, too? A stroke of aha! An Einstein light bulb had begun to illuminate over my curly head. Vegetarian! That was IT! I told my parents proudly I was now a vegetarian. My dad scowled at me. "I used to be a vegetarian, back in the 70's." He took a huge bite of his burger. "I did that whole thing. I know all about it." "Sure," I thought. "But I'm actually DOING it now!"
Enjoying a mango smoothie before I go onstage at Pastel&Monochrom in Bangkok, Thailand
I felt strong, brave, free and most of all... adult-like. This was what I was searching for all along. My dietary dreams had manifested into a reality! My best friend Danielle told me I would get sick. "They are always skinny and pale. It looks weird." I shook my head. "Nope, its healthy, and I'm healthy. I'm doing it the right way." I knew enough from the health magazines I read at the library, and the organic eating manuals my dad kept in the kitchen, that vitamins were a must. I knew
that I could eat protein from plant sources, and be strong. Although I am a huge animal lover, it was never about saving the animals for me. But now, that was something I was doing effortlessly through my diet.
The best raw and vegan sandwhich, at Rawbar in Aarhus, Denmark.
Fast-forward a few years to high school. A theater girl and honor student and track runner, I was always moving. I maintained a healthy vegetarian lifestyle, going off course only for special occasions such as being chosen to judge a rib cook off contest for my city. Working in local TV had made me a neighborhood celebrity, and as a
vegetarian I stayed energized. Over dinners I would politely pass on my mom's pork chops and instead reach for the potatoes and corn, always remembering to thank her profusely for dinner. My parents never tried to stop my diet choices; in fact they supported my persistence and diligence. My dad would still remark now and again how he "used to be a vegetarian, he stayed slim, in shape, and did the veggie thing for years." But our fridge stayed packed with Italian sausages and salami. We had a healthy competition going about diet, vitamins, and exercise. He did actually go almost totally vegetarian again later in life, and we shared a lot of recipes.
Want some? My dinner. Pesto, Quorn 'chicken' made form mushrooms, black bread filled with whole grains, and red quinoa.
I ditched the fatty, greasy colas, pizzas, and goop snacks all my friends ate, and opted for whole grains, nuts, veggies, and fruits. I loved being healthy. I was incredibly active, and maintained a good, healthy bodyweight and lean muscle as a runner, boxer, and swimmer. I never became too skinny, weak, or overweight. I hung out with meaters and veg-heads alike, harmoniously. I didn't exclusively date vegetarians, but a few guys did go veggie just to win my affections. (yeah!) At 18 I decided to step it up a notch. There was a new buzzword on the streets amongst diet fadderâ€™s and health freaks alike. VEGAN.
A real big, fat, juicy, SALAD loaded with mushrooms, cashews, and green lettuce. This is the way I like it!
Yes, vegan. Taking vegetarian to a whole new stratosphere, this lifestyle excluded all animal by products, including eggs, cheese (no!) and milk. Even yogurt, which was healthy for me I heard, was out. I googled it and found people who got tattoos with VEGAN on their bodies, threw away all their leather (no!) and discarded all fur, feathers, and animal wear. This was some serious stuff. I was working in Los Angeles as a model and actress, traveling around for gigs and finding myself needing more energy, and more muscle. I wasn't flabby, but for as much as I worked out, I should've been leaner. It had to be from my late night cravings of
cheese and white sourdough bread. I loved that stuff. I would sit back with my freshly converted vegetarian boyfriend, and we would go shopping at exclusive little markets and try every weird and wonderful sounding cheese we could find.
Staying cool modeling in the heat of Kuala Lampur, photo by Thorsten von Overgaard But inside I knew that something was off. I had always suffered from minor yet frequent stomachaches, excess mucus (gross in the morning) mild acne, and energy drains. Symptoms of something, and I had tried everything to get rid of it. I upped my vitamin count, ran harder, lifted more weights, and switched facial soaps. Nothing
seemed to kick it. Not even a bazillion glass of water, which nutritionists told me could cure anything, even heartbreak.
Chocolates. In NYC, on the upper west side, doing some shopping...
So I did a few blog searches and read a few articles and saw some glowing "before and after" photos of radical chicks who had gone "vegan", and drooled over some beautiful pictures of vegan celebrities like Natalie Portman, before announcing my experiment to my boyfriend. I would go vegan for 2 weeks, just to try it. Secretly, I thought it was a little silly. I mean, give up cheese? C'mon. I was doing life hardcore enough as it was. But I knew needed to better my lifestyle and do something.
