Monique Koch is the host of the award-winning Brown Vegan Podcast, which she started to help everyday people learn about the benefits of vegan life with tips, recipes and encouragement. Monique has built a powerful community and platform which effortlessly highlights all kinds of vegan voices in a celebratory and non-judgemental way. This conversation offers a snapshot of her life, bringing up kids, starting a podcast and why veganism intersects so many of Monique’s values, from human rights to the future of life on earth.
Ana Bradley: Hello, and welcome to the Sentient Media Podcast where we meet the people who are changing the way we think about and interact with the world around us. And today, we have an award-winning podcast creator in our midst. It’s Monique Koch, host of the Brown Vegan Podcast. So Monique started her vegan journey in 2010 as a way to protest animal and human exploitation, preserve the planet and improve her health. So a whole bunch of different reasons. And I’ve heard her say her purpose in life is to help people learn about the benefits of vegan life and to give them recipes and tips and encouragement to start their own journeys. And for those of you who don’t know her work, or haven’t listened to her podcast, obviously, I’ll share this in the show notes. But you only need to listen to probably half an episode or just a few minutes, and you’ll see how Monique just emanates such a wonderful, non-judgmental support and just comes across as such a kind and inspirational person. It is such a pleasure to have you here today. Thank you so much for joining us.
Monique Koch: Thank you so much for having me.
Ana: I’ve looked a lot at your work and all of the things that you have been doing. There’s a lot that you’ve been doing over the last, you know, over 12 years now, right? But you’re an advocate for this idea of progression over perfection. And I was wondering if you could delve into what you mean by that and why that approach is so important to you.
Monique: Yes, because I think a lot of times people get, they feel like they get boxed into like a label. And they feel like, okay, it’s all or nothing. If they don’t call themselves a vegan, then they can’t do anything related to the lifestyle. I get that so much. Over the years, I’ve gotten that so much from people that are like, well, I don’t know if I want to do it. But you know, I’ll try this. But I don’t know if I want to be a vegan. But my thing is, you haven’t even given yourself the grace to even try anything. So if you just give people the opportunity, I feel like, to just say I’m going to try some things, I feel like eventually they’ll decide that this is something for them once they get their their feet wet and see how this looks, you know, and I feel like a lot of times people don’t even give themselves that chance. And so that’s why I always push, that’s like my philosophy, I guess, progression over perfection, because this really to me is not a perfect lifestyle. I mean, it’s a theory, right? We try to do what we can, as best we can, every single day, but it doesn’t always come out perfect. And it honestly takes a long time to unlearn a lot of the ways that we’ve done things our whole lives, a lot of us don’t decide to do this until we’re 30, 40, 50 years old. That’s a lot of unlearning that we have to do. So just giving people the opportunity to learn and kind of feel forward I think is important. Like just do what you have to do and what you can right now and just build on that momentum. Don’t feel like you have to do everything overnight. So that’s why I like to push that.
Ana: I think you’re absolutely right. And I think it ties in really well to like the reducetarian approach this idea that like, you know, we don’t all have to be vegan, we don’t have to be like this perfect picture of veganism. There’s a yeah, just changing one meal or changing one ingredient that you’ve been using, or changing your attitude towards something that you’re learning about. Like one of the things that I love about you and your mission is you embody an intersection of different beliefs. So you’re talking about the environment, about your health, about human and animal rights. Could you please explain a little bit about those areas that you that you touch on and why they intersect for you in particular?
Monique: Yeah, well, you know, initially when I decided to become a vegan, first of all, I never thought I would be one. I just never thought that and that’s why I always give people permission to at least try. You just never know where it’s going to end up being.
Ana: Why did you think you would never be vegan?
Monique: Because when I tried it before, for like, two weeks, I was like, What am I going to eat? You know, I was literally hungry. I had been a vegetarian prior for two years. And you know, before I was a vegetarian, I tried to be a vegan for two weeks. And I felt like I was traumatized, I read a book and to me every you know, everything was to me toxic, everything was scary. And I was like, What am I going to do and I literally survived off of apples and sunflower seeds for like two weeks because I was just like, I have no idea how to put meals together. I don’t know how to make this sustainable. I don’t know if this is a lifestyle. It’s one thing to kind of do like a week but to make it a lifestyle was a whole other situation. So I just never thought I would be one and it wasn’t until I read a book called “Sistah Vegan” in 2010. At that time, I read a book about veganism from Black people like I had never even thought about Black people being vegan. That’s another reason why I didn’t think that this was something that I would be able to do, because I was just like, do Black people even go vegan? Like, what does that even look like, you know? And so seeing that representation really made a huge difference for me, seeing other people joining, because it was basically a book with a collection of stories from Black American women being vegan, and I was just like, wow, this is so cool. And then at that point, I decided that it was something for me. But up until that moment, I really didn’t think that this would be a lifestyle for me, because what would I eat? You know, how can I enjoy? I love to eat, I enjoy eating with other people and like, how is that going to work? So I just didn’t see myself in it. And so that representation was there, which is actually why I started my own brand because I wanted to be able to show, okay, we can do this and you don’t lose who you are. Because I know a lot of times that’s a, that’s a barrier for people to, they’re like, I’m gonna lose who I am like, it’s not going to be fun. So yeah, that’s why I didn’t think, if I remember your initial question.
