Burlesque star Diva LaVida of Chicago’s cult favorite Boobs and Goombas: A Super Mario Burlesque was kind enough to answer our vegan questionnaire:
VTB: What made you decide to go vegan?
DLV: I initially became vegetarian for financial reasons. Cutting out meat was just a way to save money. It wasn’t until about 2 or 3 years ago I tried cutting out all animal products to try and lose weight. Losing weight didn’t work out, but it was such an easy choice I just decided to stick with it. Plus the more I learned about how our food animals are treated in this country, the more I wanted to not participate in that. Seriously, when I think about eating a creature’s flesh and bone, it really bothers me now.
VTB: Was it a gradual process for you or an immediate lifestyle change?
DLV: Going vegan was kind of gradual. I was a vegetarian for a couple of years, and initially I thought I could only be vegan for a month or so. At first my goal was to cook vegan, but to eat out vegetarian. And slowly I started making better choices at restaurants too.
VTB: What sort of changes did you notice in your body and in your life from going vegan?
DLV: Physically there haven’t been huge changes. My body was already at it’s “happy weight” but I do think it helped my skin clear up. I have noticed that now, if I do eat meat accidentally (it happens) I’ll break out in a rash. Gross! In terms of lifestyle, I talk about food a lot more than I used to. And I have to be more careful when I go partying. When everyone else is doing a 2am pizza run, I have to weigh my options pretty carefully. Also, I’ve felt like kind of a jerk at many a birthday party and wedding, since I can almost never eat the cake. I like to say this means there will be more for the other guests, so they should stop giving me the stink eye. But for the most part, it hasn’t been that big a deal.
VTB: What was the hardest animal product for your to give up eating? And have you found a viable replacement for that food?
DLV: I don’t miss a lot of foods, since there are so many good substitutes on the market now. I do miss the convenience. I miss experiences, like eating the main course at family Thanksgiving, or sharing chili cheese fries after a great night bar hopping. But not too long ago, I realized that when I’m missing certain foods, I’m really missing the people I used to share those foods with. So having some quality friend time, or even just a phone call, can get rid of the craving.
VTB: What’s your favorite vegan product or recipe?
DLV: I love love love Parma! It’s a grated Parmesan substitute. It’s made mostly of nuts, and while I doesn’t really taste like cheese, the texture is spot on. It tasted like what I remember cheese being. So delicious. Also, Daiya cheeze is pretty amazing. Thanks to cookbooks like the Veganomicon, and Vegan with a Vengence, I have a lot of favorite recipes.
VTB: How do family and friends feel about your choice?
DLV: My family and friends have been super supportive. There’s been some good-natured teasing, but over all, everyone’s been really great about respecting my choice. I think it helps that they see me eat a lot at the same restaurants that they go to. They know I’m not wasting away, or getting sick or anything. My mom was especially worried at first that I wouldn’t be eating healthy anymore, but we both read up on what my diet would need, and now we even swap recipes. It’s pretty great!
The only people I’ve ever gotten real flack from were my former dentist, and one doctor. The dentist said that if I went veg all my teeth would fall out. Clearly, he was a doofus, as I still have all my teeth. I went to one doctor because I thought I had strep throat. She told me that not only did I not have strep, but that due to my vegan diet, I may be suffering from early onset dementia. Turns out all I needed was some cold meds and a nap, not a bowl of icky chicken carcass soup.
VTB: What’s the craziest vegan recipe or product you’ve ever tried?
DLV: Nothing immediately springs to mind regarding crazy foods. When I was an omnivore, I had no fear about food. I was willing to try any dish once. So maybe my idea of “crazy” is a little skewed.