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The truth about celebrity vegans and vegetarians

From Michelle Pfeiffer and Betty White to Amitabh Bachchan and Mallika Sherawat, everybody is singing paeans to this lifestyle

  • By Eva James
  • Published: 14:04 October 8, 2012
  • Tabloid on Saturday

  • Image Credit: AFP
  • Olivia Wilde started a website where she shares recipes and tips for other vegans.
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It seems we have a seismic celebrity shift in the way the rich and famous are eating these days. I mean, yeah, we all want to look good. We all want to eat right, but it seems that some of world’s most famous faces from all walks of life are taking dramatic steps to lengthen their lives.

From former fast-food junkie president Bill Clinton, who stunned the nation last week when he announced he has gone vegan to reverse cardiovascular damage to his body caused by years of eating hamburgers, to Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, to PETA devotee and star of Glee Jane Lynch, to ear-biting former heavyweight champ, and star of The Hangover, boxer Mike Tyson ... They’re all jumping on the vegan and vegetarian bandwagon — and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Surprisingly, the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle is not new. In fact, some of the most prominent names in the history of the world have tried it. Some stayed with it, others only briefly. But you might be surprised at the bold-face names who embraced the lifestyle change, even if they did only for a short time.

The following are some of the names, both dead and alive, and some revered, that might surprise you, even shock you, who have embraced a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Never to be forgotten. 

Singer and Fashion Star host, Jessica Simpson

Now, most people might find it hard to believe that Jessica Simpson is a vegan. For years, even before she got pregnant and had a kid, her weight fluctuations were fodder for the tabloids. Yet, it is true. But the singer denies it had anything to do with her weight.

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“Just so everyone is clear, this had NOTHING to do with weight! It is about understanding my body through hydration and alkalinity.”

Sources say Simpson made the change to the extreme diet around her 30th birthday. But before you think anything, there’s more. Simpson also engaged in the ancient Chinese healing practice of “cupping”, where suction cups are placed over the skin to remove unwanted toxins. She even tweeted about it.

“Has anyone ever tried cupping? When u know you are doing something good for ur body the mediation creates intense visions. Love it!”

 Academy Award winner, Natalie Portman

Hollywood has found its most glamorous non-animal eater in Natalie Portman. For the Oscar winning actress, the life-changing diet came after she read author, Jonathan Safran’s book, Eating Animals, which exposed the harsh treatment of livestock in the food industry.

In 2009, Portman wrote in the Huffington Post: “Perhaps others disagree with me that animals have personalities, but the highly documented torture of animals is unacceptable. And the human cost described in the book, of which I was previously unaware, is universally compelling.”

Portman has gone back and forth from being a full-on vegetarian to vegan and back again. When she was pregnant, she abandoned veganism and went back to being a vegetarian, commenting, “My body was craving eggs and dairy. I had to listen.”

Actress Olivia Wilde

If you hear someone say “Your dollar is your vote” during this year’s presidential elections in the United States, it’s most likely actress Olivia Wilde, a confirmed vegan. Wilde is adamant about ending animal abuse, the meat-consumer cycle and she’s even started a website where she shares recipes and tips for other vegans. Recently seen opposite Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in the sci-fi Western, Cowboys & Aliens, the actress acknowledges that some people may protest that not all meat comes from the evil meat and dairy industries. But, Wilde points out, that, sadly, the products we consume do not come from small farms.

Actress Michelle Pfeiffer

We all know Hollywood stars are the symbol of vanity. But rarely would any of them admit it. Not actress Michelle Pfeiffer. She’s come clean and told CNN talk show host, Piers Morgan, that vanity played a part in her decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle. But in her defence, it wasn’t just vanity. It was her desire to live a healthier life.

When the 54-year-old actress was on the CNN show, she spoke with Morgan and revealed that it was Dr Sanjay Gupta’s documentary, The Last Heart Attack, that gave her plenty of “food” for thought.

“I was finishing up working on, I think it was Dark Shadows,” she says. “And I was watching CNN, and The Last Heart Attack came on.”

As she was watching the documentary, which explores preventative measures for heart disease, it was former president Bill Clinton’s story that really hit home.

Pfeiffer, who considers herself to also be a “foodie”, watched Clinton and said, “OK, Bill Clinton loves food, so there must be something to [veganism] that’s making him stick to it. And also, he’s smart, so he’s not going to do something unless he really thinks there’s some science behind it.”