Ana: Those two weeks that you were vegan, like, what prompted you to kind of, to go on that journey initially?
Monique: Yeah, so I read, do you remember “Skinny Bitch”? Okay. Yeah, so I read, it was what 2008 I read Skinny Bitch. And at that time, I did not realize that it was a book about veganism. I thought it was a diet book. And I saw like, I think it was Victoria Beckham. And like a paparazzi picture. She had it. And I was like, what is that? That sounds interesting. And I went to, went to the bookstore, picked it up, and I went home, I’m like, Oh, I’m just read this book, lose a little bit of weight. And I was traumatized at the end of that. I was like, What? Now, granted, I already knew what a vegan was because I actually grew up near PETA. So I knew what vegans were. But I just never saw it for myself.
Ana: Okay, so yeah, my original question was about how environmental and human and animal and your own health, how all of these aspects come together for you and why it’s important to you to even talk about those intersections and overlapping areas.
Monique: Yeah, because I think that that’s what it looks like, for most of us. Anyway, when we start this, we, we may start for one reason. And then we learn about other parts of this lifestyle, and then we just kind of build on that. So for me, it was initially about animal cruelty and factory farming, I just really was just like, it was, in a way, like a silent protest against that, because I just didn’t realise how, how brutal the industry was, as far as like, meat production animal byproducts I didn’t know. It’s like, kind of like what you don’t know, you don’t know, you know? And then it’s kind of like one of those things where you realize why we’d never see factory farms, like, you know, how you can just go to pick apples and berries. And it’s like, out and open? Well, there’s definitely a reason why we don’t see the animals being brutalized because we would never participate in it if we knew. So it’s kind of like one of those things. And then as I continue with my journey, I started thinking about the environmental things, because at the time, you know, when I decided to become vegan, I remember like, what they were so much emphasis about gas guzzling vehicles, like big trucks and things like that, the big Hummer back in the day that people used to have, and I was just like, No, there’s actually a lot more that we can be doing, that is actually more beneficial than just worrying about our cars, you know. We can really be mindful about the food that we eat. And then of course, I started to learn more about the human implications of not being vegan, you know, we can probably literally feed the world if we did not raise cattle, you know, animals for food, because we would have those resources for other people. And also people who work in these industries, you know, and how they’re treated, they’re treated, awful, you know. So that was a way. And then of course, the health as I got older, I decided to become a vegan was about like, I was like, 28. And I didn’t really care about the health as much. But now that I’m older, I think I need to be more mindful about making sure that I eat. So I think it’s just a natural evolution. When you decide to become a vegan, especially when you’ve been one for a while, you start to kind of build on everything that you’re learning. So that’s how it looks for me. I don’t know if that’s answering your question. But yeah.
Ana: It’s like, kind of when you take the blinkers off, it’s suddenly like, oh, actually, industrial animal agriculture underpins so much wrong in this world, like, humans, animals, the environment, like you say. I’m interested in what sparked your understanding of the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, because you’re talking quite a while ago, you made that, you know, you were aware of that. And I feel like it only seems to be recent in the last maybe couple of years, and especially since well, yeah, like, I feel like it hasn’t hit media, like strong media narratives, until, like, you know, like literally just in these last couple of years. I feel like people are more aware of that connection in the mainstream. You’re like an early adopter of the of the idea.
Monique: I think it was just probably just being a part of the community, you know, just reading blogs and books and watching documentaries. It actually makes sense what you’re saying it’s sometimes you know, when you’re immersed in something, you don’t really think about it. But yeah, you’re right, because I think, because people during lock down, we weren’t using the roads, and we weren’t messing up the planet as much because we couldn’t. But people were able to see wow, my decisions do affect how other people are, you know, how does affect other people and the planet? So wow, I guess just I didn’t even I never even thought about it. But I’m thinking because of just reading books and just being a part of the community, just coming across different articles and things like that. What about for you like, because you did you always feel like it has you said, you feel like in recent years, but what has your experience been like with that?
Ana: Well for me, personally, I wanted to go vegan or vegetarian when I was much younger, like when I was a little kid, because of the animal question. So all I thought about was, you know, like, you were talking about, you know, there’s factory farms and animal rights, and how can we be doing this. So as a kid, if you, you know, if you’re able to, and if your parents, you know, your carers support you then, you know, I was lucky that I was in that situation. And it stayed with me, obviously, ever since. But I feel like so I joined Sentient Media in January 2020, as the Executive Director, so I was I was an advisor before, but I took that role in January 2020. And looking at the media, like our mission is to increase the media output to change the narratives and start having more conversations about, you know, the environmental impact of industrial, animal agriculture, and all of these other intersections and overlapping areas that you know, that you embody, and that some, you know, other people that we’ve had on the podcast do as well. But I feel that over these last couple of years, the media output has increased in the sense of people are actually making that connection with the environment and animals. And, again, it’s that like, question of that bubble that you’re in, right? So it’s like, is this actually happening? Or is it just that I’m now like, really deep in this space than every article that comes out, I’m like, Oh, my gosh, there’s another one. You know, so I, anecdotally speaking, of course, but yeah, hopefully at Sentient Media, we’re gonna be doing more kind of in depth, more rigorous data-led research into that, and to see if there actually has been an uptick in our kind of coverage and mainstream media output content. I think you were definitely ahead of the curve. So that’s, that’s really cool. So it sounds like you’ve kind of always been, you know, curious and interested and would it be fair to say you haven’t kind of shut your eyes or kind of pushed away, you know, new bits of information are new ideas and ways to live that are more kind of environmentally and human and animal friendly? Do you feel like you’re, like an open person to that kind of thing?
