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You began the journey to a waste-free Shangri-La as a green consumer. Abandoning your socially programmed obsession with convenience and disposability, you consciously purchased the greener antiperspirant, greener lawn spray and greener automobile. You realized that you had a vital role in political environmentalism, for you possessed a precious thing: a vote that was religiously and obsessively tallied—the dollar. You understood that when you changed your vote, from say disposable plastic cutlery to biodegradable vegetable cutlery, you really were changing the political arena—and relatively fast.
But greener consumerism wasn’t enough for you. You then claimed the identity of the non-consumer, prizing reused things, swapped, gifted and shared items above all others. Your carbon footprint went honorably neutral as you reduced your purchases. And as you continued down that path, perhaps you found, like me, that food doesn’t have to come in packaging—and that if a cartoon character is used to sell it, it’s likely not a food at all.
With these lifestyle changes, you’ve seen a substantial decrease in the garbage you generate. Shangri-La is becoming more real and your lifestyle more satisfying with every product not purchased.
Am I right?
I remember growing up in a farm town, thinking thoughts no peer seemed to understand. It was important to me, even in my lowly teens, to know that I was supporting the locally owned record store rather than the big-city chain nearby. I had been vegetarian for eight years by that time, so ethical (or as I like to say, communal) considerations affected my purchases, too. I was already dancing professionally then, and hey, a girl sometimes needs dance shoes. Oh, the years of internal debate surrounding the need for new leather dance shoes!
No matter how waste-free or compassionate your ideals are, any member of Western society eventually has need of a product they do not agree it’s ethical to purchase. I thought I had answered this quandary when I went leather-free for many formative years. And although it felt great to dress without the Death karma (I’ll say it!), eventually I noticed that everything with which I was replacing my leather belts, boots and wallets was made of petro-plastic and man-made materials—entirely non-renewable, non-reusable, non-degradable and manufactured in overseas sweat-shops. Yes, my new accessories were vegan, but were they green or even cruelty-free?
Several years later, having long since graduated as valedictorian of my high-school class, my anguish over this topic has yet to be remedied. Here I am now, a full-grown, self-directed, free, adult woman—and still tormented.
I am, however, enthusiastic to share with you something that has renewed my faith in our common destination: Cherry Bombin’ Wear, a woman-owned small business in Arizona that recovers used inner tubes from bicycle tires for sewing into rockin’ ID cases, wallets, business-card holders, wrist cuffs and belts. No animals are harmed in their manufacture, the recovered material actually lasts longer than leather, and every item keeps another inner tube out of our landfills. You can see why that would give a long-term vegan and environmental enthusiast some satisfaction. That’s just a little tip from me to you.
Certainly our journey toward a waste-free lifestyle is made with a combination of green consumerism, non-consumerism and lastly, a flat-out refusal to consume. I wish for you, in the beginning, all the coolest thrift-store belts you could possibly want. And eventually, I hope the question bubbles up from somewhere down deep—why do you want any belt at all? Maybe we’re closer than we think to having everything we want.
Even so—let me know if you ever do come across a pair of hemp-upper tap shoes. Cool?
I wouldn’t trade anything to be 18 again. Life really does get better and better.
Raw vegan muscle and moxie pin up shoot:
Thank you to the talented Stephen Newell, graphic designer on all finals!
Please support me by voting for me in the Best of Raw Awards 2011 in the “Sexiest Raw Woman” and “Favorite Raw Female Athlete” categories. Thank you.
I was asked recently if I’m concerned about the cosmetics and hair products used on set as a professional actress/model/dancer whom also happens to be a health advocate, vegan and environmentalist. My answer is simply: of course! I spend a lot of time and energy researching the highest quality natural and cruelty-free products in my personal life, so you know that sort of care oozes out into my professional life, too.
