Wednesday, March 18, 2015

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar Edition with Chloé Jo Davis

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She’s sexy and she knows it. She’s Chloé Jo Davis.

I’ve been vegan long enough to know that vegan and style are not two words that have always gone together so harmoniously. As a movement rooted in a passionately-held ethical foundation, this is not surprising: we’re too busy saving the world to care much about how we look while doing it. But do style and ethics need to be mutually exclusive? Can’t we have a love of aesthetics while still rocking out with our powerful message? Thankfully, we are living in a time when false dichotomies are burning to the ground as designers, artists, entrepreneurs and the fashion-forward are proving to the world that these two things – ethics and style – don’t need to be mutually exclusive. What’s more, today we can live green from head-to-toe using recycled, re-purposed and toxin-free options. Leading the charge for the past 16 years has been Chloé Jo Davis, founder of GirlieGirl Army.

Known as the “Glamazon Guide to Green Living,” GGA has amassed hundreds of thousands of devotees under Chloé Jo’s unapologetically confident direction, helping the world at large learn more about everything from cruelty-free cosmetics to gentle parenting, vegan noshes to eco-friendly crafts, all served up alongside a current list of adoptable animals. All of this (and more) is on the GGA website and by signing up for their newsletter, you can have all the links to new content, along with other carefully curated news links, delivered to your email once a week to stay au courant. As a mama (soon to be of three), speaker, writer and content creator at About.com’s green living series, Chloé Jo proves that a having a beautiful heart and living a purposeful life does not mean that your personal style needs to suffer for it. For these reasons and more, Chloé Jo Davis is a Vegan Rockstar you should know.

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

I always had an innate sense of compassion for the underdog - growing up in a family like mine, I had to as a survival mechanism! It was a slow path that turned to a fast roar, first by dating a boy who had a big dog I was afraid of and slowly came to deeply love, then by adopting my own two mutts, and then dating a vegan and learning about factory farming. But really the full evolution came by education. Really steeping my mental tea bag into the world of animal agriculture, health, and karmic consciousness. A full monty of the full picture is what my Libran mind needed to see, and see it did! It was a very finite, almost British-no-nonsense definitive choice to never again contribute to suffering and hell for our sentient neighbors once many books were read and many documentaries watched.

I've come to see now, as I've watched so many come and go from veganism, that it really has to start and end at a love or respect for animals. Because if it's just health, it's easy to slack off a diet - and if it's just environmental, it's easy to rationalize having a hen in your backyard for eggs or choosing "local" beef over tofu from another state. I've seen too many narcissists fall off the boat once their raw food cleanse has ended. It has to be a deep love of animals and of being just - it starts and ends with your scruples. No way you can see what goes on with animals in factory farms and think that skews okay mentally. The 16 years I was blessed to have with my two rescue mutts showed me true, authentic love for the first time in my life – ‘til my Husband and children. I know that all animals can and do feel pain, love, calm, fear, and anguish - just like us.  My Husband and I took the full leap together almost a decade ago, and I think that informed the choice too - knowing we were going to spend the rest of our lives together and have a family and knowing we wanted to do things right. And being vegan just feels right when all the logic is displayed and the facts are clear.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

Really - all I'd have needed was someone I respected to show me a documentary. For my husband it was the original Peaceable Kingdom - I showed it to him and he went vegan that day. And he was raised on a truly all-American crappy diet, so for him it was a bigger transition than me who did eat a lot of healthy organic vegetarian food growing up Kosher in NYC. I always tell women with non-vegan partners, if they can watch Earthlings or Vegucated or Peaceable Kingdom - or any of the other powerful animal docs, and not go veg - they may have a compassion gene missing and you may want to move on. And if you’re dating a science or health-minded person who can read The China Studyand not realize there's no way to beat the scientific fact of plant-based superiority, then they are wearing blinders. For some people it's a slow crawl, and I support people on any place on their path with GirlieGirlArmy.com - I've been personally answering every vegan email question for 16 years, sometimes it's as simple as having the right answers for replacement foods or having a good community.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

GirlieGirlArmy.com was the first vegan/ethical beauty and fashion website - we started over 15 years ago. People often ask if we are annoyed by how many copycats are out there since, and I always say not at all! The more people promoting kindness in a beautiful way, the better! So we were the first to use terms like "compassionista" or "veganista" and "glamazon" in reference to a plant-based lifestyle. My original intention was to be almost snobbish, "You put dead carcass in your body? How GAUCHE!" type of tongue-in-cheek attitude over the general apologetic downtrodden quiet so many vegans take on. It then become over the top humor and style, which I still think works wonderfully. I think what's not effective is stiff or boring messaging. But I prefer a firm message over a weeble-wobbling one.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

The level of intelligence in our community blows my mind. The vegans I know are the smartest people I've ever met. They are all seekers and not afraid to step out of the dominant paradigm. That's so inspirational and radical. Sure, there's always a stray a-hole, phony, or grody self-promoter in the mix - but they are generally easy to spot and weed out. The crux of the movement rallies around the concept of doing what's right. How many other communities can claim that?

