Tabitha Brown wants you to have a good day, but if you don’t, she wants to make sure you don’t go messing up anyone else’s. This is just one of the many gone-viral catchphrases the influencer, actor, and new author has popularized on her lit-up social media channels, where millions of fans tune in each day to see what Brown has to say about avocados (she eats them on most things, either straight-up or sometimes stuffed), her family (she recently surprised her father with a new car), and exercise (she’s been doing her crunches and joked she’ll soon be called “Abitha”.
When Brown—dubbed “America’s Mom”—isn’t posting adorable videos that show her dancing with excitement over vegan garlic-parm croutons, she’s being cast in some of Hollywood’s biggest series (such as Showtime’s The Chi) and being invited onto top talk shows (from Ellen to The Drew Barrymore Show). And though Tinseltown can’t seem to get enough of this Southern belle, it’s Brown’s groundedness and unrelenting commitment to being her authentic self that points to why she is so damn beloved.
But it wasn’t always easy for Brown. She began her career working as an actor and drove for Uber around Los Angeles. Brown decided to film a reaction footage of herself in her car, in the parking lot at Whole Foods, while she was taking a break from her driving shift. She was eating a sandwich that she had ordered at the deli counter. Brown devouring her sandwich. “TTLA”—which stands for tempeh bacon, tomato, lettuce, and avocado, a name that would go on to be officially adopted by Whole Foods—that quickly propelled her to internet stardom, eventually garnering more than 4 million views.
Without question, something about Brown’s calming-yet-joyous approach to sharing vegan food, combined with her perfect comedic timing and over-the-top enthusiasm, struck a chord with her virtual audience—and they couldn’t get enough. And though she’d been at it for years already, from that tempeh sandwich, a Tabitha Brown was born, and there was no stopping her. VegNews’ Jasmin Singer caught up with Brown to discuss the superstar’s quick rise to the top, her passion for vegan foodWhat, exactly, feeds her soul?
VegNews: You’ve become quite a phenomenon—starting with a sandwich and leading up to running a digital empire. What would you tell someone who has big dreams but doesn’t know where to start?
Tabitha Brown Don’t try to be anybody but yourself—you are enough just as you are. Bring yourself to your phone, take out the camera and show the world who you are. They will listen. Be consistent and hardworking. For the past four years, I have made videos every day, and I still do. I’m not saying don’t take a break—take your breaks! You must always pursue your goal if you have one. My best advice is to be true to myself.
VN: Yet that hasn’t always been easy for you. There have been people along the way who’ve tried to change you, but nowadays, nobody does authenticity better than you.
TB:This is why I can tell someone that they should be true to themselves. I would do whatever it took to fit in Hollywood, whether I was in corporate America or Hollywood. That’s not freedom. We should be free to be ourselves. I had a lot of small victories along my journey of over 20 years of pursuing entertainment, but it wasn’t until I showed up as me, completely Tab, that my world began to change.
VN: Talking of which, how was it to have a billboard featuring you in Times Square
TB:That was a lifelong goal of mine. I haven’t been able to go in person to see it, but my daughter got to see it. It’s mind-blowing, and I’m so thankful. It’s a beautiful thing. It brings me joy. I’m grateful. I look at it and think I’m doing something right and I’m on the right path.
VN: And, you also have a book that just came in: Feeding the Soul. What does this mean for you to feed yourself?
TB:My honey, in order to feed my soul, it is necessary that I put myself first. To feed my soul, I must first be satisfied so that others can be satisfied.
VN: And we see that pouring out for others in the incredible ways you’ve mainstreamed plant-based living. How did you feel about veganism before becoming vegan?
TB: I believed that veganism was a movement dominated by white people before I became vegan. That was because I was the only one who saw it. Veganism also seemed like a cult to me. It just didn’t seem like it was something for everybody, and I didn’t necessarily understand it. I thought, “Oh, they don’t eat meat,”And that was it. I started this journey for my health. As I began to learn, study, and meet people, my eyes were blown open to so many things that it blew me away. It opened my eyes to so much more. I’m not doing something just for me—I’m doing something that is saving animals, the planet, the environment, and other people.
It’s such a huge movement that needs to be understood. This is why I take sharing information with love so seriously. A lot of times, people can be judgmental—I want to be anything but that. I want people to feel free to learn and not be judged. I want them open to veganism. People are more open to veganism if you give them laughter and love as well as a lot of information. “Oh, wait a minute. What you talking about?”
VN: Given your perception that veganism was a white thing, why would you say Black veganism—one of the fastest-growing sectors of veganism—is important?
TB: Black veganism is important because of the diseases that strike our community more than any others—whether it’s heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol—and so many are related to our eating habits. It is devastating. It’s important for us to be included and understand that we have another option. I like to think that I have a significant role in promoting inclusivity and helping Black people see that veganism is a viable option. We’re creatures of habit, and I believe this is part of the barrier. We are afraid of change a lot of the time. When we hear the word “change”, we are often afraid. “vegan,” we think you’re going to take away our holidays and traditions. You just need to rethink this. Hopefully, we’ll add to our traditions, make them a little bit healthier, give us some other options, and maybe we’ll be around a lot longer.
VN: Do you have any tips for how someone might navigate through a situation where some of the family is vegan and some aren’t?
TB:My first vegan journey was a challenge. I was the only one in my family who ate plant-based food. As a family, we did a 30-day vegan challenge. However, my husband and our children returned to chicken and fish after the challenge. I realized that everyone can have their choice of protein, so I made sure to make every side dish vegan. So I could share my mac and cheese, greens and beans with my family, as well as the sides, were all vegan. I just didn’t have their animal protein; I had everything else. Now, I can cook real good. I would make faux burgers and faux chicken, trying to recreate and veganize the foods that they’re used to. They loved it, and then they were eating it. vegan foodIt’s not like, you don’t even think about it. It’s not like, “Oh, this is vegan.” It’s like, “Oh, no, this is dinner,”Period. It’s a mind thing. Don’t mention it, just cook it.
VN: Where do veganism and vegetarianism stand in five years?
TB: In five years, I would love normalcy, and I’ve already begun to see it. When you look at a vegan menu at a restaurant, it won’t even have to be separated. It will be exactly the same as any other. You won’t have to say “Oh, I’m vegan,”You may need to ask for a breakdown of each dish. It’ll be a normal way of life. I believe that there will be many more options available, not only in major cities but around the globe. I’m from a small town in North Carolina where Walmart is our grocery store, but I believe that in five years, honey, you’ll be able to go in there and get anything I can get in Los Angeles. It will always exist and everyone will have access to it. The world will be a better place for it.
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