Monique: I think so. Yeah, I think so.
Ana: As far as I understand it, you didn’t have a direct calling as a child or as a young person, you weren’t, like, you know, I want to be, you know, whatever it is. Like, yeah, correct me if I’m wrong, like, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do professionally? And like, what was it that sparked you to go down this road?
Monique: No, you know, it’s growing up. I always wanted to be, I wanted to work in forensics. I always wanted to do that. But then it’s, then I started getting into the sciences more. And I was like, I don’t really know, I’m not that strong in math. I don’t know. But I was always intrigued by that. And then, as far as the calling into the veganism, I didn’t really think that this will be a career for me until I started to blog about it. Because I just said, Oh, my gosh, I have to teach people how to do this. I have to show people what this looks like, because I was having so much fun as I was learning. And I was just like documenting on my website, like, okay, we’re eating this as a family today. Okay, no one like this. We’re not doing that for a little while, you know, it was so fun learning it. And then one day, I went out to lunch with my cousin. And she was like, You need to get on YouTube. So you can really show people and I was like, I don’t know about that. I don’t know if I want to do that. And so that’s how things changed. For me. I just became like, so passionate about it. And it was just so fun. I was just having a lot of fun. And I was like, wow, I can make money and just talk and share. This is amazing. So that’s how it looked for me. For me, I didn’t really think that this would be like a career initially.
Ana: That’s really interesting. And I think that that’s really nice. I think when people are creative or people are, you know, really passionate about something and you just allow it to happen that can really produce something really high quality and really, actually beneficial that people actually want, right? I think that’s what you’ve managed to create. And something that we’ve touched on that like this idea of like media narratives and stories in the press, I think you have been so successful in getting your image, your, your brand, your identity and your voice out there. And it’s something of course, we’re obsessed with Sentient Media. But you’ve been I’ve got the in the New York Times, your appearance on Good Morning, Washington, which was so wonderful to see. I was just curious, looking at this stuff that’s out there about you, like, do these things just kind of land in your lap? Or was it like a lot of work to get these interviews and to get that press coverage.
Monique: It definitely just landed in my lap. It’s one of those things. So I don’t know if you know, this, but I was very, very consistent for a long time. And then I took like a, I would say, like a three year break. And I’m actually just coming back, I feel like this year, like, I’ve been very, like consistent being back this year. And at that time, when I was getting all of those opportunities, I didn’t even really realize that it was happening, so it definitely just fell in my lap. I think my timing was really good, too. Like I was out when a lot of people weren’t necessarily as vocal, you know, it was before Instagram became what it is, is before YouTube became what it is now. So I think that there was just a timing thing. A lot of it was and sometimes we’ll be like, Oh, you’re like one of the OGs, you’ve been doing this for so long kind of thing. And that’s true. So I think it was just like, I didn’t even I don’t even think like, completely grasp the opportunities that was given. Because it was just, it just happened. And I’m like, how do they find me kind of thing? You know, so I don’t feel like I necessarily, worked hard for it. And maybe I didn’t just realize it. But I honestly think it was a timing thing. It was really timing. Yeah.
Ana: I mean, that’s really lucky. But you were definitely putting the work in because you were creating, you know, the content, you’re creating the community, and you were, you know, putting stuff out there. So I feel like, you know, you probably did more work than you’re giving yourself credit for.
Monique: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Yeah.
Ana: But thinking about this, you know, if you were like, you know, the OG of like, you know, vegan, you know, recipes and going out there and doing this kind of thing, like, have you noticed, over that time, a difference in the representation of vegans or the representation of veganism in the media?
Monique: Absolutely. Oh, my goodness, like, these days, I can say, Oh, I’m a vegan and no one like questions what that is. Because, of course, you know, you’ve been doing this for a long time. There was a time where, you know, you would not go in a restaurant and say you’re vegan, you go in and say, Please, no eggs. No, cheese, you have to be very specific, because people didn’t know what that meant. And now I feel like it’s Oh, my gosh, everybody, in some way knows someone in some way, who has at least tried to do this, you know, for themselves. And so it’s absolutely different. So different. And it’s a good thing. It’s an amazing thing, because people know that there’s a different way of life if they want it. So it’s definitely more mainstream. I think, you know, it’s not, I don’t know, if I don’t even know what the numbers look like, you may have more information on that. But, I mean, this was forever ago, when I checked, it was only like, what two or 3% of Americans identify as vegan? Is it still that same? Or is it higher? Now?
