FEATURE: Jasmine C. Leyva

For me the most empowering aspect of adulthood is being able to shape and mold my former self—the girl that lived by the code of her circumstances—into a conscious woman that creates her own constitution. Food, naturally, plays an integral role in this shaping. I grew up eating what was given to me; I ate what everyone around me ate without question. But upon moving to Los Angeles, I met a beautiful black female vegan in her sixties. She was much different from the sixty-year-olds to which I had become accustom.  Her skin was flawless, she appeared to be in perfect health, and her sixty-year-old body frame surpassed my own in fitness—and I was just twenty at the time.  Unlike so many of “us” who are readily dismissive of the unfamiliar, I was willing to give her vegan lifestyle a try.

Within just a few weeks of abstaining from meat and dairy, the acne that plagued me had subsided, my energy levels went up, and all across the board, I felt better. Back then, I had the mentality of a young girl; thus most of my reasons for pursuing a plant-based lifestyle were cosmetic and self-serving.  Now, as a woman, my dietary choices are motivated by my values and ethical convictions.

Growing up in Washington DC, there were several pervasive archetypes I was supposed to look up to and take as inspiration, among them: “the strong black woman,” “the educated black woman,” and “the hard working black woman”  The “compassionate black woman” as a figure utterly opposed to the suffering of both living beings and the planet was virtually non-existent. I also don't remember seeing much of the “food conscious black woman,” someone whose vision extended beyond the normative, convenient, and cheapest of foods, to celebrate quality food as a hallmark of health and wellness.  I imagined that these women existed, but they always felt few and far between, that is, they seemed invisible in my community.

My documentary, The Invisible Vegan, is therefore my attempt to remedy this problem. It is my attempt to try to decrease the number of people, especially my people, from dying of preventative diseases.  It is my attempt to give people like me, the examples and relatable messengers I wish I had. It is my attempt to inspire different audiences, not necessarily to convert them into vegans, but to help them understand the reasons behind plant-based eating. This in turn, I hope, will enable viewers to make educated choices based on different perspectives—rather than blindly accepting points of view because they’ve been handed down to them. This is the ultimate goal of the project.

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Latest Teaser: https://youtu.be/ZN4BhesG8XQ