At nine years old, I was diagnosed with severe Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. My doctor had told my parents that if we could not get the disease under control that I was likely to be permanently in a wheelchair by the time I was fourteen, and on medication for the rest of my life. Thirteen years ago, I made the switch to a vegan lifestyle after my mom read the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. This switch completely changed my life and I was able to get my Juvenile RA not only under control but into full remission.
Prior to switching my diet, my mom stumbled upon information about the animal industry and she went vegan overnight. Like so many vegans before and after her, she went down a research rabbit hole and that’s how she discovered the book that would make the biggest impact on my life. For her, vegan animal rights activists like Joaquin Phoenix and Gene Baur made the biggest impact in inspiring her to change her life but for me it was Dr. Campbell’s book. My mother went on to receive certification from Dr. Campbell’s Nutrition Program at Cornell and she uses her plant-based nutrition insight in her business, coaching others to make the plant-based switch as well. Inspiration comes in all forms– for us it was the doctors and animal activists, for others it is the athletes, influencers like pop stars and actors, politicians and other cultural role models who spark the inspiration to make a change, empowering health and sustainability for the planet, animals, and their own personal health.With that in mind, I have gathered a list of prominent vegans who continue to inspire me and those around me to make the vegan shift. Big Picture Vegan originally posted an article on Celebrity Vegans 5 years ago, and the world has become a much more vegan place since then– you may even find someone you already respect or admire!
ATHLETESFor most people, playing and watching sports is a major part of their lives. Growing up battling with my own illness, I never thought about the type of food athletes might need to eat to help fuel their bodies, adding strength and healing to their body to maintain peak condition– and how that knowledge could relate to my condition. Playing sports takes a toll on the body, especially when it’s done professionally, and the role of healing and managing inflammation turned out to be fairly similar to my own healing needs. There are more and more athletes who swear their plant-based diets help them succeed in their sport. You will probably recognize quite a few names.
Venus Williams – USA Tennis
- 21 Grand Slam titles
- 4 Olympic gold medals
Kyrie Irving – USA NBA Cleveland, Boston, Brooklyn
- five-time NBA All-Star
- MVP, Olympic gold medal, and World Cup winner
Scott Jurek – USA Ultramarathon Runner
- 16 Ultramarathon titles
- World Record holder
David Haye – UK Boxer
- World titles in two weight categories
- Olympic silver medal
Barny du Plessis – UK Bodybuilder
- Mr Universe 2014
Alex Morgan – US Soccer (football)
- 2 World Cup wins
- 2 Olympic gold medals
Novak Djokovic – Serbia Tennis
- Ranked world No. 1
- 17 Grand Slam titles
Jehina Malik- USA Bodybuilder
- NPC Eastern USA Bodybuilding Champion
- IFBB Pro Physique
Patrik Baboumian- Germany Strong Man
- 2012 European Powerlifting Champion
- World Record breaker in three strongman events
Additional Athletes: Colin Kaepernick (NFL), Abel Trujillo (UFC), Mac Danzig (UFC), Derrick Morgan (NFL), Daquan Jones (NFL), Rich Roll (Cyclist), Tia Blanco (Surf), Kendrick Farris (Weightlifting), David Carter (NFL)
Other athletes eat a plant-based diet during their on-season, because it boosts performance:
Lionel Messi – Barcelona Futbol, Sergio Aguero – Manchester City Football, Tom Brady – NFL, Rob Gronkowski – NFL
CELEBRITIES AND INFLUENCERSOther influencers play a role in spreading awareness and encouraging the adoption of a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle. With celebrities constantly in the spotlight, some have used their platform to promote veganism in pop culture through their Oscar award speeches, activist advertising campaigns, and in their own social media. From fashion to travel and food, a vegan celebrity can help shape change by living as a positive role model in their own public lives. Thanks in part to this abundant media exposure, I have witnessed veganism morph in public perception over the years from a health trend into a comprehensive lifestyle.
Billie Eilish – Grammy-winning American pop-star and songwriter
Miley Cyrus – American actress and pop-star, Grammy and Golden Globe nominated
Joaquin Phoenix – Oscar-winning American actor and activist
Natalie Portman – Oscar-winning American actress and activist
Peter Dinklage – Golden Globe and Emmy-winning American actor and producer
Kat Von D – Mexican-American tattoo artist, television star, and entrepreneur
Ellie Goulding – English singer and songwriter
Ariana Grande – American singer, songwriter, and actress
Jared Leto – Oscar-winning American actor and musician
Petra Nemcova – Czech model, author, and philanthropist
Pam Anderson – Canadian actress and Playboy Playmate of the Month
Edie Falco – Golden Globe and Emmy-winning American actress
Adele – Grammy-winning English singer and songwriter
Alan Cumming- Tony-winning Scottish actor
Aamir Khan- Best Actor-winning Indian actor, producer, and director
There have been some well-known celebrities who were outspoken about veganism and now are no longer vegan.
-Comedian and TV personality Ellen DeGeneres stopped being vegan after 8 years “for no real reason“.
