After experiencing chronic neck and head pain for more than a year and half, actress Tabitha Brown found no relief with medications. Instead, a Netflix documentary changed her life.
The documentary, “What the Health,” encouraged Brown to start a 30-day vegan challenge that she hoped would alleviate her pain. After just 10 days, her pain began to dissipate, and she never looked back.
Brown shared her journey with the UB community last night, via Zoom, as the final speaker in this year’s Distinguished Speakers Series. She not only left her audience with tips for healthy eating, but also with a new recipe for the soul.
Samina Raja, professor of urban and regional planning, and founder and director of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab in the School of Architecture and Planning, moderated the discussion. Alexa Wajed, a local Buffalo chef and entrepreneur, also joined the conversation.
Dressed in vibrant colors at a countertop full of fresh ingredients for her veggie fajita salad demo. Brown discussed topics ranging from diet, to her favorite foods, to mental health and hope. She said she loves to cook with beautiful colors because “we eat with our eyes, and if it looks good, we are more likely to try it.”
Brown said she wasn’t there to force veganism onto anybody, as “that’s their business,” a phrase she would use countless times throughout the conversation. She stressed that the most important ingredient in any dish she makes — besides her beloved garlic powder — is a little love and soul.
Brown’s following continues to grow. With more than 4 million followers across her multiple social media accounts — her most popular is her TikTok account — she is referred to by her followers as the “auntie they never had.”
Brown’s vulnerability, as well as her warm and welcoming personality, drew sensitive questions from the audience about mental health and racial injustice.
“For me, self-care is always first and foremost; putting yourself first,” she said. “You can’t show up empty; you got to fill your cup first. And that came from a long time of putting other people before myself, and I started to crash. I could feel myself exhausted every day because by the time I got back to me, I was too tired to give myself anything.”
Brown said that especially now, when disturbing incidents of social injustice seem to happen every day, Black students and other students of color must find hope and continue to work toward making these events history.
“We have to bond together and figure out how we can help each other,” she said. “So that we can make this big problem very small, and what I’m hoping and praying is that we make it history. Don’t shove your feelings away. They’re valid. Allow yourself to feel that it’s OK.”
Throughout the conversation, Brown prepared her veggie fajita salad, one of the many dishes she believes can open anyone to the idea of eating vegan. She said she realizes that sometimes it can be hard to not eat meat, and recommended that people just starting a vegan diet try to only eat foods in their raw forms.
“If you can’t tell what you’re eating by looking at it or can’t pronounce some of the ingredients, that means it’s processed,” Brown explained. “When you can look at it and know exactly what you’re eating, that’s the best way to eat.”
Brown’s overall message to her audience was “mind your business.” Do what makes you happy and makes you feel good daily, she advised, because that is what it means to successful.
She made it clear she was not there to convert her audience to veganism, but to share her story about how one little change saved her life and could do the same for others.
She concluded the conversation with her famous sign-off, leaving audience members with a very important message.
“Now y’all go back to your business and have the most amazing night, and tomorrow have yourself a good day,” she said. “But even if you can’t have a good one, don’t you dare go messing up nobody else, you hear. I love you.”