In case you don’t know, when a performer gets hired, their job is to know their material and have their personal shit together so they can deliver AND be a pleasure to work with (that’s how I see it, at least). We arrive on set and are whisked off to the Make Up, Hair and Wardrobe departments so those artists can do their magic, too. The first important thing for a concerned performer to remember is that the make up, hair and wardrobe crew are, like you, hired because they are good at their jobs. They have their reasons for using the products and fabrics they use and you should remember that they deserve the utmost respect at all times.
That being said, you, as the performer, deserve the same respect and it is absolutely okay to ask what is in the products that will be placed against your skin or in your hair. It is your body after all – you are not a dress up doll or a talking head robot, but a real human being who has to live with your skin and hair and ethical choices after this gig is wrapped. It’s absolutely okay to ask questions. Esspecially when it comes from that place of mutual respect for the others’ professionalism in the craft.
If you are a series regular or film lead, you are going to be on set a longer period of time and have the opportunity to get to know your Make Up/Hair/Wardrobe departments personally. In my experience, when you all know each other, everyone takes your concerns into consideration. Most higher budget make up artists will have OODLES of products to choose from, so look through! Mineral make ups are surely a part of their kit at this point and maybe some other surprising stuff. If it’s a lower budget production, then bring your own kit. In either case, they are cool people who want you to feel happy, healthy and beautiful on camera – that’s what they do! So treat people with respect, respect yourself, get to know each other and be patient and flexible. I’m personally always impressed.
(Except for that one time with the high budget fashion modeling gig where the make up artist seemed like too many photographers had insulted her work during her long career and she was stuck in her ways, refused to use any brushes I brought and threw a snobby fit. That’s not normal, performers. She had a horrible attitude. The more professional make up/hair artists are generally genuinely grateful to do what they do for a living and have enthusiasm to continue learning about the next newest product, cruelty-free alternative or natural option. You can really tell the difference in artistry through their open mindedness to their own craft. It’s like offering a sculptor a brand new clay – a true artist will want to work with it and see what they can do. The jaded artist will say, “I can’t possibly use that clay,” before they even try it and never grow as an artist again. I feel sorry for bad attitudes – fortunately, it’s not common.)
Unfortunately, when you are a day player or shooting shorter duration gigs, you don’t have the chance to get to know your Make Up/Hair departments and I suggest a fine combination of two things: again, brining your own kit and also a healthy amount of flexibility. Sometimes, you might bring your own foundation and hair gel and make up remover, but socially, for what ever reason, you had to use products you know had formaldehyde (like mascara) in them. Try to remain a pleasure to work with (that’s your job) by remembering that your body is so healthy that it will detox 2 days of exposure to this chemical amazingly quickly. Also remember that consciousness-wise, sometimes just having the conversation and speaking the words does important work and might inspire new perspectives after your work there is done. Keep your attitude high. I know it can be trying to care, but it really is worth it and people respect you for it.
Respect yourself. I say ‘know what is essential’ and bring it with you. For me, the brush cleaners that make up artists use makes my eyes instantly blood shot and watery. No one wants me to look like I have hay fever on camera! So I bring a very nice, clean set of my own, cruelty-free brushes.
Since my eyes are so sensitive, I actually find it essential to request using my own mascara, eyeliner and unless it’s mineral make up, my own shadow. There are a few brands of make up I can not have anywhere near my skin, for some reason and one is Mac and the other is Smash Box. I don’t know what they both use in their cream eye shadows, but it’s like hot asphalt fumes to my eyes and sensitive membranes. Mac is no good for any bit of my skin, actually. Instant break outs means low-quality chemical-based ingredients. I know Mac is supposed to be good, but my skin and eyes can’t be fooled with marketing.
I used to start the conversation with “I’m really sensitive (or I’m “allergic”). Can we use some of my products?” And again, no one wants your eyes all red and skin all blotchy, so that goes over well. But the catch is, you MUST have excellent alternatives. I have a high quality make up kit with more stuff than I ever personally use. I want my make up artist to feel inspired to see new products and have great stuff to choose from, so I bring options.
