Updated: Apr 5, 2021
First things first, I'm Cherise and I run this Vegan in NJ thing. I'm born and raised by the Jersey shore and I am told you can tell I'm from New Jersey because I have The Accent. Not to be confused with the North Jersey Accent. My dad is European (you know, all those white people countries) and my mom was Taiwanese, so that's how you get the face pictured below.
I've been vegan for 5 years this month (March 2021, for anyone reading in the future) and even though my mindset changed overnight because of Earthlings induced trauma, I had actually been accidently going vegan slowly for about 13 years.
I know there's a lot of multi-level marketing (MLM) haters out there, but I will always have a soft spot for Arbonne because that's where my journey really starts. I was an Arbonne consultant for about 7 years (really, a consultant for 3-4 and a customer for the rest of that time because I don't put in effort like that) and if you don't know, that brand is a fully vegan and cruelty free company and has been since it started decades ago. They had lots of information about why they chose to be vegan and cruelty free and yeah, some of it was real graphic. I ended up doing more research and was horrified at some of the ingredients and practices that companies take part in. Animal testing? Are we kidding? It's HORRENDOUS.
I immediately stopped buying brands that tested on animals and used animal products in their formulas.
I had been pescatarian for a couple years (not for ethical reasons, just taste buds changing, I guess) by the time I switched everything out and ironically, I went back to eating meat and thought nothing of it. I was hospitalized months later for pancreatitis and STILL ate meat afterwards. It didn't help that the doctors told me that there's no way this was diet related. They were convinced I was a closet alcoholic or a drug addict. Of course, this girl with all the tattoos and gauged ears. Of course she is. I wasn't. However, I did start drinking soda and eating land animals again in high amounts. Processed meats, especially. I ended up being 25 years old and taking medication for high triglycerides as if that was normal.
Lucky for me, I thought vegan food was healthier (spoiler alert: it's not always healthier) and actually loved it thanks to living near Good Karma and Kaya's Kitchen. Most of my friends were foodies and we held no stigma about vegan food, so we often went to Kaya's breakfast buffets or grabbed a burrito from Good Karma when we were in the area. I switched to almond milk, when that fad kicked in. I wanted to know what Trader Joe's vegan mayo tasted like and actually liked that better than non-vegan mayo. I loved Morningstar foods from when I was pescatarian, so we always had that stuff in the freezer (though, they were a vegetarian brand at the time with no sign of moving to vegan, unlike now!).
I was accidently going vegan and I had no idea.
Then one day, one of the two (Rhian Hy and Logical Harmony) beauty YouTubers I followed posted a recipe on their channel. Intrigued, I watched it. Then I watched another suggested recipe video, then another, then another... People talked about the health benefits and how a lot of their ailments left after going vegan and I was shocked. I told my husband we're going vegetarian (and he said, "Okay, sure" because he is the best husband ever). We were vegetarian together for a week or so while I binged YouTube video suggestions over and over again until I found myself watching Earthlings. I went vegan immediately.
My husband didn't go vegan with me that day, but that's a story for another day.
After going vegan, I had no idea just how much my life would actually change. I mean, I went vegan in March of 2016 and started this brand in September, a few months later, just so I could figure out where to eat. Then I started a Facebook group because it sounded like we all needed some vegan friends (myself included). Veganism has changed my life in so many ways, but mainly, it gave me a calling, a purpose, a passion. I always wanted to change the world somehow and now I know I do that everyday for the animals, for the environment, for us all - even if on a small scale.