Daniella Monet on Being a Vegan Mom and a Role Model for Plant-Based Living
Insta-star, beauty entrepreneur, and former child actress, Daniella Monet has grown up in front of the camera and now that she is a mom to 10-month-old son Gio, her transition has been made easier by one enduring value, her vegan way of life. The natural beauty sat down with The Beet’s columnist, Elysabeth Alfano to discuss her approach to food, healthy living, and raising her son vegan in a world where it takes a commitment to be vegan, chemical-free and cruelty-free. She is looking forward to teaching Gio about veganism, when he is old enough.
Daniella first appeared on our collective consciousness for her role as Trina Vega in Victorious, the popular Nickelodeon show about the usual social upheaval and traps of high school. The show was canceled despite huge fan appeal after just three seasons but all of the major cast members (Ariana Grande, also a vegan) went on to enormous success.
Daniella’s recent stardom has come from her social media channels, especially Instagram, where she connects with millions of fans around the globe with her incredible candor and authentic approach. They love following her healthy lifestyle, where she talks about being vegan, healthy, and kind while touting her boxes of vegan beauty products.
A vegan since her early teens, Daniella has parlayed her success as an actress and Instagram star into becoming an ethical and impact investor. She is one of the powerhouse investors supporting vegan companies such as Outstanding Foods (they sell Pork-less Pork Rinds, or as they say: Pork rinds without the pig!). She also is a co-creator of Kinder Beauty Box, a monthly beauty subscription service delivering boxes of vegan cruelty-free, clean beauty, which she founded with her partner, Evanna Lynch, who most notably played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies.
Motherhood has strengthened her voice to speak out for what matters to her
Daniella has long been living out her vegan life on-line. Back in 2017, she launched her YouTube show is called "D Takes Your V-Card" to help others eat more vegan or plant-based choices. In the first episode, Daniella shows her younger cousin Shane how he can choose to eat plant-based eggs for breakfast. The series was a modest hit, but it gave her a voice in the vegan food and ethical beauty space: She got her most watches when she shared getting her period and searching for vegan, cruelty-free, all-natural feminine hygiene products. It was at the beginning of her vegan beauty journey toward her latest venture, Kinder Beauty.
More recently, motherhood has given Daniella the conviction to speak out about her vegan values, and she said she thinks that being pregnant instilled in her the strength and the platform to promote a vegan lifestyle. "Being pregnant has instilled a totally different level of strength in me. I’ve always been empathetic and just generally very compassionate toward animals, but when it comes to mothers – mother cows – I feel a connection and a strength in me to provide a voice for them that I didn’t even know I really had until being pregnant myself,” she said in a video for Mercy for Animals.
When asked whether she will raise Gio vegan, in an interview with Mercy for Animals' Compassionate Life, she said: "Nothing makes me more giddy than to imagine him growing up knowing this from birth. Something about having instilled this from infancy seems magical to me. And to be able to give that to him… " She added: "Whatever he decides to do in his life... the best that I can do is shed light on the things that I think matter and speak the truth and watch him sort of run with it.”
Here Daniella Monet talks about vegan life with The Beet's Elysabeth Alfano
In this interview, Daniella and Elysabeth discuss how and why Daniella went vegan, how her relatives overcame cancer by doing the same, her favorite recipe, and her vision for using her platform for change in the world. Grab your plant-based milk and watch excerpts from Elysabeth and Daniella’s inspirational, long-form conversation below.
Elysabeth: So how did you become vegan?
Daniella: Well, first I became a vegetarian at about five years old. Yeah, I was pretty young. I was also very inquisitive.
Elysabeth: Did you choose it or did your parents?
Daniella: I chose it. But I kinda I hate to say this but it really did choose me. I was in the right place at the right time. I went to a family dude ranch with my family and it was beautiful and everything, but there was one day where they did a rodeo on the property and the guys lassoed the cow's feet and legs together, flipped them on their backs and literally, it just sounds like the most dramatic fall ever. And then they score them with these horrendous torches to brand them and shortly after that, I think we were eating dinner at the dining hall, and they were serving these steaks and talking about their meats and how they raised them, and so on and so forth. I asked a lot of questions and I got really lucky because I remember my dad being really honest with me, and just saying this is what it is and that was it for me. I did not ever want to eat an animal after that, and I think as I got a little bit older, I learned more about veganism organically. My uncle was dying of cancer and I actually grew up near Follow Your Heart [the vegan mayo and cheese company]. So, I was really fortunate.
