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By Chere Di Boscio
Watch out, Kardashians, carnivores, and all owners of Fast Fashion brands: Kristen Leo is on the loose! This popular ethical fashion and vegan vlogger is funny, fierce, fearless, fabulous and full of rage – which is a very good thing when that anger is focused on mindless consumerism, animal cruelty and human suffering.
And you know what? She seems to be representing an increasingly large segment of a whole generation. Sick of mindless, greedy ‘haul’ vloggers, aware that fast fashion brands hone in on the insecurity of young women to sell them ever-changing trends, sickened by corporations boosting their profits by treating their workers like slaves and terrified of the environmental impacts of big business, young people today are shunning mainstream media (which they perceive as an increasingly untrustworthy mouthpiece for corporations) and are instead learning more from the likes of Kristen – a woman who has no fear to vociferously ‘name and shame’ those she believes are most guilty of mistreating people and the planet.
If you don’t know Kristen yet, trust us – she’s one to watch! Here’s a little taste of why she’s our very favourite vlogger.
From Emirates air crew to vlogger. How did that happen?
Once I finished college I got into fashion blogging, photography, film making and jobs in the fashion industry. Doing something creative online had always been something I loved, but I was still very uncertain of what exactly I wanted to pursue. Emirates was more of an opportunity I took to travel the world and save money, but the plan was never really to stick around. I wasn’t passionate at all about flight attending, but through doing a job I didn’t enjoy, it helped me realize what I truly did enjoy doing and it gave me the strength to go after what I really wanted.
When you’re doing something you don’t like you have a lot of time to think of what you’d rather be doing instead. After discovering veganism and ethical fashion, I wanted to use my skills and love for creating videos to promote a more conscious lifestyle. I was using my time contributing to and doing something positive, getting messages from people telling me I helped them go vegan, or shop ethically. No job had ever made me this happy before!
You started talking about fashion first, and then kind of shifted into veganism. Where’s your truest passion?
Both! Plus many other issues I still haven’t addressed on my channel. If I can help people, animals and the planet in any way that’s what matters to me. There are a lot of voices out there for veganism (and that’s a good thing!) but not enough is being said on youtube about workers in the fashion industry, human rights and how we are given the opportunity, every day, to vote for, or against them with our money… Ethical fashion and consumerism in general is so important and I feel it needs a lot more awareness than it currently has.
Tell us a bit about your veganism. Why did you start eating vegan? When? What have some of the challenges you’ve faced?
I went vegan on March of 2014 while I was still working as a flight attendant for Emirates. I was already eating plant based for a couple of months before I decided to call myself a vegan. After watching documentaries like Earthlings I wasn’t afraid of the stigma behind the vegan “label” anymore, it became so much more than a healthy diet for me knowing that through eating this way I was saving lives and the environment.
Eating vegan never felt difficult for me personally, even though I enjoyed eating animal products I was never emotionally attached to my food or addicted to certain foods to have difficulties letting go of it. In all honesty, I was really excited I got to eat more food! It also helped me so much with overcoming my eating disorder and the depression that I had been dealing with since I was a teen. Talking about and being challenged on veganism has also been easy for me because I really love debating with people that try to find flaws in this diet, mainly because there aren’t any, so it’s nice to feel like a smart ass once in awhile but also because it’s a great way to create other vegans! My only struggle was in the beginning, when my family hadn’t gone vegan yet. It took me about a year to convince them to change their diet, and to be honest I never really expected it to actually happen. I still get surprised when my mom shares videos about veganism on her Facebook timeline!
One thing I love about you is that you’re not afraid to name and shame companies that are doing bad, but I know sometimes people throw shade at you for that. Do you think the sustainable movement needs to get a bit more aggressive? And if so, in which ways?
Aw thanks! Criticizing a company for its unethical practices seems logical to me. It’s a company, a brand, a corporation, it doesn’t have feelings that will get hurt because it’s not actually a person (editor’s note: actually – scarily – this is not true. Legally, corporations have the same rights as people – sometimes even more so! See this documentary for the terrifying details). Seems pretty obvious yet so many have learned to love brands to the extent where they view them as humans.
Big clothing corporations pay people a lot of money to come up with plans to maximize profit and the workers at the bottom lines of production are almost always the ones paying for it. This unethical corporate system is what I’m criticizing and it cannot keep existing. Human beings are working in sweatshops, in slave-like conditions and are even dying because of greed. Doesn’t that make you angry? Of course it does! I have to be aggressive towards any business that doesn’t value its workers because to me, any lack of respect towards human lives isn’t even remotely acceptable.
Who are some of the people that have inspired your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle?
My sister has to be the biggest influence I’ve had when it comes to ethical fashion, she’s the one that showed me the “Sweatshop” documentary. I was so shocked after watching that and it was my first introduction to conscious fashion and I immediately started changing my shopping habits after watching it. Emily for “Bite Size Vegan” on youtube has also influenced me a lot. I find her calm, informative method of vegan activism so effective!
What generational differences do you see between people your age and your parent’s age with regards to the environment?
To be frank, I feel most people my parents age don’t really care about the environment. They recycle and that’s pretty much where it ends. The destruction of the environment is a problem my generation will have to face in the future, some are already facing it, so we are naturally more inclined to care.
What scares you most about the future?
The world not going vegan any time soon, and it’s causing irreversible damage to the environment. I am definitely NOT excited to be an old lady that has to deal with the numerous consequences of climate change like unpredictable weather, flooding, drought, increase of deadly viruses and wars for water. I’ve watched too many Discovery channel documentaries on global warming to know that it won’t.be.fun.
If you had three wishes, what would they be?
I’m assuming I can’t ask for more wishes right? I’ll go with the super cliche, pageant queen answer first: #1. World peace for humans and animals obvs. #2. The power of teleportation to make traveling easier, cheaper and environmentally friendly #3 to be a mermaid whenever I want. My three wishes haven’t changed since I was 6 years old apparently…
Which beauty products can you not live without?
My Lani tropical face serum!
What are some of your favorite vegan recipes or meals?
I recently came back from Thailand and I have to say their vegan green curry is insanely good! I think I was eating only that for lunch and dinner three days in a row. Also, potatoes.
First it was bloggers, now it’s vloggers….where do you see the future of independent media going?
I think youtube will stick around for a while, but I believe the way Snapchat keeps growing we will see most independent media heading that way. I love Snapchat but it’s a pretty heavy app that only works on newer phones so they really have to work on that if they want to reach a bigger market.