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

I don't really think we have any anymore with the virility of the Internet and so many celebs going veg…but I think our biggest hindrance may be apologists. It's a pet peeve of mine in general to not be loud and proud about whoever you are.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

Baby animals cry for their Mother's when separated, and Mama cows bellow for their babies for days and will sometimes jump a fence to find their young. Some people don't even realize Mama Cows need to be kept impregnated on a rape rack and have baby after baby ripped from her to become veal in order for her to keep producing milk. People genuinely think Bessie the cow just makes milk on the mountain all the live long day. We are so separated from our food animals in this culture, that what needs to happen is more visits to factory farms. Go and visit one and see what you are choosing to contribute to. What we do to animals in modern farming is nothing short of a holocaust.

Animal agriculture via methane is also the biggest offense to global warming - even the UN says the world has to go plant-based based on their studies. And from a health perspective it's a no-brainer, diseases are literally reversed when people take on a plant based diet.  There's a reason for doctors like Dr. Robert Ostfeld - the Director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center - promotes an exclusively vegan diet. Because it's simply healthier in every way possible. So it's a triage of obvious: ahimsa/non-harming and not wanting to torture animals, caring about the earth, and wanting to live long, healthy lives. There's no reason not to with all the replacement products we have now…love cheese? You can still eat it -- just choose cashew cheese! Adore chicken? Fine - eat chicken - just eat plant-based chicken. The analogs we have now are cleaner and more delicious than ever. It's nonsensical to choose any other way, unless you literally live in a hut on the edge of the world, and even there, lentils and rice exist! Lentils have more protein than beef anyway, so there.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

The films I think I mentioned above. There are an endless stream of books on veganism now -- I think for a science/medical-minded person, nothing will beat The China Study.
I always say my friends Samantha Pachirat and Susie Coston at Farm Sanctuary are the biggest sheros of this movement.

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

Sometimes I take a step out from events and online controversy.  I used to argue with any contrartian carnivore who wanted to debate about plants feeling pain. Now I pick my battles. Real idiots get ignored or a swift one-liner. As a Mother of nearly three with a business to run and animals to save, I simply don't have the time for those who are clearly guilty about their own carcass-filled colons. Focus on your own life and being the biggest success you can be - that's the best way to help animals. The better we do in our own lives and the happier we are in personal lives - the more powerful our message spreads. We true animal rights activists do have some post traumatic stress from seeing the visuals and in person horrors we have seen and read about, which is why it's important to be tender and gentle with ourselves as often as possible.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

DAIRY! As a Mom who has been breastfeeding and pregnant for five years - attachment parenting and nurturing my beautiful vegan baby boys - I can only imagine the agony of a Mother cow losing baby after baby. Seeing visuals of clips they put on calves nose/mouth area directly after birth so they can't nurse or bond so humans can get their milk is an image I'll never get out of my head.
That level of cruelty - when you are watching a Mother birth a child and inflict agony upon them directly after birth - is beyond inhumane - it's monstrous. We are the only species to ingest another species breastmilk.  Dairy is just not healthy for humans - unless it's human breastmilk for a baby - so why on earth would anyone still eat cheese when we have Treeline cashew cheese or drink milk when we have So Delicious dairy-free milks that aren't associated with cancer, bloating, acne, et al.? It's beyond my ability to digest why people wouldn't go dairy-free. And lest we forget -- there's a little bit of veal in every glass of milk.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

To me, being vegan is just good sense. I was born in the North of England and have also always gravitated towards people from Massachusetts. I think people from those areas tend to be very no-nonsense and straightforward about things that just make sense or not. I appreciate honesty and blunt realness in my life, sometimes things are either good or bad. Veganism is good. Certain things in life are cut and dry, and the logic behind veganism makes good, clean sense. It's simply the right thing to do for everyone involved - your body, the earth, and the animals.

2 comments:

cawestification said...

Hi, the link to read more about Laura Dakin's book does not work. It goes to the interview with Chloe Davis.

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