Ana: As far as I know, it’s pretty static. Yeah. Yes, definitely a shift and a good way. Yeah, I feel like the people who like identify as vegan is different from the numbers of people who are reducing, and who were actively having, you know, the vegan alternatives that are available now everywhere. So whilst the percentage might not fully change, or, you know, change as much as we want, I think that actually the Yeah, I think we’d need to look at the data. But I, my feeling is that more people is particularly here in the UK, more people are trying, you know, the vegan options, there definitely been an uptick in that, I mean, in the supermarket, like over COVID, the supermarkets just completely changed now, like, you know, what used to be a tiny little section is now you know, an entire aisle in a supermarket. So and that’s been across several different, you know, big chains here. So there must have been an uptick in at least people trying stuff.
Monique: Absolutely. Oh, that’s a very good point. Because I think that most people just don’t identify as vegan like you said that 3 or 2%, but they are definitely trying the alternatives, especially when it comes to like the plant-based milks and like the margarine and things like that. So I can even when I’m in the store, I can see in people’s carts, they may have some ground beef in their cart, but they also will have some Gardein. And there, they’ll have some milk. So they’re trying different things, which is amazing. And that’s my approach to like, every time I do something, I’m thinking to myself, How can I make this as easy as possible for people so they don’t question it. Every piece of content I create, I think of that, how can I? What can I do to tell them where to find it? How to make it as accessible as possible, as practical as possible. It doesn’t feel like they’re changing everything, but at least they’re willing to try something. And so that’s how I approach everything that I do. So, yeah, you’re absolutely right. They’re not necessarily vegan. They’re trying some of the products which is amazing.
Ana: Exactly. Yeah, we just had a vegan barbecue this weekend. Yeah, it’s just been warm here in the UK for the first time. We had a vegan barbecue with a couple of meat-eaters there. And I just I was like, let’s just make it fun. So I just bought like all of the different types of burgers you know, all the different vegan burgers and just cooked them all up. And then we did like a, you know, a ranking challenge and the winner was beyond burger for these people. Have you tried beyond burger before?
Monique: I have actually just had Beyond from a restaurant. Because I hadn’t had it in a while, my go-to lately has been like the Gardein. I don’t know what it is, a Gardein burger?
Ana: I don’t know. I didn’t. I was gonna ask what is Gardein? I was like, Oh, is it something in the US?
Monique: Yeah, it must not have been in the UK. But Gardein is a really popular one in America and their ultimate burger. I like that one. But I actually had it in a restaurant. The Beyond I’ve had Beyond before. But that was the first time I had it in a while. And it was really good. I feel like restaurants are getting better with training people how to cook it. Because the very first time I had it, it was so dried out. And I was like, I feel like they’re in there treating this like beef, why this isn’t working. So when I had it, it was like I was able to, they didn’t have vegan cheese, which was disappointing, but I’ll put some avocado on there. It was really good. So yeah, I love it. I love it. It’s, I like to try all the new stuff.
Ana: Yeah, I like it too. But there’s like there’s almost too much now. It’s like it used to be just really easy to just kind of, you know, oh, you’re not eating junk food, because there isn’t anything you can eat. And now it’s everywhere. It’s like, oh, yeah, I should buy the vegan thing to support, you know, them stocking this. And then you’re like, oh my gosh, I can’t eat another vegan junk food meal.
Monique: I know. So like, I feel like I’m in that phase, well, coming out of that phase. Because over COVID I’ve gained so much weight, just eating all of the things. And now I’m like, Okay, I’m just trying to get more active, and I need to be eating more fresh foods and things like that. And so that’s what my focus has been lately. Well, you’re absolutely right. It’s so easy to just get caught up in all of the fun junk food and just stay there.
Ana: Yeah, right. I mean, if we’re on the junk food conversation, like how do you, I mean, maybe this is something that you’ve been learning recently or relearning? Like, how do you balance the desire for junk food, but also the desire to eat healthy vegan food?
Monique: Yeah, I’m just like, yeah, like you just said, I’m getting back into that after what the last couple of years of especially when we’re like really locked down. I just ate like, because it was just something fun to do watch movies eat food. I don’t know. But, um, I think that there, I definitely have always been the type of person that think there’s a place for that. Some of the fun junk foods because I think a lot of times people, the one of the reasons they’re not interested in being vegan is because they assume that all we have is salads and smoothies. And we know that that is far from the truth of anything, I eat way more variety than I did when I was eating a standard American diet. And so I don’t know, like the balance of the way that I would recommend someone do it is planning out your meals is really helpful. And like batch cooking, you don’t have to necessarily like meal prep, but like batch cooking, because I think a lot of times at least for me, I fall into a lot of the vegan junk food type of options when I don’t have a plan. And I just kind of go on the store and just grab something and make it really quick. And just kind of cooking your food ahead of time. Like I love I make this chickpea stew that I love so much. And it’s so fast, and it’s easy, and it’s inexpensive, and it’s delicious. And there’s so many different ways that you can kind of put that together with spices and vegetables and it’s perfect. Like I can eat that for lunch like every day. So just having a plan is so so key. I believe if you want to have more, making sure that you’re eating, eating well is you have to have a plan. It’s not like when you eat a standard American diet and you’re eating out of convenience, you can’t do that as a vegan. Um, you definitely have to have some it doesn’t have a perfect plan but it has to be some idea of what you’re going to eat in order to make sure that you’re getting everything that you need.