Now that I’ve worked with many make up/hair artists multiple times, am doing longer duration gigs and am well-known as the healthy, raw chick on set, I don’t really lie and say “allergic”, I just respectfully say, “I like to use cruelty-free, organic products and yes, I am very sensitive, would you consider using my brushes and some essentials from my kit?” People are cool! And there’s always some meaningful conversation that goes down when I’m in the chair. I really appreciate people sharing that space with me.
Like I said, I bring my personal essentials: brushes, eye liners, mascaras and black shadow. Next tier is 100% silica high definition powder, vegan lip-glosses and quickly becoming vital is this new brand of organic, raw vegan food-based foundation – it’s like wearing high-quality moisturizer more than a cosmetic.
I use macadamia nut oil to remove my eye liner, gentle oils to ease away my foundation, a clay-based exfoliant twice/week, rose water spritz after a bath to tighten things and pomegranate/rose-hip oil for moisturizer. I cut my dreadlocks so recently, I don’t really know what products I would need or can support in terms of hair. I’m still learning about shampoo and stuff myself here.
And finally, I’ve known of several actors whom won’t wear fur or leather as part of their costumes. Fortunatley, there are great looking replacements for those things. Eating is usually a case-by-case situation, but I’ve felt super supported by the craft service and catering departments and have learned that if you are to be a long duration regular hire on set, the earlier you can let people know you are a raw vegan, the easier it is for them to help you out. If you are a short duration hire, then bring your positive attitude and your alternatives.
Remember that nothing is worth being a jerk about – that’s not part of anybody’s job description, so no matter who you are on set, if you are being a jerk, I think you’re doing a bad job. The more you respect others’ ways of living, the more respect for your lifestyle is reciprocated.
Check out some related links:
RMS Beauty (organic, raw make up)
Alima Pure Cosmetics (clean, loose mineral make ups)
Aveda (killer company on all levels – right down to the packaging)
Rawnessa (really raw skin care out of Los Angeles)
I grew up in a farmtown in Michigan. And despite my eccentric appearance, I have farmtown values. Family and nature mean a lot to me, so it breaks my heart in a secret way that I can not live my dreams as a performing artist anywhere but in a large city. After all, to us farmtown folk, cities are “dirty, impersonal and always in a rush”.
To some degree, of course, all accusations are true. You don’t have to be from a farmtown to smell the exhaust blanketing Hollywood Blvd. on a 105 degree day in late July. And you don’t have to take the NYC subway for long to get that mystery grit under your fingernails – and in your nostrils, and in your pores. The city is dirty. But despite the obvious street grime, dirty city life just might be the most environmental living design I’ve ever experienced.
It all depends on how you use it.
When you grow up in a small town, you’re in nature a lot, if only be default. And the old saying applies, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. My parents aren’t the only thing I miss living and working in major metropolitan areas – I miss nature and the smell of the color green. And it is precisely this longing that evoked my passion for green living. Had I never left my farmtown, I might not have felt the urgency to protect what the country has to offer. Had I never lived in a farmtown, I might think pollution and consumerism is an accepted way of life. But I have had both. And that makes me care.
I used to think it was the immense concentration of people that make cities dirty, but now, I see it as one of urban living’s greenest assets – LOCAL mindset. Others like me have moved to the city, mostly from smaller towns (there aren’t many towns larger than LA or NYC in the United States, after all). And we all remember nature’s bounty. Are we preserving what we left behind? Are we restoring what is absent to our new homes? Whatever our reasons, together we build composting and recycling systems that succeed only because there are so many of us running it. We pass laws that ban the use of petro-plastic grocery bags countywide because there are enough of us rallying for the cause. We support wildlife protection agencies with our time and money and by sheer number, we really do make a difference.
Now when I see skyscrapers I think how many thousands of people are housed there, rather than clearing acres of natural habitat to farm soybeans, paving miles of countryside to connect only four family homes, and living so far away from a school, market, or movie theatre that residents spend more time in their 4×4 trucks than I do on LA freeways.
It all depends on how you use it.
