I don’t know how to properly introduce my interviewee today simply because she’s an all star when it comes to everything vegan! My guest is a friend, a YouTube star, a photographer, a videographer, a blogger, a social media content creator, an author and of course a fellow vegan and animal lover. She’s involved in many projects all having to do with creating and sharing tools to make veganism easy and accessible which in turn, makes the world a better place for animals. It is my great honor to interview Michelle Cehn today!
Cowgirls & Collard Greens: Welcome to Cowgirls & Collard Greens Michelle! Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions. I am honored to have such a fiercely involved, committed and well-rounded vegan like yourself here to share today. First off, can you share when and why you became vegan?
Michelle Cehn: I have always been a huge animal lover. I went vegetarian when I was just 8 years old, when I realized that meat came from animals, and that I was eating my deceased animal friends. I immediately decided that I wanted no part in taking the life of others, and never (intentionally) ate meat again.
I went vegan years later when I was in college, after learning about the unimaginable cruelty inherent in the dairy and egg industries. I first learned about it when I picked up the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer at a used bookstore. That book made me realize that even as a vegetarian, I was still supporting some of the worst forms of exploitation, and I decided right then that I would become vegan.
C&CG: You are truly an inspiring individual who seems to have her hands in all things vegan. From your YouTube channels, to your multiple social media accounts to writing an e-book, to co-creating The Dairy Detox to being the monthly adoring face behind the Vegan Cuts videos, to creating videos and doing photography– what don’t you do? In all sincerity though, you have truly made a life for yourself around your vegan lifestyle. How did that come together and would you change anything?
MC: Aw, thank you! I do have my paws in a lot of projects. Since I was very young I have been an activist eager to reduce suffering and better the world. But growing up, I didn’t know other vegetarians or people who were working on these issues that I had become so passionate about. So from a young age, I realized that if I didn’t take action, nothing would change.
I did everything I could think of in my free time to spread awareness, raise money for animal protection organizations, and inspire change in my fellow humans. I held bake sale fundraisers, wrote reports and gave speeches on the topics in school, founded animal rights groups at my high school and college, leafleted, and volunteered in my free time. I became very used to the hustle.
Over time I connected with others who were equally passionate about helping animals, and that was very encouraging, and made me feel not so alone. I quickly learned a lot from fellow activists, and my advocacy efforts became much more effective as a result.
After becoming vegan in college (in Ohio, of all places), I wanted to be a resource for other people who were interested in becoming vegan too, but weren’t quite sure how to start. It’s one of those things that seems like a huge obstacle, sacrifice, and inconvenience until you’ve learned how to do it, and then it’s easy! I started making YouTube videos to make that transition process delicious and fun for people, and to be a virtual friend to those who felt alone.
Today, inspired by the incredible momentum of our movement and empowered by the changemakers around me, I my primary focus in life is vegan advocacy. I founded World of Vegan to be a resource I wish had existed when I went vegan. I continue making YouTube videos where I share vegan recipes, tips, lifestyle resources, news, interviews, and more. I created The Dairy Detox with vegan chef and wellness advocate Allison Rivers Samson, which is helping all those people who “could never give up cheese” learn to thrive dairy-free. And this year I wrote The Friendly Vegan Cookbook with Toni Okamoto, founder of Plant Based on a Budget. I’ve worked with several vegan organizations including Vegan Outreach, PCRM, PETA, Mercy for Animals, One Step for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and Animal Place, and I collaborate often with vegan companies like Vegan Cuts. As I said before, I have my paws in a lot. I’m a bit of a workaholic, but I love it all!
I feel so fulfilled by my work and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to help animals, especially through my creative passions (photography, videography, and social media), that I can’t say I would change a thing. But there was a lot of loneliness, struggle, and inefficiencies in my advocacy because I didn’t have friends or role models to guide me when I was younger. So that is one of my missions—to help light the way for everyone who wants to change the world for animals.
C&CG: Many people think that transitioning to a vegan lifestyle or plant based diet is challenging. Can you debunk that myth? You have created many resources to help people every step of the way. Can you share some of them with us?
