You made an interesting transition from working in politics to being a sustainability guru.
"Well, thanks for calling me a 'guru' - I appreciate that. Ha! The transition happened because I’d been working in politics for a decade and really enjoyed the work, but had also been maintaining and developing an eco- and animal-friendly lifestyle for much of that time. When I hit 31 years old, I had a bit of a crisis of purpose. I’d often think, 'I could be channeling the same skills I’m using to bring politicians’ messages to the fore to show people how easy and wonderful this lifestyle can be.' So, I hatched a plan to leave my career and blossom into a new one; the plan alone took me about a year to actualize. And let me tell you, it was not easy. I had to wrestle with all of those 'what will people think of me?' and intense self- and other-expectation demons, along with, ya know, giving up the fiscal stability of a thriving career. But I knew I needed and wanted a change and was up to the challenge, and I felt deeply that I could make a positive and fresh contribution to animal rights, and that purpose kept me going.
"Now, three-ish years later, I’ve been able to establish myself as a journalist and television personality in the space and have carved my own niche of activism that feels good and exciting and impactful, all while working a full-time job. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a struggle. I had no previous PR experience or connections, so much of my free time is spent pitching networks and publications, and it’s taken a ton of sweat equity to get where I am. That’s the stuff people never see; I think it’s a natural inclination in our social media-obsessed society to assume that people who do stuff in the public sphere are just lucky or well-connected. That may be the case for some, but it wasn’t for me. I mean, I recognize how hot damn lucky I am every single day, but everything I’ve done, I’ve had to teach myself, persist at, face serious and almost daily rejection from, and do pretty much entirely solo (aside from the wonderful support from friends and family). When I first started pitching television, I was told early on by some producers that I didn’t have the face, the body, the connections, the presence for television. And that used to really get me -- I would take it to heart, I’d cry about it, I’d say I was going to throw in the towel. And then I made the decision to just say, 'You know what? I’m going to do it anyway because I believe in myself and that’s all that really matters.' It’s a mindset I work daily to maintain, especially through challenges, but I just completed my 100th TV segment in two years and that would’ve never happened had I let those critiques early on shape my idea of what was possible. So, unsolicited advice to readers: Don’t quit. Don’t take on others’ limitations as your own. If someone opens up to you about their dreams and goals, support them. Know who you are and what you believe in and love the hell out of that. Protect that. Nurture that. And, by golly, keep going.
"People often ask why did I have to give up my past career, like, couldn’t I have done both at the same time? Sure, maybe. Had I known I could strike that balance between keeping the lights on and blazing a new path back when I first left my political career, I may have stayed in it. But ultimately, I needed to shake things up, kind of go scorched earth to find out who I was and what I could contribute to the animal and environmental rights movements, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Life’s short, ya know? I often take the attitude that trying something out, even if it’s a complete 180 is very, very worth it if it’s an idea that’s been nagging at you for awhile. My grandmother just turned 105 years old and I often think of her – what does she remember about her life? It’s not the bullshit rejection or perceived failures or people who discounted her – she remembers the things she worked hard at, believed in, and eventually succeeded at. I want to be like that when I’m older. I don’t want to be a person riddled with 'what ifs.'"
How long have you been vegan?
"Nearly 7 years. It’s been, by far, the most important and life-affirming personal choice I’ve ever made."
Could you tell me about The Little Foxes? Does the title come from Lillian Hellman’s play?
"Agh, that name. Since I don’t really blog much more, I have mixed feelings about The Little Foxes, though I still maintain the site and appreciate what it’s brought to my life. That said, the name came about for two very personal reasons. The first being that my Great Grandmother Ruth, whom I never met. My family says we are total kindred spirits – feisty, courageous, undaunted by conventional expectations, committed to the pursuit of justice, all that good stuff. She was an opera singer and her stage name was Nina Renard, or loosely 'Little Fox' in French. I adore her spirit and hearing stories about her, so much so that I have a large, Boudoir-esque portrait of her (ahem, that she commissioned of herself. Ha!) hanging in my living room. The second impetus for the name selection was my rescue dog, Banjo. Truly, she’s my soulmate and she teaches me marvelous things everyday. She looks like a blonde fox, so it seemed only natural that I’d pay homage to two inspirational foxy females in my life with the blog name. That said, I also really dig the Hellman play, though it’s not the foundation for the name."
Could you tell us a bit about the Pacifica Muse Contest?
"Of course, and thanks for asking about it! Each year, Pacifica, the awesome and entirely vegan and cruelty-free beauty company, launches a contest to find their next 'muse,' or spokesperson, for the following year. I entered this year because, while I’m not a model or professional YouTuber or makeup artist like many of the entrants (who are all excellent, BTW), I’ve been using only cruelty-free products for nearly 25 years and vegan for 7. I hope to win because it’s an excellent extension of my existing platform and message – showing the mainstream public that, heck yes, you can still love makeup and glamour and live within your values. I want to show people that this lifestyle is fun, easy to maintain, NORMAL, cool, real. Plus, there’s opportunity to collaborate on a product launch with Pacifica, and my head is already buzzing with so many ideas of products that I feel are lacking the market that we could knock out of the park together. It’s been good fun to be a contestant and the outpouring of support from the vegan community has just been awesome (yourself included, so thanks for asking, friend!)."
Are there any animal welfare charities you’ve been involved with?
"Oh, so many! I support national organizations like Mercy for Animals, the Humane League, PCRM, and HSUS, and do a lot of volunteering with Chicago-based organizations like The Anti-Cruelty Society, where I adopted my dogs, and Chicago Animal Care and Control. I also am a big supporter of A Place To Bark, the sanctuary run by my incredible friend, Bernie Berlin, who rescued my dog, Banjo from a cruelty hoarding case. She’s a true inspiration and example of a principled, impactful life based on so much love and sacrifice. I also love Blackberry Creek sanctuary. There are many wonderful sanctuaries out there, and they’re all so important. I love their positive and loving posts about their animals. They’re selfless and have such a warm and approachable message. I think that kind of activism really works and helps people who aren’t attuned to this movement become interested and feel like they will be welcomed.
"Thank you so much for this interview. I adore Jill Milan and am honored to be a part of the site."