LOCAL living applies to more than than the concentrated mindframe, though. It dictates my consumer choices. I purchase LOCAL organic produce because fresh food is cheaper and more nutritious. I support LOCAL businesses because I want to keep my city employed. I choose LOCALLY manufactured products because it cuts down on transportation pollution when I don’t request it be shipped over from China. Or mailed over from New Jersey.
LOCAL living dictates my transportation choices, too. I choose activities I can walk to. Within a short five block walk from my apartment door, I can take professional dance classes, martial arts classes, pilates and yoga. And I do. I can walk to the post office, the bank, my mechanic and the office supply store. I sit at the local coffee shop, medicinal herb bar and live music venue. In fact, I’ve often pronounced that mine would be the perfect neighborhood if only it had an organic/raw/vegan cafe. And the inner-city deities must’ve been listening, because this month, Cafe Flourish, an organic/raw/vegan cafe opened in South Hollywood just five blocks from my front door. I officially live in the perfect city neighborhood.
Sure, we all want to live where the air is clear and the water untreated. But I am convinced I live in paradise right here right now. LOCAL living in the city makes all my environmental dreams a possibility. Vegan sneakers on the sidewalk keep my transportation, diet and consumption as green as it can be. And that little neighborhood walk does it’s part to shatter the “impersonal and always in a rush” city stereotype of small town fears, too. If only my vegan sneaks could bring my mom and dad closer. Now that would be paradise.
Sometimes people ask me if it can be done. If one can actually be a professional athlete on a plant based diet. The truth is, I can’t imagine how one could on any other diet. I imagine bogging my system down with slow digesting animal products or lifeless over cooked foods and I think to myself how much my performance would suffer. In fact, if I eat a cooked vegan meal or two on a weekend, my balance is off in my yoga class on Monday and I’m just kinda tired in general until my body finishes digesting the heavy meal. I THRIVE as a vegetarian (vegan/raw food) professional dancer and danger artist and consider it the OPTIMAL lifestyle because I am serious about my physicality and physique.
I get asked that question all the time. But rarely do I get asked the question this tv segment asked me. Supreme Master TV‘s “Vegetarian Elite” series profiled me as, well, an elite vegetarian (wow!) and asked me some pretty thought provoking questions on spirituality and art. And my favorite was a question I’ve never been asked before: does the raw vegan diet make me a better actor? Watch our segment to see my surprised, impromptu answer:
The Eco Tourist, Episode 2 is LIVE! In this episode, we arrive in Chiang Mai, Thailand and adventure the Sunday walking street (coolest weekly art fair in the WORLD), Awana House (artsy city lodging for $18/night) and the Wat Suan Dok temple with the famous golden Buddha and Pun Pun vegetarian restaurant.
I wrote about why I believe Thailand and the Buddhist culture is so affluent in vegetarian culture while there.
Leaked teaser scene from Bold Native, the first fictional film about the Animal Liberation Front. This independent film has turned into every film maker and cast member’s dream come true – it has become a movement. With no commercially vested backers, Bold Native sold out every seat on their first national screening tour in 2010 and the community of activists felt so strongly about the film that the entire second national screening tour was organized entirely by The People. Bold Native has played multiple dates in all major US markets, as well as international screenings in Germany, England, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium and more. The film is now available on dvd at the Bold Native website and also streaming on iTunes.
In this scene you will see my character’s introduction to the film. And what an introduction it is! Randolph Mantooth (of Emergency fame) plays my opposite and he was such a great counter balance to my energy. I think we complimented each other on our journey together in this film – he; the uptight, unfeeling, corporate monger in transition and I; the unpaved country road to Chaos. Enjoy:
The impressive health educator, Victoria Moon and I filmed a five part interview series going in depth on raw food, life experience and world vision for Permission To Heal. This first segment asks the question, “What Was Your Experience of Food Like Growing Up?” Every day I will post a new clip of the 5.