Elysabeth: Oh yes, the company Follow Your Heart!
Daniella: But there’s also a restaurant which is amazing. It’s like a tiny little [lunch spot] and it’s been there forever since I was a baby. And so that was really the only experience I had with vegetarian and vegan food and my aunt when my uncle was struggling with cancer, decided to have a chef come over and I think they were related to Follow Your Heart because they were teaching us recipes that he could be eating while he was at home. So, she was like “come on over, you’re vegetarian, you might like this” and I learned about veganism in that moment.
"I realized if you’re struggling with cancer you need to get your health in check. It’s important to take away the animal products and so that triggered it. And in middle school, in about 6th grade, so [when I was] about eleven or twelve years old, I read a book that was called Skinny Bitch, which is so weird that it’s called that, but it’s such an amazing, informative book about animal activism and about what really happens in the food industry. It’s so old now but I would imagine it’s pretty relevant to even today because it talked about (it)- like that was the first time I ever heard about factory farming and what happens in factory farming, and that was it. I just knew– I had already been vegetarian, mostly vegan–and when I was about eleven-years-old, I went completely vegan.
Elysabeth: How was the transition for you? That’s almost twenty years ago now so not many people were doing it, and then your folks were maybe on board or maybe they weren’t, or your friends at school, what did they think?
Daniella: Yeah I think I’ve always just kind of been different. Like people would always say, “Are you going to be okay? Are you going to be able to eat something?” Or you know “I made you this” like people want to help you for sure. My family was pretty supportive I’d say.
My grandma, I remember her trying to sneak meat into the tomato sauce because she was just worried, naive, and worried that I wasn’t getting the right nutrients. But everyone at this point, like my parents both had cancer, at one point, and they both went vegan while they went through treatment. So, they actually came to me and that was a cool moment for sure.
Elysabeth: When you're busy, what’s the go-to meal you can make every time? It’s always good. It’s super fast. What’s your go-to meal?
Daniella: Okay, well, if it’s not a salad, which I know sounds so boring, but I eat a salad like every day. No question. I just crave it. I usually make a stir fry. I always have San Marzano organic cento tomatoes, always. So I’ll always have the tomatoes and I’ll throw in any produce that I have, whether it be onions and garlic to start with, olive oil, kale, and then a bean of some sort like a white bean or cannellini or garbanzo, whatever I have. And then, gosh you could go anywhere from there like you could put roasted potatoes and make it more hearty. I mean that’s my go-to.
Elysabeth: Rice and beans is it for me. I mean, how easy can you get.
Daniella: And it’s a complete protein.
Elysabeth: Complete protein! Yeah, really wonderful.
Elysabeth: Do you have a favorite phrase that you live by? I’ll give you a little example while you’re thinking about that. I love to say, “Nose to the grindstone, eyes to the sky.”
Daniella: I got a tattoo about five years ago. It was my first tattoo and I thought about it long and hard and it’s going to sound really young initially, but it really means something to me. It says, “You only live once” and at the time everyone was saying “YOLO, YOLO” whatever. So, I just think to me if you really think about it broader, like your real true body, form, whatever you want to think after us, great. But as this person right now, like I’m living once and I’m going to take advantage of that. So, take adventures, like take risks, you know, especially when you’re younger, you know. Set yourself up for the future so that you can really enjoy.
Elysabeth: There’s this expression I love: “Today’s the day.” Your life is today, you just don’t know about the rest of it, so today’s the day. Today’s the day to go get it, go after it.
Daniella: I love that.
Elysabeth: Yeah super helpful. Okay, so you’ve talked a lot about purpose... What would you like to be known for?
Daniella: I want to be known for being someone who’s just a good person and a good role model. A role model for me has always been important, and I think being on Nickelodeon for twelve years, I grew up in a lot of families’ homes and I was babysitting then, as well. Like I still am very involved with a lot of kids in my family. I’m the oldest of my cousins. I just want people to look up to me and think like, “She may not be perfect, but she’s doing the best she can” and I just hope that people would call me a role model, you know?
Elysabeth: That’s wonderful and I think many do actually.
Daniella: I hope so. I have a lot to learn but I’m willing to share along the way, you know? I’m willing to figure it out at least.
Daniella, with 4 million followers, is so popular because she makes us all want to make positive changes and lives, and live our best lives while we "figure it out."
Elysabeth Alfano is a plant-based journalist covering plant-based health, food, culture, business, and environmental news. Follow her @elysabethalfano on all platforms.