GIA HUGHES

Event Producer, Writer

January 2017
Born and raised in California, Gia Hughes was introduced to the concept of veganism as early as her teenage years. What first felt like a daunting challenge, led her to a steady, cruelty-free lifestyle. Gia produces shows at Los Angeles-based venue, Hotel Café , which has two stages and is located in the heart of Hollywood. She enjoys putting on a good secret show and loves music discovery. Gia also spends some time writing for Life & Thyme, a community-driven publication documenting food culture around the globe with a focus on storytelling.

“I'm constantly giving myself personal challenges. I’ll see if I can do something for 30 days. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s 'Eating Animals,' and it always resonated with me. He has a great quote from the book that states, “Not responding is a response-we are equally responsible for what we don't do.” No action is an action. I no longer wanted to contribute to animal cruelty and wanted to diminish my contribution to environmental issues. So, I decided to challenge myself and go vegan for a month to see how I felt, and I never went back." - Gia



"I think many of us are currently looking for a personal form of protest. Maybe giving up eating meat and/or dairy is a good start."

How has the concept of veganism changed in the past decade?

People have become a lot more open to and accepting of the concept of veganism just in the last few years. It’s also a lot more accessible these days. As a vegan, I’ve noticed it has become a lot easier to eat out. Restaurants typically have at least one vegan option on their menu, or they’re more than willing to modify to accommodate you. Even concepts like “meat-free Mondays” are catching on in homes where people generally eat meat seven days a week.

Do you think Trump’s win and his blatant lack of care for the environment will make it harder for veganism to break through into the mainstream?

I think many of us are shocked at the denial of climate change that’s currently being publicized, especially since this is all airing not too soon after the historic Paris Agreement. Animal consumption is a leading contributing factor in global warming and deforestation. With that being said, I think many of us are currently looking for a personal form of protest. Maybe giving up eating meat and/or dairy is a good start. If our president elect isn’t going to work to protect our environment, we can start our activism in our own kitchens.
Does anyone in your family share the same love for animals? Do any of them judge you for your beliefs?

I was raised with many animals. I grew up in an agricultural desert town where my family had dogs, cats, chickens, duck, horses, hamsters, frogs-you name it. So, my entire family has a soft spot for animals. I’m the only vegan, but my sister is vegetarian. Although I’ve been vegetarian or vegan for many years now, I still hear, “Where do you get your protein?” more often than I’d care to. With that being said, although much of my family might not agree with my dietary choices, they accommodate me however they can-although served with a side of grief. We’re all good sports though.

Have you connected with any of the musicians that have rolled through your venue on a vegan-level? Have you learned anything from them about how their own country or state approaches veganism?

Most vegans I meet through the venue are from California, but a surprising number are also from Texas or England-maybe because we get a lot of musicians from those areas-and the majority are men. Much like anywhere, it’s certainly not the norm not to eat animals. You get a lot of eye rolls and a lot of questions and a lot of patronizing about your choice of diet. Granted, it’s a lot easier to be vegan in Los Angeles than in most parts of Texas, but I find that we all share a similar experience.



"I still hear, “Where do you get your protein?” more often than I’d care to."


"I’m hoping if we connect with one another at the ground level, it might perpetuate some sort of grassroots change within our communities."

You recently hosted a benefit concert at Hotel Cafe. Can you tell us more about it and if you’d like to do more benefit shows there?

I am fully planning on putting together more benefit shows in the future. If I can use my platform and access for something good, I feel like it’s my responsibility to do so. I know I’m personally looking for an outlet to promote community and kindness around a good cause. Many people are feeling helpless and frustrated due to our uncertain political climate, and they might be looking for avenues in which to contribute positively to their communities. I’m hoping if we connect with one another at the ground level, it might perpetuate some sort of grassroots change within our communities. For this particular benefit, we hosted a lineup of amazing artists from all levels for a cause that’s close to my heart, Music Gives to St. Jude Kids. We also had the Hootenanny Bluegrass Band backing the entire night; the members of that band are a very special part of the Hotel Café music community. Music Gives partners with musicians and music-related companies to raise money for cancer treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. They say, “Music changes lives-so can you,” and it’s true. Music can have a lasting impact on change-whether social or personal. Let’s use it as a tool for good.

On the side, you write for a food magazine. What inspires you to write about non-vegan restaurants?

I’m inspired by the stories behind the restaurant. Life & Thyme never reviews food or restaurants. We’re more curious about how integral immigrants are to the kitchen’s success, or how a distillery’s location shapes the liquor they make, for example. When I interview someone like Wolfgang Puck, we’re going to talk about his life as a kid in the Austrian countryside, not about a particular dish one of his Michelin-rated restaurants might serve. I wrote about Azla Vegan, an amazing vegan Ethiopian restaurant located in South L.A. earlier this year. I wanted to know about Azla, the matriarch of the restaurant, and how she immigrated here from Ethiopia…twice.
Since you are a restaurant nerd of sorts, what are some of your favorite vegan restaurants in Los Angeles?

I love Sage in Echo Park. It’s my go-to restaurant whenever I want to grab dinner with some friends or my sister (who’s vegetarian). Their Soul Bowl is one of my favorite dishes out there. It’s almost embarrassing how frequently I’ll order that dish there (it’s every time). I also enjoy Kitchen Mouse in Highland Park for lunch.Homestate in Los Feliz has some great vegan options as well, along with a music playlist that’s right up my alley. I love a restaurant that has a recurring customer base, much like any of these restaurants have. It says a lot about its owners and the culture they create.

Do you think if the drastic statistics against eating meat (health, environment, and animal suffering-wise) were more publicly known, less people would eat meat, or do you think people are stubborn enough to view the facts as irrelevant?

I don’t necessarily agree that people wouldn’t give up meat because they are stubborn. I think back to when I was a kid and I would only eat chicken because it was the only form of meat I could stomach. I didn’t particularly like eating it, but I thought I had to because that’s what I was taught, that's what my parents were taught, and so on. Then when I was vegetarian, I thought I would never be able to give up cheese and dairy. It’s not that I didn’t want to; it just didn’t seem possible. When I finally gave it up for those 30 days and noticed various health changes in myself-not to mention some peace of mind-I realized it was possible. It was a long road of not only education, but trying it for myself. I had to really learn by doing. Of course, I’d like to think that with easy and more access to education about these things, people would be more open to cutting back on animal consumption. While shocking videos might influence some people, I think it also deters a large amount as well. We need to be able to connect stories of animal cruelty, health statistics, and environmental statistics to our day-to-day lives. That’s how we can make it a reality for people-once they realize how it affects their own lives.




VEGAN COMPANY PLUG

I’m a big fan of Farm Sanctuary and the work they do. Plus, they’re located in my hometown of Acton, CA!

MUSIC PLUG

I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug Hotel Café and its amazing music community. Located in the heart of Hollywood, we have music on two stages seven nights a week. It’s a place where many songwriters cut their teeth, and you never know what artist might pop up for a secret show. Plus, for the songwriting community, it’s like Cheers. No matter what night of the week you show up, you’ll run into someone you know. It’s a special place.

Special Thanks To: Best Friends Animal Society's NKLA Pet Adoption Center
Photography By: Amanda Farmer