MC: It can be challenging! But it doesn’t have to be. If you approach it with a mindset of opportunity rather than deprivation, and utilize the resources that are available to you today, you can truly love and have fun with every step of the journey. Today there are so many vegan products on the market, you can quite literally find or make a vegan version of everything. The grocery store will start to feel like Disneyland, and if you pay attention, you’ll discover new foods all the time. There are thousands of vegan cookbooks covering every type of cuisine—from vegan on a budget, to vegan Ethiopian food, to gluten-free, sugar-free, or soy-free vegan. There are countless books, documentaries, YouTube videos, websites, bloggers, magazines, and more, all dedicated to making vegan living awesome. Tap into it all, and you’ll quickly discover that not only is living vegan better for your own health, kinder to animals, and gentler on our planet, but it is also more enjoyable!
C&CG: One of your newest projects is called The Dairy Detox which was co-founded with our mutual friend, and my neighbor, Allison Rivers Samson. What can you tell us about The Dairy Detox and where did the idea stem from?
MC: Dairy is the lynchpin of vegan living—it’s the most difficult thing for most people to give up. How many times have you heard someone say, “oh, man, I could never live without cheese”? With more than 30 combined years of dairy-free experience under our belts, Allison and I know very well that living dairy-free isn’t hard, but going dairy-free can be. So we created The Dairy Detox to help make the daunting transition process easy for people, and to reach people from a different angle—wellness.
The Dairy Detox is a 12-day online video course in which we teach our students everything they need to know to find dairy-freedom—what to eat, how to cook, where to shop, what products to look for, and of course, why this is all worth the effort. We talk about the health ramifications of consuming dairy as adults, and how much better it is for us to get our nutrients directly from plants, bypassing all the negative effects of dairy. And we dive into the effects of the dairy industry on animals and our planet. Our hope is to enroll students who are looking to do something quick and easy to better their health (which they will!), but throughout the course we hope to inspire and empower them to do much more that that.
C&CG: You also just co-wrote your first e-book with Toni Okamoto of Plant Based on a Budget which I just featured on my blog last week. Congratulations on The Friendly Vegan E-Cookbook! Can we expect to see more books in your future?
MC: Thanks so much again for sharing our book with your community! I had been wanting to create an e-cookbook with a collection of my favorite recipes for several years—but it’s one of those projects that kept getting pushed to the side. When Toni and I connected, we realized that we had perfectly complementary passions and talents that would make for a great book! Toni is an incredible recipe developer, as she’s been creating budget-friendly plant-based recipes for her website for years. And I’m passionate about food photography, which we knew we wanted to play a big role in our cookbook. Lots and lots of dirty dishes later, The Friendly Vegan Cookbook was born.
I definitely see more books in my future. I had so much fun creating The Friendly Vegan Cookbook and could see that turning into something bigger. Allison and I have also talked about writing a book to go with The Dairy Detox. I’m not sure when, but I’m sure there is more to come!
C&CG: Of all the places you have traveled, do you have a favorite vegan restaurant? What’s your all-time favorite vegan meal?
MC: Funny—of all the places I’ve traveled, my favorite vegan spot is close to home! I absolutely adore Cha Ya. It’s a casual vegan Japanese restaurant in Berkeley, and they have the most amazing udon noodle soup bowl! It’s called the “Yasai” bowl, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly, especially on a chilly day.
C&CG: Lastly, what inspires you most to stay committed to being vegan?
MC: The animals. Any time I see a undercover investigation video revealing how animals are treated in the meat, dairy, and egg industries, or any time I come face to face with a rescued cow at an animal sanctuary, I am reminded why I am vegan.
C&CG: Thanks so much for sharing today Michelle! We all look forward to following your journey and staying in touch to see what creative projects you’ll be working on next!
Michelle Cehn is a filmmaker on a mission to make vegan living enticing, easy, and fun through gorgeous photography and visual storytelling. She is the founder of World of Vegan, co-author of The Friendly Vegan Cookbook, co-creator of The Dairy Detox, and a YouTube personality who has reached millions through her creative, relatable, and engaging vegan videos.