Jasmin Singer’s Mission to Liberate All Bodies
The activist, author, and host of the Our Hen House podcast lets us in on her tips for vegans struggling with body image and much more
You know when you meet someone and you can tell right away you’re going to be very close friends? Like they must be your long lost cousin or something? For me, that person was vegan rights activist and jane of many media trades Jasmin Singer.
I reached out to Jasmin when I was considering working in the animal rights movement. Honestly, I wasn’t sure she’d even respond — she was clearly very busy. Back then, Jasmin had already written a memoir called Always Too Much and Never Enough, which tackled both veganism and disordered eating in a way I’d never seen blended before. She was co-host and co-founder of the Our Hen House podcast, which is celebrating its 10th year this month, and has never missed a week. Oh, and she was also a senior editor for VegNews. But as it turned out, Jasmin is indeed both extremely busy and extremely generous with her time, a woman clearly interested in lifting up other women.
This is how I still know my bestie to be to this day — always juggling about three jobs with humor and deft skill. In addition to still co-hosting Our Hen House and being a senior editor at VegNews, she’s also now Director of Community & Editorial for Kinder Beauty (helmed by vegan activists and actors Evanna Lynch and Daniella Monet). Oh, and in less than the time it took me to finish my book proposal, she finished a second book, How to Be a Fabulous Vegan, which will hit shelves in 2020. That she’s currently working on her third book already, this time about the experience of losing a bunch of weight and gaining much of it back, is no surprise to me: she is tirelessly dedicated to liberating all bodies, including her own.
I actually don’t know how she does it. (Seriously, the only drug I know her to be on is caffeine.) Yet despite how busy she is, Jasmin is the kind of friend who reliably picks up the phone and will always, always have your back and front.
It was my pleasure to ask these 21 questions of one of my favorite people on earth.
1. Can you write a haiku version of your vegan origin story?
twenty-four years old:
animal ag runs on rape!
i stopped eating them
2. Why are you so passionate about writing about body image from a vegan perspective?
Positive body image and veganism go hand in hand because they are both about liberating ourselves from shitty mindsets that no longer serve us — whether that means supporting unnecessary cruelty to animals’ bodies or supporting unnecessary cruel thoughts about our own animal bodies.
3. Why do vegans need to talk about body image more?
We’re only as sick as our secrets, individually and collectively. Transparency is hugely important, not only to me, but also to social change. Finding our truth and telling our story is nothing short of a political act. Some people hide behind veganism as a way to restrict food and set up rules for themselves. If we are more open about our struggles and our paths to recovery, then the people still suffering will understand that they are not alone.
4. Yes! On that note, do you have any tips for talking back to my own self-critical body thoughts?
You have to train yourself to change the script. It feels unnatural at first, but you literally have to intercept your negative thoughts and say the positive flip side instead, even if you feel silly doing so. That’s how you train yourself to think differently. We can have control over our thoughts.
5. What about for responding to patterns of emotional eating?
This is very personal for each person so I don’t claim to have the answer for anyone else. But I will say that there are gifts and information in pausing. I also find it useful to ask myself whether whatever I’m about to consume — be it food or anything else — is moving me closer or further from my truth. If I pause long enough to understand that it’s depleting, I might not consume it. But sometimes I will anyway. The trick is to move on and not get stuck in a spiral of shame about it.
6. What was the hardest thing about losing a bunch of weight and then gaining back?
I was thin for 10 minutes and happened to get a book deal during that time, because I was talking about how when I lost weight, people started to treat me better — and that made me realize just how poorly we treat bigger people. So I told my story and people listened to me, most definitely because I had thin privilege.
And now that I’m chubby again (not because I’m lazy or self-loathing, but because I’m very hard-working and don’t care to devote my entire life to staying svelte when I have things to do), the hardest part is recognizing that I have lost my card to the cool kids’ club. The issue isn’t me though. I’m actually happier than I’ve ever been, and I feel cute and sexy. The issue is that I have a bit higher of a mountain to climb to be heard, due to how quickly we celebrate and elevate thinness and brush off those who don’t conform.
7. Why do you want to talk about that too?
Because not enough people are. The vast majority of women who lose weight gain it back, and they are full of shame about it, oftentimes desperate to change. But what if we wanted to change — lose weight or whatever — and yet we also felt cute and sexy at the same time? Why do those two things have to be mutually exclusive? I wrote my first book during a time when I was overcoming deep-seated body image and food addiction issues. Just because I gained weight back does not mean I gained back the toxic mentality about food or my body.
