By Chere Di Boscio
Actress Mena Suvari is perhaps best known for her role in the film American Beauty, for which she earned a Best Supporting Actress nod by The British Academy Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast, as well as a Movieline Award for Breakthrough Performance. Following that, she also featured in the American Pie film series, as well as many other movies.
Like many A-list actresses today, Mena is focusing on TV (the ‘new cinema’, don’t you know). So far, her show credits have included Six Feet Under, Chicago Fire and South of Hell, and her latest project is the Paramount Network’s American Woman, which was inspired by the life of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Kyle Richards.
Outside of her professional life, Mena has made a major change: she’s gone vegan.
It was a gradual process, but she’s clearly passionate about her new lifestyle, and has even made a video to highlight the suffering of birds in the down industry for PETA. She shares why she was inspired to do so: “I just remember sitting in my home, and I was watching one of the videos showing these geese who were having their feathers ripped out while they were still alive, and they were screaming,” she says. “And it was really, really horrifying.” She immediately threw her feather-filled duvets and pillows in the rubbish bin. “I could not accept myself after watching that video, laying my head down on these pillows and going to sleep that night,” she explains.
Suvari has also teamed up with PETA US to call for a ban on fur farming in Estonia (Mena’s heritage is Greek and Estonian). She is part of a long list of celebrities – including her American Woman co-star Alicia Silverstone as well as Gillian Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix, and Krysten Ritter – who have helped PETA or its international affiliates promote kindness to animals.
Here, in this exclusive interview, we go further into Mena’s veganism by asking her about the impact this has had on her fashion and beauty choices, friendships and even sense of spirituality.
What was the main catalyst for you to start living a cruelty free, more sustainable life?
I would have to say the MAIN catalyst would be watching the fantastic, eyeopening documentary, What the Health.
How long has it been?
I’ve been eating vegan and living a cruelty free lifestyle for about 11 months now.
What are some of the most difficult aspects of vegan living, for you?
Working on sets and traveling is always a challenge. But I am learning how to address these more and more each day. Like learning how to always have healthy food for myself while I am working long hours or knowing that I can always log into my airline accounts and choose “vegetarian (non dairy)” meals for flights.
How does veganism tie into your love of sustainable fashion?
It’s mainly a love and respect for all animals. For me personally, once I went vegan I HAD to go go cruelty free; it only made sense to me. I wasn’t happy with myself wearing leather, etc when I had ethically and spiritually chosen to go vegan with my diet.
Who are some of your favourite sustainable fashion designers?
So many to choose from and so many I am still excitingly finding! But a few are: Deux Lux, AMUR (below), Susi Shoes, Dá Quy, Unreal Fur, Angela Roi, Sachin & Babi, Sydney Brown, von Holzhausen, Mireia Playà, Veerah, BC Footwear, Mashu, Hoodlamb.
It also means a great deal to me that I am supported by such a phenomenal team, like my stylist Nola Singer, who work so hard to support my beliefs. She introduced me to some of these amazing new brands and continues to do so. And for us to have that opportunity is a lot of fun. We love to find and support amazing ethical, cruelty free designers.
Tell us a bit about your beauty routine: which skincare brands do you love, and what are some of your favourite makeup products?
I try to keep it very fresh and simple these days and when I’m not having to be on camera I like to wear a light tinted moisturiser with SPF and maybe some mascara from 100% Pure. I love their line and use it also for my skin care regimen. They have a great new line of single use masks for brightening or collagen reboot which are wonderful to use on press or work days. And it’s also been fun to find new lines with my makeup artist Robert Bryan like: Too Faced Born This Way foundation which is not only cruelty free, but vegan as well! And Cruelty Free 24/7 eyeliners from Urban Decay and Hourglass.
After going vegan, what do you typically eat in a day?
I’m pretty easy in the morning and like to have a latte with oat milk or coconut milk, which is so yummy! And for lunch, I usually have something more substantial like a grain bowl or trying an amazing vegan burger like the Impossible burger. And for dinner, it sometimes depends as I also love to cook very much. So when I have time and am able, I like to experiment in my kitchen with new recipes I find.
What’s your go-to favourite vegan recipe?
I love making Mexican cuisine inspired dishes. It’s lovely and very easy to be able to incorporate so many flavours I adore into one meal.
How do you deal with friends and family that still eat meat and wear fur and leather?
I think it’s important to always stimulate discussion, and although I feel like I choose to live by example, I don’t ever want to force my beliefs onto anyone who isn’t ready. Because people come to change only when they are willing to do so themselves, It’s a very personal journey and I love to encourage others, but don’t ever want to make someone feel “wrong”. It’s more about finding the opportunity to introduce new ideas and “plant the seed”.
Do you feel veganism and cruelty-free living are linked into a sense of spirituality?
I completely do and appreciate your question! I truly believe that everything is simply energy composed and I couldn’t make the connection between eating animal products anymore when there is so much torture and horror that goes into the processes of providing these products for us. It simply didn’t make me “feel good”. It’s like “lifting the veil”, as one friend said to me: once you’ve seen what you’ve seen, you can’t go back into the same old patterns of thinking and living.
Which eco-warriors do you most admire?
So many! But I would have say one of my faves is Moby. That man is such a force! And it all comes from a place of truly wanting more for others. To help others FEEL and EXIST better. And the way that he continuously, selflessly gives back, truly inspires me!
After making the switch to more ethical fashion and beauty, what further changes would you like to make to your lifestyle?
I hope to be able to get fancier and more creative in my kitchen like have a dinner party that is all plant based! I want to learn more about how to have fun with recipes and learn how particular flavours go together. To use new and exciting produce to create combinations I’ve never tried before.
What’s your greatest ‘eco-sin’ that you’re still working on?
I want to change my car. I have been thinking a lot about it lately, and after presenting at the Global Green event in Los Angeles this year, I was introduced to the Fuel Cell Hydrogen car from Toyota and Honda. I really appreciate the fact that water is the only emission and there isn’t a battery that isn’t biodegradable and left over for someone to try to dispose of.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to live more ethically, but not sure how to start?
I would say that even considering a change is the best start! And to check in with oneself to find out what it is that drives you and that you are the most passionate about. Begin with educating yourself. Look for information and resources that shed light on what is really happening in the world and what needs to change.