Ana: Well, right and on the standard American diet as well, you’re not getting everything you need. You know you’re deficient in fiber like all of these things. I mean, do you find that your life is now, when it comes to cooking and things, do you find that your life is simpler? Or do you actually think it’s more complicated now that you actually because you’re not just vegan, because you could just be a convenience food vegan nowadays, like you could do that, you know, in America and in the UK. But do you think that now you’re thinking about what you’re eating you thinking about, you know, nutrients, etc? Do you think it’s more complicated?
Monique: Not really, I think, because fortunately, I have the advantage of time. You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time. So not really, I think these days, the thing that I’m focusing on, is, how can I make it more interesting is what I’ve been thinking about. Because it’s been so long, and you kind of have like, you know how it is you just have your go tos, and it just makes life easy. And so because I’m back on YouTube, and I’m just posting more on there, and I’m trying to work on content for Instagram, I have been thinking more about like, okay, what are some things that can be veganized? What are some things that will really help people? And so I have been trying to make things a little more fun and things like that. But overall, like, in my day to day life, no.
Ana: Yeah, right. I mean, what about your kids? You have three kids, right? And from what I understand you were not vegan when you had them, and then you transitioned? So yeah. Could you could explain a little bit about you know, what happened and how you know how your kids eat?
Monique: Yeah, so my oldest son was eight years old. So you know, that was interesting. I was interested in, because he had already, was used to McDonald’s and we didn’t really eat McDonald’s, but, you know, fast food and just things like that, you know, Chick-fil-A and everything. I don’t know, you guys don’t have Chick-fil-A in the UK?
Ana: I mean, I don’t know.
Monique: So you know. So he was used to those type of places. And so my youngest son was about four. So he was actually the easiest one, because, you know, he was four, they had vegan versions of chicken nuggets and corndogs. And that type of fun stuff. So he was still able to eat that. They love lasagna. So I just veganize that and spaghetti. Anything they wanted, it was very important to me to figure out a vegan version that they approved of. And then once I figured that out, and I think that was probably the hardest part, because you know, it’s like a process you go through, everything is not going to taste exactly the same, because if it did, everybody would already be doing it, right. So just it’s like this trial and error thing. And so just testing out things and figuring out what they wanted to eat. That was a process. My oldest son, he kind of goes back and forth. He’ll be like, vegan for like six months. And then he’ll start eating something like cheese burgers and stuff, and then he’ll be vegan again. So for me when my kids were younger, to me, it was all about setting the foundation for them, like letting them know that this was an option. That’s what it looked like for that. So they would, when they were with me, they ate vegan, but if they went to like my mom’s or somewhere else, I didn’t give them a hard time about that. Because I was thinking, I used to think so myself. Adults can’t even make these decisions. Why would I give kids that type of pressure? It’s not right. It’s not fair. So they knew what to eat. But if it wasn’t available, I didn’t want them to not have anything to eat. I just to me, it’s so silly. I wasn’t going to do that. And also, I didn’t want them to have like a hangups about food too, like I didn’t want them to have because that’s another thing that I feel like there’s not enough conversation about it’s kinda like, well, you should just starve. There’s nothing for you just like that’s not that’s not realistic in the long run, you know, so, for me, they were vegan at home, but when they went elsewhere, they weren’t. So that’s how it looked when they were young. And like I said, my younger, my younger two kids, they are very vegan friendly, of course, because that’s how they grew up. And my oldest he’ll go back and forth. He’s 20. So he’ll go back and forth.
Ana: Yeah, I mean, that’s really good. And I think that’s really important, what you said about having hang ups about it. So I think like, that is so dangerous, if you you know, with friends or family or with your children or whatever, like if you’re making people anxious about food, like that’s, yeah, and I think that’s a tricky line for a lot of people to walk. Like, I know, when I was a kid, and I was like, very adamant about everybody being you know, back then, I was adamant about everybody being vegetarian because I wasn’t really like, I wasn’t aware of the vegan stuff. So I was like, I would shout at my mum and dad, like, you know, every time they had, you know, chicken or duck or whatever, it was a bit like how dare you like that? You know, it didn’t work.
Monique: But you know what, I think that’s normal too, because I used to kind of feel like that with my parents too. But then I noticed that when I calmed down, and I was like coming from a place of love, when I would go to their house, they would have vegan options in the fridge like, they would try different things and then I like they this is I don’t know, if you guys have in the UK but filled roles, my parents love their sausage. So anytime I go to anytime I visit, they want me to bring that to them. So they would make that. So they’re eating that instead of pork in the morning. And it’s just like that type of coming from that place of love and understanding and education. It’s a game changer. You know how many people no one’s listening to that we all shut down. Not listening to that.
Ana: I mean, especially, I think when it comes to food, like, I mean, when it comes to politics and other things as well. But when it comes to food, like that just seems like such a, like integral part of like, I mean, it’s your identity. It’s who you are, like, you know, if your grandma made you this pie or whatever, that’s how you identify, and that’s what you want to continue to eat. And that’s what you want to pass down. You know, it’s part of, yeah, it’s part of everything. It’s your you know, it’s your lifeline.
Monique: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah.