-Beyonce has spoken out to the public about the benefits of eating a plant-based diet and has backed a vegan meal service company, but she has stated she is not vegan.
A few other celebrities who were vegan but then stopped, or are now only “mostly vegan”: Liam Hemsworth, Anne Hathaway, Kim Kardashian, and Waka Flocka Flame.
BLACK VEGANSSome critics of vegans claim that veganism is comprised predominantly of privileged yte people. However, veganism has a strong history of intersectional social justice, and an even more vibrant black community that is at the forefront of the vegan movement, including members in every category on this list. Highlighting black vegans and black businesses is an incredibly important part of vegan activism and the medically-advised plant-based diet movement, and Big Picture Vegan hopes that this honors them and puts this misconception to bed. In fact, there are reports that the fastest-growing segment of the plant-based population is African American.
Tabitha Brown – American actor and social media influencer
Preacher Lawson – American comedian and actor
Stevie Wonder – Grammy-winning American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer
JaVale McGee – American NBA player
John Salley – Former American NBA player and talk show host
RZA – American musician, rapper, record producer, actor, filmmaker, and author
Leona Lewis – British singer, songwriter, actress, model and activist
Styles P- American rapper, member of hip hop group The Lox
Seba Johnson – American Olympic athlete, actress, and animal rights activist
Kimberly Elise – NAACP Image and BET Award-winning American actress
Coretta Scott King- American author and civil rights activist (widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
WORLD LEADERS AND POLITICIANSPoliticians have the power to make a change and difference in the world. While celebrities and influencers are excellent at getting the word out, major progress often takes a significant change to policy, legal and discretionary. It is not always easy to be a front runner in a revolutionary and controversial arena, butting up against major industries and traditions, but they try to make a difference and leave the world a better place. Advocating for the animals, human health, and environment requires patience and skill, and these are people fighting for good within the system everyday, all over the world.
Cory Booker – American Senator from New Jersey
Tulsi Gabbard – American Representative from Hawaii
Chokwe Antar Lumumba – American Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi
Eric Adams – American Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City
Adam Schiff – American Representative from California
Al Gore- American, former Vice President and Senator from Tennessee
Manekha Ghandi- Indian Member of Parliament
Janez Drnovšek- Slovenian, former President of Yugoslavia and current President of Slovenia
Miki Haimovich- Israeli Member of Knesset (Parliament)
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith- Canadian Member of Parliament
Bill Clinton – American, former President and Governor of Arkansas (mostly vegan)
DOCTORSAs the saying goes, health is wealth, and unlike conventional medical treatments like expensive surgeries and lifelong prescriptions, vegan doctors are happy to go out of business by curing patients with food. Doctors are taught to help those who are sick, but rarely receive training in nutrition, but when they read the scientific literature about plant-based diet it’s simple: plant-based diet is the best evidence-based solution to the multi-fold problem of chronic illness and disease. For me, one doctor’s peer-reviewed study changed my life in an instant and opened the door for me to learn so much more. Over the years, I have seen more and more doctors, dietitians, and other health professionals advocate for a plant-based diet, and I look forward to seeing more and more join.
Dr. Neal Barnard – American author, clinical researcher, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
Dr. Michael Greger – American author, researcher, and founder of NutritionFacts.org and Balance
Dr. Milton Mills – American, Associate Director of Preventive Medicine with the PCRM and co-author of PCRM’s report on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines
Dr. Mauricio González – Mexican-American internal medicine physician
Dr. Harriet Davis – American family and sports medicine physician, professional model and bodybuilder (featured image at the top of this post)
Dr. Garth Davis- American weight-loss surgeon and Ironman triathlete
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn – American cardiologist and author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
Dr. Joel Kahn – American founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity
Tracye McQuirter – American nutritionist and leader of world-wide seminars on vegan nutrition
Dr. Kim Williams- American. former President and current Fellow and Trustee of the American College of Cardiology
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, American author and clinical nutritionist and professor at Cornell University. Within three months of following Dr. Campbell’s plan, I had no inflammation, lots of energy (which is something I rarely had before), and all around felt better. What my doctors never thought would be possible came true by just eating plants. Now, I have been in remission for thirteen years and completely medication-free as well- something no one expected. Now my mother is a life coach and my brother is a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston , and I work with a company that does translational research for the food and medical industries.
Thirteen years ago, if you were to walk into a grocery store and ask an employee where the vegan food was, they would probably look at you and shrug. Today, if you were to go to a grocery store and ask the same question, they might take you over to an entire vegan section, or you might even find entirely vegan grocery stores. Not only has the food industry changed, but the concept of veganism has become mainstream and well-known. Every day the world is changing, we are discovering how to take back our personal health, and new inspirational leaders are emerging. I can only imagine what the next Big Picture Vegan list will look like in 5 years time.
Jessica Goodman is a Professional Organizer, and the Chief Creative Officer at Owlanize LLC (NAPO Member since 2018). She lives in Boston, MA where she also serves as Executive Assistant to the Director at Haven Vegan Consulting. Her entire family went vegan 13 years ago and together and apart work in vegan health, wellness, and medicine from Texas to Florida to Massachusetts.