Celebrity vegetarians and why they don't matter to American dieters

Anissa Ford's picture

PETA released its sexiest celebrity vegetarians 2013 list. How vast is the celebrity influence on the American diet and what's with the dearth of meatless, African American female celebrities?

In all likelihood, dieters and consumers could care less what their favorite celebrities are and are not eating. Vegetarian celebrities often promote unhealthy habits/lifestyles in their music or art, yet promote conscious living and healthy eating in interviews off the set. And then the celebrities are interpreted as self-righteous hypocrites who care more about animals and their weight than do about people.

Mos Def and Ne-Yo earned this year's PETA's vote and ranked high among the society for ethical treatment of animal's 13 sexiest celebrity vegetarians. But are Mos Def and Ne-Yo enough to influence the diet of an African American population that's retained eating habits from the 17th 18th centuries?

In 2009, USA Today writer Edna Gundersen described Mos Def as a “bookworm, a peacenik and a skateboarder.” Mos Def quoted John Lennon, Socrates, and insisted that the “idea of peace and love toward humanity…should be a concern for all mankind.”

Mos Def breaks the mold of African American males in the entertainment industry who use stereotypes to promote their image, regardless of how unhealthy or unflattering the stereotype. Despite Mos Def’s popularity, his work alone has not and will not shed the image of black rappers as fried chicken, hamburger loving homeboys in white tees and sagging jeans........

In a strong promotional campaign paired with other vegetarians like Andre 2000, KRS-One, Russell Simmons, Common, Forrest Whitaker, Lenny Kravitz, Mike Tyson, Seal and or Prince, Ne-Yo's and Mos Def's vegetarian influence may extend and influence the collective palates and plates of their fans both women and man. Black men in the US suffer from stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular illnesses at alarming rates with lesser chances of recovery as the population ages. Most of today's prominent AA male celebrity vegetarians aren't yet 45.

The number of white male and female vegetarian celebrities doesn't quit: Russell Brand, Brad Pitt, Matthew McConaughey and Tobey Maguire are but a few white, male celebrities who've foregone meat. Regardless of their motivations to turn away from meat, be it diet, health or prevention of animal cruelty, these white guys can't change a culture overnight. Hunting and fishing for game is and probably always will be tradition in agricultural societies. Furthermore, gossip and entertainment magazines have yet to find a particularly masculine celebrity, (Like Dog the Bounty Hunter for example) who doesn't eat meat.

Carrie Underwood is the most imitated and influential of current women in music. Most new artists want to be like her and sing her songs in karoake television. The Daily Beast praised Underwood as a noteworthy vegetarian, although PETA did not add the crooner in its 2013 list. In Country Weekly/em> (March 2013), Underwood shared that when cows were traded off her parents Oklahoma farm, the animals cried for one another. The experience closed her heart, mind and stomach to beef.

Underwood’s eating habits and her farm girl roots are no match for Paula Deen’s southern poppycock pork preparation which has pretty much invaded the nation if not the world. Moreover, the nation’s southern states, where Country Western music reigns, still dominate obesity stats. So overall, Carrie’s an anomaly in a fast food, deep fried, nation. Country western and all.

Anne Hathaway, Kristen Bell, and Natalie Portmann, who are also influential vegans and vegetarians. Portman launched a shoe line free of animal skins for total vegans. Still, the decision to promote foods other than meat is a bold move in a US society feels dictated to when influential women (Michelle Obama) promote healthy eating.

But does their influence reign with the larger society?

Not really.

The sense that celebrities are “others” limits the influence women celebrities have on the general population’s diet. And it wasn't until "Skinny Bitch' was released that women actually began voicing, without restraint, the urgency of healthy eating for a longer, healthier life, in addition to a slimmer waistline.

African American female celebrity vegetarians are a very short list. Angela Bassett "loves" vegan food choices, and doesn't bother others with their meaty food choices. in 2011, Brandy Norwood said she wanted to recommit to her vegan lifestyle. It's not too surprising Erykah Badu's vegetarian, especially considering the fondness she's mentioned for visiting coffeehouses in Amsterdam and Deutschland overall.

Joy Bryant is the most active and outspoken AA African who is off the meat grid. But not everyone is familiar with Bryant, the NBC sitcom actress from The Parenthood. Last Sunday on the OWN channel, Gabrielle Union cracked jokes about actresses who don't eat in order to land roles. At the same time, Union's shape and size is the envy of many black women who struggle with food,food desserts, diet and exercise.

Celebrity culture and lifestyle won't have a sweeping influence over America's pizza, hamburger and hot dog culture. Celebrities who embrace and endorse vegetarian diets are generally concerned with the treatment of animals, creating a stronger society through peace, emotional and physical health. The general population has a way to go before understanding factory farming, sales and consumption of meat as animal cruelty.

And that's primarily because humans do not believe that animals (animals they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner) have similar right to their family pets: cats, turtles, horses, dogs, fish, etc.