Ana: I mean, we’ve touched on this, and you touched on this earlier. But thinking of this idea of identity, I’ve heard you say that you started your podcast to have candid conversations with other vegans, but especially with other Black vegans to inspire veganism in the Black community and to show that there are Black vegans, like you said. I mean, could you tell me about how you’ve seen veganism in the Black community change over the last, you know, 12 or so or more years?
Monique: Oh, wow, there’s been a huge shift in a great way. And I think a lot of it has to do with social media. You know, I think how even Instagram was not around when I started. Twitter was not.. I think Twitter was probably, but I wasn’t sharing anything on Facebook, Facebook was around, but it wasn’t like the way it looks now where you can kind of have a business on Facebook, it was just like friends and family truly, back then. Wow. So the thing about it is now that of course, now, it’s like one of those things. In retrospect, there were probably a lot of Black vegans back then. But because of the way things were, I just didn’t see them. And I just happened to be putting myself out there. So that’s why I would probably connect with them more so than anyone else, because people would read my blog, and then they would email me and things like that. But the shift is just like been incredible. Because there’s so and I talk to people all the time for my podcast. And there’s so so many Black vegans now, which is amazing, because like I said, that was helped me transition. And that was why I started my podcast, it was so important to have these open conversations with other Black vegans, because I wanted to be able to show people that this is not only something you can do, but you can do it long term, if that’s your desire. Because sometimes we have to see ourselves in things a lot of times we have to see ourselves in and things in order for it to resonate. So yeah, definitely a shift in a great way. But I also have to say that I feel like I don’t know if it’s still like this because I try to avoid this type of dialogue online. But I noticed that there was a time where it would be like, it’s like a hierarchy of veganism. I don’t know, do you see it? I know that you’re probably see a lot more than I do. But, you know, they would chat people would try to divide vegans like junk food vegan, healthy vegan, and you’re not vegan enough. And you did it. It was there was a time where I felt like it was really ugly in the community. I hopefully it’s better. Now. Like I said, I tried to avoid that type of thing. So I don’t know if that’s still an issue. But I do remember that. I remember there was a time do you remember some of this?
Ana: Yeah. And I do think it still goes on? Yeah, like I think that there are some, I do think it must be a minority of people who hold on to certain beliefs and certain ways of doing things and that they, you know, that’s how they view veganism and if you don’t follow that exact structure, and it’s not just what you eat, you know, it’s how you behave. It’s if you get a you know, if you get a puppy or if you don’t adopt, or if you ride horses, like you’re at all of these things that kind of encompass into veganism at different degrees. Yeah, and I’m with you on the kind of look, this isn’t really a useful conversation. I feel like the much more important conversation is the one you know, that you’ve been touching on that you touch on with a lot of your guests on your podcast, this idea of like, you know, what are we doing? Like, what, what is this interesting meal, like, how are we reducing? How are we changing? How are we becoming more aware of things versus you know, being vegan or vegan enough? Yeah, it’s yeah, it’s a it’s an it’s an uncomfortable space.
Monique: Yeah, it’s not productive at all, in my opinion. And I makes me a little sad when I when people who aren’t vegan come across with that type of content opposed to coming across someone maybe like me, because I’m like, man, if that’s their first stop, then they may not actually do it or they’re going to be so hard on themselves. Because there was a time for me. It’s very easier to go down a rabbit hole with this very much so and you just never feel like you’re doing enough. And it’s not good enough. So why even try. So it just makes me conscious about making sure that people who come to me, it will always be some grace there for them like this is, this is what you can do. But if it doesn’t look exactly like this, these are some baby steps that you can take, you know, to get to that point.
Ana: Yeah, and you do an amazing job at that. And it comes across, like, immediately interacting with your stuff on YouTube or listening to your podcasts like that approach. It’s so it’s so I mean, I want to say refreshing, like, you know, there are other people who have this approach, of course, but like, I feel that the way that you do things is, is really refreshing. And it’s really, it’s like, comforting, you know, it’s like, this is a nice space where like, you feel welcome. And where, you know, you want to be like this is the kind of community that you want to be a part of, I mean, thinking about communities and building communities and looking for, you know, those kinds of warning signs or those red flags about certain communities that are out there. Like, do you have any advice for people who want to join, you know, a safe and supportive space? Like, how would you kind of establish which community you would want to join or be a part of?
Monique: And you’re just you’re talking specifically about online, right?
Ana: Yeah, yeah. But if you want to say in person as well, but yeah.
Monique: Yeah, cuz I think I know, in my early days, it was very beneficial for me to meet other vegans in person. And so I used to use sites like meetup, and we would literally be a bunch of strangers, we’ll go to a restaurant. And we would share us, you know, a same interest, usually it was vegetarian or vegan. And we would just share a meal together, and we would talk and I’m telling you, no one knew each other. And it would be so fun. So that was really helpful for me. And I know that, in my opinion, I haven’t been on there in a while. But I know there was a time that I felt like Facebook groups weren’t necessarily the nicest I hopefully, things are better. Now. I don’t know, I have a feeling they’re not. But I will say that I don’t necessarily recommend those groups, but maybe finding a page pages that you enjoy on Instagram and on YouTube, subscribing to those pages, and like interacting in the comments with those people like reading what they’re saying and connecting with the person who has that page. That’s the only thing I can think of I’m sure there’s other things. Do you have any suggestions with that?
