Right along up there with the likes of my last interviewee - the ever talented and accomplished Marisa Miller Wolfson - Michael Parrish DuDell is a young entrepreneur who is taking the activism world by storm. Already the senior editor at Ecorazzi.com , as well as co-founder and editor-in-chief of VEGdaily.com , Michael is a vegan force to be reckoned with and a positive role model for many budding activists out there.
What I love most about Michael's story is that he came from a beginning that is not unlike many of our own - for him, growing up in a meat-heavy household made the idea of going vegan a strange and overwhelming prospect. Thankfully, Michael decided to forgo his fear and take the leap into a veggie lifestyle, and, almost a decade later, he continues to make excellent strides with sharing the positive and fun side to living vegan. Having witnessed him emcee two different veg events this year - Veggie Conquest and Veggie Prom - has only helped to prove what a kind, charismatic, and passionate individual Michael is. I'm so happy Michael found the time to stop by and share his story!
Michael Parrish DuDell is a writer, public speaker and social entrepreneur. He is the senior editor of Ecorazzi.com and the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VEGdaily.com . He is also a frequent contributor to a slew of other publications, including the Huffington Post , Crazy Sexy Life and VegNews magazine. Michael serves as the president of New York City’s Sustainable Leadership Council - a coalition of experts focusing on food sustainability in New York City - and speaks around the country on issues relating to social change. Michael is twenty-seven years old and lives in New York City.
Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?
Michael: If you had asked me the day before I went vegetarian if I would ever give up meat, my answer would have been a definitive: NO, NO, NO! I grew up in Tampa, Florida in a family that, while focused on healthy eating, still consumed their fair share of animal products. As a teenager, I had the typical southern mentality that vegetarianism was for girls and had no desire to ever stop eating my beloved animal products.
Long story short - when I was sixteen, I started dating a girl who was vegetarian, and by default I began occasionally eating her food and learning more about the subject. Still, while I respected her choice, I had no interest in putting down my hamburger. Then, on January 23rd, 2001 (yes, I still remember the day), everything changed.
We were celebrating her father's birthday at a very nice restaurant and, as usual, I ordered some fancy chicken dish with a side of buttery potatoes. When the food arrived it was beautifully prepared, and I was excited to dig in. I took a bite, put the chicken in my mouth and... had a minor freak out! All of a sudden the meat tasted like what I imagine my hand would taste like. Somehow chicken had turned into Chicken. I couldn't eat it.
The next morning, determined to 'get over' this feeling, I made myself a turkey sandwich for breakfast. Once again, I was unable to take a bite. Frantic, I headed to the bookstore to learn more about vegetarianism and to find out what was happening to me. Five hours and three books later, I knew I would never, could never eat meat again. Ignorance was no longer bliss for this Florida boy. I went completely vegan two or three months later. That was more than nine years ago.
KMIV: Wow, what an awesome way to begin this journey! What would you say has been the greatest reward of your vegan lifestyle? The greatest challenge?
Michael: The greatest reward is that veganism has granted me infinite rewards. It's like getting one wish and wishing to have a million more wishes. I feel healthier, happier and have an uncanny amount of energy. Most importantly, I wake up every morning knowing that I'm doing my part to make the world a cleaner, kinder, more compassionate place.
The greatest challenge? To be totally honest, these days there really aren't any challenges. I've been vegan for over nine years and it's so infused into my everyday life that I don't even think about it anymore. If I had, had, had to pick one, I'd say brunch. Brunch is big in New York City and if I'm not eating at a vegetarian restaurant than I'm stuck with fruit and dry toast! Not a difficult challenge, I suppose, when you compare it to the grand rewards I get from being vegan.
KMIV: You're the senior editor of Ecorazzi.com, and you run Vegdaily.com, two awesome vegan and eco-friendly websites. Can you tell me a little bit more about them?
Michael: Why yes I am and can! At Ecorazzi we talk about all the awesome things that people in the entertainment world do for green living, animal issues and humanitarianism. I've been with the company for almost three years and really credit that site for launching me into the exciting world of activism. It's been an absolute blast!
As far as VEGdaily, myself and business partner (Ecorazzi Co-founder) Michael d’Estries launched the site in March 2009 with a simple goal: to increase the coverage of vegetarian issues in the online world and provide support and content to an ever-growing community of compassionate individuals.
At the beginning of 2010, I took over as editor-in-chief and shifted our focus from providing original content to serving as a vegetarian news aggregation site. Since that time, VEGdaily has more than doubled our traffic and discovered a whole new community of passionate plant-eaters!
KMIV: I've been lucky enough to witness you emcee two NYC vegan events recently - Veggie Conquest back in April and Veggie Prom this past May (Michael is the man with the microphone in the picture -and I'm in there too, all the way on the left!). What's that experience been like for you?
Michael: Well, my dirty little secret is that before I was a writer, activist and social entrepreneur, I was an actor. It's been years since I've been in "the business" and, I must say, it feels like a completely different lifetime. However, that experience trained me to be really comfortable speaking in front of large groups, and I'm fortunate to have basically zero nerves on stage. It's a perfect example of how one can use their natural abilities to benefit a cause and strengthen their activism. Hosting Veggie Conquest and Veggie Prom was tons of fun, and I look forward to being more involved with those type of events in the future.
KMIV: As a fellow actor, I couldn't agree more! Alright, what advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?
Michael: Take it from this dude, once the ultimate anti-vegan - taking the leap to a plant-based lifestyle is an investment that pays generous dividends. In this culture we vote with our actions, and whether you care about your health, the environment or the animals, veganism is a vote for a richer, kinder future.
I think the most important part of becoming vegan is educating yourself and respecting the transition. For those who rely heavily on animal products, going vegan overnight may not be the most effective long-term choice. It might take a couple weeks, months, or even years to make the full transition -- and I really believe in respecting that individual need.
6) Okay, the million dollar question - you're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?
Oh, this one is easy:
1. Cold, crisp organic Fuji apples.
2. Daiya Cheese (both flavors).
3. Organic red leaf lettuce.
Lots and lots of thanks to Michael for taking the time out to answer my questions. To learn more about Michael's two websites, please visit: www.vegdaily.com and www.ecorazzi.com .