Anyone who read that I’m OK with being chubby and that I feel sexy anyway and felt skeptical might consider checking their own fat-phobia. I’ve had to do it too, and yeah, it’s super uncomfortable. But totally necessary.
8. Clearly you’re a badass. What do you think your greatest strength is?
I’m excellent at applying eyeliner. I’m also very good at doing one-hundred-thousand projects at once. And I can do slam poetry on command, but it embarrasses me, so don’t ask me to. Also, that’s three things. Sorry.
9. What is your biggest pet peeve about the non-vegan world as a vegan?
Probably when people apologize to me before they eat a hamburger. Don’t apologize to me; apologize to the animals. Or to yourself for compromising your values. Or better yet, stop apologizing altogether.
I guess my other pet peeve is that if a non-vegan reads that, they will brush me off as cocky and self-righteous, when I’m just being straightforward, and I’m actually really kind. Bottom line: stop asking vegans to pardon your behavior. It’s not our job.
10. Biggest pet peeve about the vegan movement?
That even when we’re trying to be straightforward, we can come across as cocky and self-righteous, like I just did.
Oh, and that even though we’re vegan, we eat each other alive. The in-fighting is just so exhausting, but I guess it’s that way in every social justice movement. It feels worse now somehow, maybe because the stakes are so high and the knee jerk internet culture is so quick to cut us off from behaving with basic humanity.
11. Between all your years as a vegan and your job at VegNews you are an expert: so what are your five favorite vegan spots in New York?
- Buddha Bodai in Chinatown
- Urban Vegan Kitchen in the West Village
- Orchard Grocer on the Lower East Side
- Modern Love in Brooklyn
- Soul Veg in Harlem
12. Ugh, I miss Buddha Bodai! What about your favorite spots in LA?
- Fresh in West Hollywood
- Laduree by Matthew Kenney in Beverly Hills
- Happy Family in Alhambra
- My Vegan Gold in Echo Park
- My kitchen, literally, because my wife is a phenomenal cook and she’s been vegan for 26 years so she really knows what’s she’s doing. You should come over sometime and she’ll cook.
13. What’s changed most about you since moving to LA?
I notice people’s vibes now, and sometimes I even ask them what their zodiac sign is.
14. You haven’t missed putting out an Our Hen House episode in 10 years. Do you have a favorite interview?
You, duh. And my friend Aph Ko, who I just interviewed for the second time (it airs soon) — this time about her new book, Racism as Zoological Witchcraft: A Guide to Getting Out. I mean …
15. Aw, shucks. What about a favorite thing you’ve done with VegNews?
I interviewed Senator Cory Booker about his veganism, and that article went sort of viral. I also interviewed Bob Barker about donating millions of dollars to fund animal law programs at the top law schools in the country, and he told me I was a “very nice young lady” and that I was an “excellent interviewer.” So then I died.
16. What do you think is the most dramatic thing about you?
My extensive eyeglasses collection and my relentless devotion to hyperbole.
17. What advice do you wish you could have given 32-year-old you?
Don’t spend too much money on clothes.
18. Noted. What’s your idea of a perfect day?
One that involves really good coffee, creative stimulation (those last two are often hand-in-hand), a creative project being completed, a fun surprise, a big win for animals (such as the success of a campaign or the entire world going vegan), multiple connections with my chosen family (that includes you, boo), snuggles with my dog and cat, theater (whether I’m seeing something or performing in it), hot sex with my hot wife, and maybe a little whiskey.
19. What are the five new vegan products you’re most excited about?
- Wild Earth Dog Treats, which are made out of koji
- Cultured meat cat food, which will hopefully be a thing sometime soon
- The forthcoming vegan tartan, which is perfect for ethical kilts (my butch wife made me include this)
- Just Egg, because omelettes
- Also, vegan cherry chocolate-chip ice cream from Trader Joe’s is back, and I’m eating it.
20. If you were stuck on a desert island with only a pig, what would you do?
Get to know her, then search for a Wifi signal, then panic, then realize I don’t have my Xanax with me, then panic some more, then try to get some sleep at least.
21. Sounds about right. How would you like to die?
Oh thank god; for a second I thought you said “diet.”