Ana: No, that’s why I’m asking you. I also kind of agree with you about the Facebook thing, like I, personally, you know, I’ve been chucked out of Facebook groups for you know, not being vegan enough or whatever, in the past. And, you know, I find it. Yeah, I find it a complex space that perhaps it’s not the best forum, right. It’s not the best forum for these kinds of discussions. I mean, this is one of the reasons we built the Writers’ Collective, which you kindly, you know, came on and, and shared your tips on building a successful podcast, but, you know, building a space that’s outside of those social media environments, where it does kind allow space for more complicated and complex conversations. I feel that looking for community, you know, that’s on Mighty Networks that we host the Writers’ Collective, and that might be a fun space to for, for communities to join. But I remember meetup.com I haven’t thought about that for years.
Monique: I know I haven’t done anything on there in a long time. But that was so helpful in those early days, because I knew no one. And I, I just love that so much. I’m sure they’re still as good as they were back then. Another thing too, is people always tell me that they feel like my podcast is a community. And I love that because I really don’t. It’s funny because I guess because I’m in it. I’m like, how was it a community there’s not any like back and forth. I feel like enough. But people say they do feel connected because I introduced them to some new people that they probably would have never known but they would have never known. So it always makes me wonder if I should try to do like events and things like that for listeners and previous guests and we kind of like connect in that way. And that would be a great way to like do things in person. I would love that. I just really have no idea how to how to do it, but I think that would be a lot of fun.
Ana: Yeah, I think you should absolutely do that. I know. You know that Our Hen House Podcast they have their flock you know so for those, you know, very dedicated members of the community. I think it’s monthly you know, sessions with the hosts and you know, sometimes they’ll bring a guest in as well and it’s just the community gets a chance to kind of chat and and meet each other but I think yeah, you should absolutely do that. That would be awesome to see and let me know when you do because I’d love to have a look.
Monique: Love it but you know I want to do an in-person like have a, we have a meal and we have music and we just ah I don’t know, that’s probably some years off, but that would be great. I love that too, the flock. I love how they call it the flock.
Ana: Exactly. Um, but you know, to your point that you didn’t feel like you had a community like you absolutely did. I mean, that’s why I was like you, because you’re like the creator of this safe space, by your persona. And by the, you know, by the guests that you have on and by, yeah, I feel that you’ve created a really wonderful space for people for everyone. You know, like, long, you know, OG vegans, like you, but also, you know, for the new. I mean, speaking of this, and all the work that you’ve put in, and obviously, you’ve got kids, as well, like, you have such a busy, busy life. And I was wondering if over the years, you’ve established any routines or any practices that help you, you know, recuperate or, you know, give you the energy that you need to be able to produce all of this amazing stuff.
Monique: Oh, wow. Yeah, I think that they have built, starting to build this team that I’m working on has been a game changer. I was literally doing all of this stuff myself, like an idiot. Like, what was I thinking. I really was. It wasn’t even because I was afraid to pass things on to other people. Because I know sometimes people have that struggle. That wasn’t it, I just had no idea where to look for help, you know. And so the beauty is, this podcast has actually helped me connect with so many other vegan business owners, and then they’ll suggest things to me, or they’ll offer me their own team and their own resources. And it has helped tremendously having that type of help. So having the team this year, has been incredible as far as like buying some of my time back. And I have also been very intentional lately about taking days off and to do nothing but like watch true crime, and lay in my bed. And that is it. I’ve been very, very intentional about that. I also love I love going on walks. I love that so much. It feels so amazing. Even if it’s 15 minutes it just feel it just feels like resets my day. What else? I love making juice that’s like so therapeutic and fun to me. I don’t know why I got this. Okay, so I got this Nama J2 juicer. I love that thing. It’s a cold pressed juicer, and I just and I always want to share with people like, Oh, I got some juice for you, you know, you should come home and get some juice, I’m gonna bring it to you know, it’s, that’s been like really fun. For me. I just started doing that, like a month and a half ago. And it’s amazing. So those are like the little things that I’ve done. I mean, I know it’s not like huge, but for me it is because I used to just be so in my mind, and I was never able to relax. And now I just love having, you know, and reinvesting back into the business because I think a lot of my issues before it was that I would burn out like so easily because I was literally blogging, podcasts, social media, YouTube, like, Why was I trying to do all of that as one person and then thought that I would be able to sustain that I just was like, what were you thinking? So these days, just having that support has been incredible for me, so that I can actually do nothing if I didn’t want to. I love it. I mean, I have to do you know what I mean? I’m like the face of my brand. So I have to do stuff, but you know, like the tedious things behind the scenes that someone else can do better and faster. Why not let them do that?
Ana: Yeah, right. Like getting experts in those you know, like in the production and in all those other things that can take you know, somebody like you or I a long time, whereas they’re like No, no, you know, here are all the quick shortcuts and blah blah blah.
Monique: Exactly, yeah.
Ana: And I guess on that note, like the self, you know, the kind of how you recuperate? Do you have like a favorite food? Well apart from the juices, do you do you have like a favorite food or a favorite meal that you go to?
