11 February 2011

Interview with 'Vegan Girl's Guide to Life' author Melisser Elliot

“There wasn't a city I didn't enjoy,” said Melisser Elliot in reference to her current book tour. Lately Elliot has been busy with the release of her new book The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life which has been a huge hit in the vegan world—especially among vegan newbies.

Recently The Urban Housewife herself was kind enough to answer some questions about her book and veganism for This Dish is Veg.

This Dish is Veg(TDIV): When you wake up in the morning what makes you smile?
Melisser Elliot(ME): My dog, Strummer. She's a 2 lb chihuahua I rescued from the streets of San Francisco and she dances every morning when she sees me.

TDIV: What led you to veganism? 
ME: I was an ethical vegetarian for 6 years and once I learned about the dairy and egg industries and veganism, I knew I had to go vegan.

TDIV: Did you have any false starts? 
ME: I'm pretty sure everyone does, there's a fair amount to learn when you first go vegan! I can't think of anything specific, but I know there were times early on I would eat something I swore was vegan and it turned out not to be.

TDIV: What advice would you give anyone who is just starting their journey to becoming vegan?
ME: Nobody is perfect. You have made an excellent ethical choice, so do your best everyday and if you slip up, don't quit!

TDIV: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a vegan? 
ME: I can't say I've had a lot of challenges. This is something I want to do, it is the ethically responsible thing to do and I don't want to hurt animals, so in the rare times I feel left out or food is scarce, I just remember that and push on.

TDIV: What inspired you to write The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life
ME: Well, when the publishers approached me and asked if I was interested in writing a book, I let them know I wasn't interested in writing a cookbook. I really wanted to write a fun and approachable guide to veganism, that could also be enjoyed by current vegans.

TDIV: Do you have a favorite chapter in your book? 
ME:I can't say I do! It's like picking a favorite child. I do quite like the interviews with vegan ladies from around the world though. I found them to be very fun!

TDIV: What is the one vegan product you can’t live without? 
ME: Oxygen?! hehe. If we're talking products marketed to vegans, I have a deep fondness for Dandies Marshmallows.

TDIV: In your book you say veganism and feminism go hand and hand. Can you explain that? 
ME: I think it all comes down to exploitation. No creature should be exploited, whether it's stealing a calf away from a female cow and using her for milk or using human women in sexual ways to bring attention to other creatures that are being abused. Feminists loathe exploitation and that should extend to all living creatures.

TDIV: Lately it seems like everybody is going vegan, do you think people are treating it more like a new fad diet trend then a life style? 
ME: Well, any diet is going to come and go, and unfortunately, a vegan diet seems to be lumped in to that. We can only hope people come for the health benefits and stay for animal and environmental reasons and in turn, implement the lifestyle in to their routine. I can't complain about veganism getting positive press, the more, the merrier! We just need to keep showing the true roots of the vegan lifestyle to people when their interests are piqued.

TDIV: Name one thing veganism isn’t. 
ME: Hateful. I think it's easy to get frustrated and jaded after being vegan for a long time, but it's counterproductive. We don't want to be a part of fringe culture, we need to be open and welcoming, so we can bring others in to the fold and in turn save animals.

TDIV: What vegan authors are you a fan of? 
ME: There are so many! I have the pleasure of being friends with vegan authors I adore like Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero, Julie Hasson, Kelly Peloza, and Hannah Kaminsky. I could go on forever though!

TDIV: On your current book tour is there a particular city you enjoyed more than any other cities you have visited and why? 
ME: There wasn't a city I didn't enjoy, but NYC is always a highlight, as was Philadelphia. In the UK, Manchester really surprised me and ended up being a blast! It's always great to have an eager audience and people who appreciate you coming to their city.

TDIV: What lead you to create the blog Cruelty Free Face? 
ME: I have been working as makeup artist for over 10 years and it can be difficult to downright impossible to find out which cosmetics are suitable for vegans, especially from mainstream brands. When I was re-hauling my own makeup kit, I decided the information needed to made public, not only for makeup artists, but all cosmetics and animal lovers.

TDIV: Do you have a favorite make up brand? If yes what company?
 ME: It's difficult to choose just one, but Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics is an all vegan line of brilliant products suitable not only for the average consumer, but makeup professionals.

TDIV: What is your favorite part about your work? 
ME: Well, I don't feel like I work all that much! I do what I love and love what I do, then just hope to make some money in there to keep things going.

TDIV: You talk about silk in your book, what is your view on humane silk? 
ME: I don't feel that silkworms produce for human use, just as I don't believe that cows produce milk for humans. That is my personal belief, I encourage people to do research and decide how they feel.

TDIV: What charities are you currently involved with?
 ME: It would be hard to name them all, as I work on events like vegan bake sales that have rotating charities we donate to! For my 30th birthday, I asked that donations be made to For the Animals Sanctuary in New Jersey.

TDIV: What’s the one thing you would like people to take away from reading your book?
ME: Veganism is accessible for all and the most compassionate choice you can make.

TDIV: What’s in store for the future? 
ME: I always have something up my sleeve! I'd like to write another book and in the meantime, I'll continue to work on The Urban Housewife and Cruelty Free Face.

For more information about Melisser Elliot, visit her websites: The Urban Housewife and Cruelty Free Face.

Jodi Truglio | email
Jodi is a strict vegan and animal rights advocate that grew up in up-state New York. She holds a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. In her spare time Jodi enjoys doing yoga and pilates.

Photo credit: The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life