NIKKI LYNETTE

Artist, Mental Health Advocate

November 2017
As a multi-platform artist and mental health advocate, Chicago-based Nikki Lynette never has a dull moment. Between her innovative music, lyrics, and paintings, her vibrant expression mimicks her vibrant life, and her vegan diet is a strong part of her identity.

“If being healthy while vegan is "complicated," then being healthy while on a typical meaty-ass diet must be like quantum physics." - Nikki



"Being vegan used to be really taboo, but it's extremely trendy now."

When and why did you become vegan? How are you able to maintain the lifestyle?

I have been vegetarian for 21 years and vegan for 18. It all started because of a boy. He was vegetarian and I wanted to impress him, so I stopped eating meat. Vegetarianism was easy. I gave up meat "cold turkey," but going vegan was harder because there were way fewer options for baked goods and desserts than there are now. I was super young, so I had to eat whatever I had access to...the struggle was real. Nowadays it's easy. I don't really struggle to find things I can eat no matter where I am.

How has the concept of veganism changed since you first started?

Being vegan used to be really taboo, but it's extremely trendy now. I didn't see that coming.
Out of all the reasons to be vegan (health, environmental, the animals), which is the most important to you and why?

I'm vegan for health reasons. Cancer runs on both sides of my family, and there has been significant research that a plant based diet can help reduce your risk of getting certain types of cancer. I'm not saying that a vegan diet will miraculously protect me from ever getting cancer, but I want to do the best I can to prevent it. I hate being sick. Since I have been vegan, I only catch a cold every four years or so. The vegan diet works for me.

You are very open about your depression and publicly offer your thoughts on the topic. Does the way humans treat animals contribute to your depression?

I don't feel depression about the way humans treat animals. I get upset about society's predisposition to apathy in general. I'm a Black woman in America. The prison industrial complex thrives on people who look like me. The media justifies violence against people who look like me. There are complex issues that exist within our communities that have always been difficult for me to convey to my vegan friends who are not people of color. I think that unpacking the issues we collectively have around mental health could possibly make room for the type of empathy and compassion that is needed to affect changes in the way we treat each other as well as the way we treat animals.



"I get upset about society's predisposition to apathy in general."


"I don't force my lifestyle choices on anyone."

Has being vegan ever put a rift in any of your relationships - friends or lovers, and have you every gotten into any big arguments over it?

I don't force my lifestyle choices on anyone, nor am I the type of person who allows others to force theirs on me; therefore, I don't really have those types of issues. The conflict around my veganism has shown up in more subtle ways. For example, I have a huge family. My grandparents had 13 kids, and all of them had children. My family is from the south, and everyone knows how to cook because it is a value that was instilled in us. The family gets together on the holidays to eat. In the 18 years I have been vegan, no aunt, uncle, or cousin has ever made a vegan dish on the holiday. Not once. The only person who would do that for me is my mom, so I just stopped going to see my family on the holidays, unless the gathering was gonna be at my mom's house. Now that my mom has passed away, I don't know what I'll be doing for the holidays. It doesn't feel the same, anyway.

Why do you think the hip hop community has such a huge vegan base?

I don't know. Maybe because being "woke" is trendy and being vegan falls under the consciousness umbrella. Maybe because people in the hip hop community are tired of being lied to about the merits of meat consumption and are intelligent enough to make better choices once they are given a reason to do so. Or, maybe because they drove past a truck full of cattle on the highway and saw how sad the cows' eyes were and felt some kind of way. There are a lot of reasons to go vegan, fortunately.
How strong is the vegan community in Chicago? What are your favorite restaurants? Any good vegan pizza??

The vegan community in Chicago has blossomed over the years. I have not been to a city with better vegan food than Chicago, hands down. I eat at Chicago Raw a lot because I find that avoiding processed food and sugar helps me manage the anxiety and depressive episodes that come from having PTSD, but when I want comfort food, I love the vegan deep dish pizza at Kitchen 17. I can't even begin to explain how good it is.

You’re very vocal. Can you think of a way you can be even more vocal about veganism to spread the word? Have you rapped about it, and if not, do you plan to?

I'm not sure if I'll ever become vocal about being vegan in my music. Spreading awareness of veganism is not what I'm passionate about. Outside of my music and art, I'm most passionate about mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I'm not out here trying to convert the world to veganism, but I have directly influenced many of my meat-eating loved ones and a handful of my fans to adopt a plant based diet, which helps to lower their carbon footprint and improves the quality of their diet. So yeah, I'm not sure if I will ever talk about it in a song, but you never know.




VEGAN COMPANY PLUG

I'm a makeup lover, so of course I support brands that are vegan-friendly. I love Urban Decay, NYX, Too Faced, Elf, and Tarte. When I am traveling, I get body stuff from Lush, but I try to find local people who make body products as often as I can so that I'm supporting independent businesses. There are several items from Kissed By A Bee Organics that I am in love with right now.

MUSIC PLUG

I have a song debuting in Spike Lee's Netflix series She's Gotta Have It on Thanksgiving, so I'm excited about that. I am doing an album series called Happy Songs About Unhappy Things. The first release was called Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The next one is called Chronicles of a "Crazy B!+¢h", and the first single from that one is the one Spike is using. The last release in the series will be called The Suicide Bridge. I have some really cool stuff in the works for my next couple releases. I'm very lucky. Visit nikkiLynette.com if you find me interesting.

Special Thanks To: Reptile and Amphibian Rescue Network
Photography By: Amanda Farmer