So I return from a 3 week volunteer trip in Thailand, and being the owner of two businesses, immediately start in on my year end tax filings. Business owners know what I’m talking about. During taxes, I book a huge gig dancing on the The Muppets movie, which films 16 hour “days”, starting at 4pm. During the day, my manager has me going to callbacks and producers’ sessions, so I literally get NO sleep between jet lag and the work schedule, which is pretty much what did it. I got sick. And cursed/thanked every moment of it.
Often times I think “sick” is your body’s way of making you slow down. The more driven you are, the sicker you have to get to actually pay attention. I had a fever and everything. And it’s not like I wasn’t aware that I needed rest – it just wasn’t in my layout for the first three weeks of January 2011. I booked a spot on Spike’s Auction Hunters show and actually filmed with a fever. Imagine how rotten my body had to make me feel to get me to lay down.
Well, lay down I did and it was awesome turning off the ringer of my cell and bowing out of dates with friends. I watched a bunch of SAG Awards movies. I read a lot of books.
I’m the type that might take two months to read a book, if my schedule is rockin and rollin. But other times, like when I’m flat with fever, I can read a couple in a day. I’m feeling better now, but I secretly wish I was still illin just for the excuse to read, read, read all day. I can feel my brain swelling. My creativity gets all assertive. Reading is quite literally addictive.
I read several books and some of them were written by friends of mine. Some of these friends self-publish or are published by small companies and that’s why I feel strongly about shouting out to them – word of mouth is how the popularity of many grass roots projects infects the masses. The internet really does make diversification of art and education a reality – I can be an unsigned musician with a solid following. I can be an alternative health educator whose ideas are shared with the the masses. I can be an author whom makes a modest living without selling the rights to all my words to someone else. Word of mouth works.
Of course, I would not shout out about a book JUST because it’s self-published. I would not promote something just because my friend created it. The truth is, I am sharing the following books with you because they are high quality literature I think someone in my audience is interested in and needs to know about.
You don’t have to have a fever to read these books in one sitting:
Let’s Get Cracking by Robert Dante
If you can learn from a book, then this is the one that can teach you. Robert Dante’s whip skills are unparalleled as a performance artist. He shares a coherent and effective training method for the beginning whip cracker and includes several advanced cracking sequences for those with experience, too. He writes without ego, focusing on fostering others’ abilities. If you can learn from a book, this is the one that can teach you.
Raw Magic by Kate Magic
Kate is one smart cookie. Or should I say cupcake? She has a special fondness for desserts, but there is more to this book than fabulous superfood cake recipes. Kate shares some powerful raw vegan knowledge in the first 1/3 of the book – her concepts on the ideal balance of fresh, living foods with superfoods and what superfoods she finds essential and why. I personally don’t consider myself a superfooder nor a chef. But the truth is, I do have superfoods in my life and I do create recipes from scratch all the time – Raw Magic taught me how to make maca yummy in recipes. Raw Magic has a sumptuous color photo on every page, drawing even the reluctant superfooder into her technicolor recipe-gasm world. This book is for anyone who wants the deets on how to work those superfood powders into more than their morning smoothie.
Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness by Robert Cheeke
Did you watch our documentary, The Vegan Fitness: Built Naturally dvd? In the dvd, you meet three thriving vegan athletes, Ironman Champion Brendan Brazier, myself; professional dancer Tonya Kay, and the author of the book I am now shouting out about; natural bodybuilder Robert Cheeke. You should watch the dvd and read the book side by side if you are a vegetarian athlete and more specifically, if your sport is weight lifting or bodybuilding. Robert Cheeke has accomplished much in his bodybuilding career and has done it ALL vegan. His book is filled with black and white competition and training photographs and is brimming with DETAILS on the vegan bodybuilding diet, his specific training workouts, vegan equipment and food resources, and Robert’s unstoppable life in general. What’s really cool about this book is the can-do attitude Robert exudes. My favorite chapter was Turning Your Bodybuilding Success Into A Form of Activism and Outreach, an inspiration to all vegans to nurture their fire and affect the world – how to make sure your public persona is that of a role model others can look up to.