Amazing natural painkillers, right in your kitchen, courtesy of emashherbs.com.
I started on this little endeavor by cutting out my midnight bread and cheese bouts. Then it was no ice cream. I didn't drink milk, so that was easy. Out went creamy spreads loaded with butter, salt, oil, and anything processed.
Flying free at Templehoff Airport, Berlin Germany. Photo by Jose Antonio Salcedo
A few less things in my diet, and a lot better things added. Nuts, soymilk, more veggies, fresh fruit smoothies. I varied my diet and made it super tasty despite my long lost love of cheese. In fact, with a few pinches of garlic here, mushrooms there, some pepper and spices, I hardly missed cooking or eating dairy it at all. What I did miss was the creamy texture of, well, anything. Nothing is creamy in a vegans diet, I found out. And that had sustained me on long nights working 16 hour days on TV shows sets with plenty of dairy filled catering. I usually consumed creamy crap and coffee.
Another tasty treat. Handmade veggie burger with whole grain bread and potatoes at Drudenfuss cafe, Aarhus, Denmark.
I looked into cheese alternatives. Surprisingly, I found some goodies. They all had rice, soy, or nuts stirred with stuff to give it a creamy taste. The flavor was there, the texture, heck, even the taste was good. As I was no stranger to meat replacements like veggies burgers, it was easy to add veggie cheese to the list. Tofurky sandwiches with melted rice cheese , anyone? I get hungry just thinking about it. It was working, and I was losing. Losing fat, that is.
I had lost a layer of fat on my abs and my workouts were now showing the results I had expected. My face was cleared up and glowing. The coughing and spitting thing in the morning sink? Completely gone. My eyesight even felt better! I was like a brand new revolutionary girl, again! I was stronger, better and faster. And I felt somehow sexier knowing I was officially a Hollywood vegan. I wasn't eating my animal friends, or anything made form them. I was a superhero!
Working out and loving it!
I found out I was Lactose Intolerant. Purely by researching the symptoms and adding "no dairy". The results of eating lactose were everything I had experienced when I had ate dairy. So that experiment turned into a growing dietary lifestyle. I now maintain veganism and keep in my mid-twenties, as an actress and singer. There is no going back for me. I've been labeled by some as "The strict vegetarian, or lazy vegan" as I have cheated a few times, especially in the desert department.
Coffee, orange juice, and a fresh canoli in London that qualifies as cheating. Hey, I'm half Italian! Cafe Uno, London, UK.
I go to my comfort foods of non-vegan cookies fully baked with eggs and milk, every now and then. Since traveling around Europe on tour, especially in Denmark and Paris, I had to try me some of those infamous pastries. I don't chain myself down; I let myself have some wiggle room as needed. I learned dark chocolate is my daily friend, to keep my monthly friend at bay. My health is the best. I feel it; I live it, and most of all I don't have to preach it. Iâ€™m not a "political vegan". I could give a flying you-know-what about your diet. If asked, I love giving advice and help, but otherwise, to each their own. I support what I believe in by doing it. My boyfriend now is a Viking meat and potatoes kind of guy, and that's OK with me. His girl can cook a mean pesto Quorn "chicken" with quinoa meal, and he enjoys stealing it off my plate.
My meat and potatoes Viking, Thorsten von Overgaard spotted at Rawbar in Aarhus, Denmark.
I have always maintained a personal policy that healthy, is the best. Thick, thin, meat eater, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian (fish eating), tall or short, it's all about treating your body with respect. Quality, conscious food, that's what makes a difference. My lifestyle works for me and makes me feel like a special person. People always tell me it's "Hard to be vegan and travel", but I've been researching food all my life, and I know exactly what I want, how to make it, and what to tell the dumbfounded waiter when I order. A little research and a lot of patience goes a long way, especially as a
A delicious Japanese breakfast plate at my hotel in Tokyo, Japan. December 2012
The best part is I can feel like both like both a responsible AND radical rebel! Just as I did the day I chose to give up meat at 11 years old. My veggie revolution...It's apart of
who I am.
Feeling healthy, centered, and beautiful with fans in Napier, New Zealand. Photo by in Pamela Tinning