Monique: Yeah, I love rice. I don’t know why it doesn’t matter how it is, I like dirty rice, fried rice, plain rice, Jasmine rice. I love rice. I love jasmine rice. So yeah rice with everything if I can. What else. Maybe because it’s warmer right now but I’ve just been loving salads lately with just like black beans and like spicy Bitchin sauce, Chipotle Bitchin sauce. A lots of lettuce. like I love it because I can coat it with all of my dressing. I love lots of lettuce in there. Some tomato, cucumber, some walnuts. I’ve been doing a little bit like this warm and nuts, roasted walnuts and cranberry thing that I’ve been eating with in my salad. I’ve just been loving that. I don’t know, I think it’s just the time of year. And I’m like I said, I’m really trying to get better at like dropping some of this weight. Because that’s another thing people think that we’re skinny. And we’re like, we can be but we can also not be and, and that’s okay, too.
Ana: Yeah, right. Like vegans come in all shapes and sizes and different ways of eating and different approaches. Yeah, absolutely. And I guess like, it would be good to hear what you’re working on, like what’s coming up this year for you? If you’re just kind of getting back into it? Like, have you got any big plans? What should we watch out for?
Monique: Yeah, so fortunately, the podcasts all my episodes are ready for the rest of the year. Like I know, that’s been a game changer, because so now I’m working on getting back on YouTube. And at this while because I feel like I don’t know YouTube anymore. It’s so different from when I used to be consistent on there. So I wanted to be able to so the podcast was important for me to get as much of that done as I could, so that I can focus on at least the interview part, I wanted to get all of that out the way so that I can focus on YouTube. And so that’s the goal is just getting consistent on there. And I was working on like my pillars of content the other day, where I just want to do more, like what we ate today, kind of videos, and just, of course, easy, simple recipes. And also, I wanted to sit down and do like tip videos to to show people like okay, this is how you can put a meal together, you know, inspire people in that way. And yeah, so that’s what I’m looking forward to also finally working on a podcast course, like the A through Z of what I do to produce my show and how to help other people start there. So those are the projects that I’m working on right now getting consistent on YouTube again, and the podcast course. So yeah, those are the things I’m working on.
Ana: That’s so cool. That’s very exciting to hear. And as soon as that course is available, I know that everybody who attended, the session you did in our Writers’ Collective will be excited. And those who watched it afterwards. Awesome. Is that something you’re planning to get out this year or next?
Monique: Yes. So we started working on it last week. And that’s the beauty of having like a team now like because I can just actually focus on the work and not worry about the tech and all the other moving parts that actually slows me down. Because once I get my mind, into all of those things, I don’t know how I’m going to do all this, so basically I’ve been working on an outline. I started doing that last week, and then I’m going to start recording and then my assistants going to help me with like the slides and everything like that for each of the sessions are the segments, so that’ll be good.
Ana: Amazing. Oh, I can’t wait to see that. Take some tips.
Monique: You’re amazing, though. This is so fun. I love it.
Ana: Yeah, it was really fun to be able to speak to you about everything that you’ve been doing. And I wonder, is there anyone out there who you follow who you would recommend people engage with and check out their work?
Monique: Oh, that’s a good one. Wow. Destiny. I love her. She is amazing. Like she not only has all this incredible, like affordable vegan grocery hauls that she does and cooking. But she also has a tiny house, which I think that is incredible. So shout out to destiny. For people who don’t know, eat yo destiny, or lez go tiny. That’s our Instagram, but for the Instagram pages. I like Todd Anderson, he’s Turnip Vegan on Instagram. He’s a lot of fun. I love to see Black men who are vegans. I interviewed him on my podcast like two weeks ago. That’ll be out later this year. But he was just so cool. And so down to earth, and I just love that about him. Gosh, so many people. Oh my gosh. Plant-Based Tamika. She’s out of Chicago. She goes to all of the restaurants in Chicago, vegan ones and not and just like shows people how to eat vegan at these restaurants. And her videos are like so beautiful and everything she eats I want to eat too, kind of thing so she’s fun. I love that. I just there’s so many people because the beauty is I meet so many people because of my podcast. I love it so much. Like I always make a joke that if I have to travel for work anywhere, I’ll always be able to have lunch with somebody in every state because of the show and I’m just so thankful for that.
Ana: And then the UK!
Monique: Yes. I love it.
Ana: We’re a tiny island. So you know, it doesn’t take long to get around. That’s really cool. And really nice to hear about those. Those people. I’ll make sure I get all of the links in the show notes as well. And of course yours and Destiny, you know, our Community Engagement Manager doing an amazing job in our Writers’ Collective. So yeah, I’m glad that you you brought her up. Her Tiny House is so cool, right? I couldn’t believe it because I’ve seen her pictures you know of it and obviously I’ve seen the pictures on my actually seeing the video that went out like I was like, Oh wow, you actually like pan up and you can you know, you’ve got like a whole
Monique: …there’s like a loft and then like, like a living room and all the storage space and like this is incredible.
Ana: Really cool. Really cool. Yeah, awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. Monique. It has been wonderful to get a little snapshot into what you do and why you do it.
Monique: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Ana is the Executive Director at Sentient Media. Her background is in content production and startup consultancy.