After reading Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which advocates for a plant-based, oil-free diet, Pfeiffer says her mind was made up.

“I just felt like ... there was science behind it,” she says. “And, you know, it was sort of irrefutable. ... I couldn’t not listen to it. My father died from cancer, and the older you get, there’s a lot of disease around you. And you see people struggling with chronic disease. You see people dying with terminal illnesses. And if in any way ... this is true, then you kind of have to listen to it.”

As someone who loves carbs, Pfeiffer says she’s enjoying the vegan diet, and has her husband of 19 years, David E. Kelley, trying to make the switch.

The older she gets, Pfeiffer says of her views on diet, the more her focus and intent is geared towards living a longer life.

“Vanity is right under there,” she admits, “but I have to say that it’s a close second with wanting to live long.” 

Actor Tobey Maguire

He’s captured our imagination as Spiderman. He’s been acting now for over 20 years. He and Leonardo DiCaprio are best friends. But one thing you might not have known all these years: Tobey Maguire, actor extraordinaire, has been a vegetarian for more than 14 years.

In fact, Maguire is so into being a vegetarian, he’s gone further by becoming an animal activist and he recently stepped things up a notch when he decided to ban all leather from his house. That’s right — those visiting the actor must remove all shoes and belts made of animals before entering his home!

And now, word has it that these days he eats completely vegan unless he’s trying to bulk up for a role, in which case he adds small amounts of eggs and dairy.

Boxer Mike Tyson

It may be hard to believe that ex-boxer Mike Tyson, the same guy who bit off a piece of Heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield’s ear, is a vegan. But it’s true. In fact, Tyson says he wishes he was “born this way”.

“When you find out about the processed stuff you’ve been eating, I wonder why I was crazy all these years!”

It took Tyson’s wife and a vegan diet she did to lose weight that Tyson even considered it. And now he says he will never eat meat again. In fact, he tried eating a small piece of meat just recently and ended up getting violently ill. “Meat is poison for me now.” 

Actress Daryl Hannah

Daryl Hannah has been a Hollywood fixture ever since she starred in Splash almost 25 years ago opposite Tom Hanks. From her romances with the likes of the late John Boy Kennedy to her revitalisation when she starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, Hannah has stayed at the top of her game.

These days the actress is making waves in other ways. Living in a solar-powered home in the Rockies, Hannah is a champion for animal rights and has been since age 11. Now, she is a strict vegan. 

Actress Betty White

It’s true that hysterical comedienne/actress Betty White looks much younger than her 90 years. So what’s the reason? All the laughs? Or a vegan diet? White has won an astounding 20 Emmy Awards during her illustrious career. But beyond the acting, she is an animal activist. In fact, she loves animals so much that she once told Barbara Walters in an interview, “Oh, I much prefer animals over people. They never lie to you. You know when they tell you something, they mean it. And they love you unconditionally. Better than any human can offer.” 

Former US president Bill Clinton

While Bill Clinton was president of the United States, it was well-documented that there wasn’t a day that would go by when the leader of the free world would not indulge in fast-food. Story after story told the truth about Clinton’s indulgences and that he couldn’t drive by a fast-food restaurant without stopping for a bite.

Well, now, Clinton has done a dramatic reversal and has gone vegan to reverse cardiovascular damage done to his heart after years and years of burgers and donuts. He told CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta, “It’s turning a ship around before it hits the iceberg, but I think we’re beginning to turn it around.” The news leaked after Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, where it was revealed that guests dined on vegan dishes and gluten-free cake. Of course, PETA had to give him an award, calling him Person of the Year, saying that his diet change saved the life of 200 animals. Whoa. He must of been eating a lot of burgers! 

Albert Einstein

The latest indications we have suggest that Einstein was vegetarian only for the last year or so of his life, though he appears to have supported the idea for many years before practicing it himself.

“So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore,” said Einstein.

This was from a letter written to Hans Muehsam, and dated March 30, 1954, which was about one year before Einstein died. This indicates he adopted a vegetarian diet at the end of his life. Previously, on August 3, 1953, Einstein had written the following in a letter to Max Kariel, suggesting that he was still eating meat at that time:

“I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience.”

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