Raw Emotions by Angela Stokes
As a professional dancer, I recommend Raw Emotions to all young dancers. If you are a parent, studio owner or friend whom knows a young dancer, buy this book right now and give it them. And read it first yourself before gifting it away. You don’t have to be a dancer or teenager to experience heightened awareness of your physical image as it relates to diet. I’ve even seen raw vegans develop eating disorders due to overscrutiny of their raw food choices. Angela approaches the subject of emotional responses to diet, choosing nourishing foods and how body image affects outlook on life with compassion and wisdom. She guides the reader through very clear steps towards loving one’s food and body – steps she used herself to change her reality from a self-proclaimed sarcastic, secretly-ashamed woman weighing 300 pounds to the life-loving raw foodist less than half as heavy. It does not matter what you weigh, however. You will take value from this book if you wish to use a healthy diet to nurture an emotionally positive and spiritually sustainable life. A must read for young dancers!
We swam in a swirling sea of smoke from our water hookah at the Bangkok restaurant. Real Egyptians populated the surrounding tables, laughing slightly too loud for the casual atmosphere. He dismissed himself to the bathroom and almost instantaneously an Eastern European woman materialized in his place. “Is he a Japanese American mix?” Suspiciously; “Yes.” “I knew it! That’s the perfect mix. I want to have his babies. They will be so beautiful.”
Yes, he is that pretty. And yes, his babies are indeed beautiful. But I don’t think that is why many Thai people choose to address my travel partner rather than myself – even though it was I whom requested the directions, made the reservation, paid for the meal, almost got ran into. Why would many Thai people address the man when it is clearly the woman whom they are interacting with? Cultural differences.
Culture is the collective soul of a group of people based on climate, environment, religion, art, politics and every single thing that ever happened to their communal family since the begging of time. Culture is complex. And absolutely rich with human-ness. In an age where the machine, where the corporation, where the system sets out to dehumanize and devalue my human experience, culture is where I can find that precious pearl inside the the living being. Even when I do not get looked in eyes or spoken to directly, I wish to protect that culture. At the same time, I sure am thankful to be a woman whom calls Hollywood, CA, USA her home in the year 2010. There is no place I’d personally rather live as a woman alive today.
One of the cultural differences between Thailand and the United States is religion. The grand majority of Thai people practice Buddhism, while the average population in the United States calls themselves some sect of Christian. I am not Christian, personally, and don’t think of myself as living a Christian lifestyle, but visiting a Buddist culture, where the assumed Christian morals are notably absent, really wakes me up to how Christian my life is by default based on culture alone whether I like it or not.
For example, anthropomorphism (the attribution of human characteristics to a god, animal or object) is a valuable scientific practice that would earn a researcher dishonorable discharge from the scientific community in any Christian country. Even the scientific community does not recognize how religious they are, protecting the belief that man has dominion over other animals and therefore can kill, eat and experiment on them on the basis that they “have no feelings” while having never allowed research to be published that proved or disproved the consideration. Seems quite religious and not scientific at all.
In Thailand, however, the Buddhist religion generally embraces the emotional capacity of all beings, allowing an empathetic consideration for all life forms to be utlized in their sciences, culture and every day practices. I can see this cultural difference daily by the way people with little to eat share food with stray dogs and cats, rather than impounding them. In fact, it is considered exceptional karma to give care to other beings in need, including animals that are not pets. Vegetarianism is commonplace in Thai culture. Some Buddhist temples provide free vegetarian meals daily to the community. Chiang Mai, a city with a population of only 150,000 hosts a whopping 41 vegetarian restaurants.
One of which is the Free Bird Cafe. This Non Governmental Organization offers vegetarian/vegan Western and Thai food, a second hand clothing store, clean refillable drinking water source and an arts and crafts shop. 100% of all profit benefits the Thai Freedom House, a language and arts community center for indigenous tribe and Burmese refugee families in Northern Thailand. Talk about something that must be understood from the native culture’s perspective to understand it at all … culture is complicated. But food can be and often is our passageway in.
Free Bird Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand vegan dish Thai Freedom House refugee and indigenous students