Anna Solaiman won the title of the 'Hottest Vegan' by PETA last year, so as the search begins for the 2016 winner, we caught up with Anna to talk about the experience.
You were crowned 2015's hottest vegan by PETA, so how did that make you feel?
I didn't expect to win so of course I was over the moon. It was promoted a lot especially around social media so it gave me a platform to speak out about veganism and get the word out there, which I am very thankful to PETA for. I wanted to speak about a way of eating that saves animals and also helps people look and feel healthier and this gave me that opportunity.
Please tell us about the process of entering and what your prize was for winning.
A friend saw it online and encouraged me to enter via online application. After a brief interview- finalists were selected and then it was left to a public vote until the winners were announced. The prize was a one night stay in La Suite West hotel in Bayswater along with dinner and breakfast in the hotel restaurant RAW. The food was absolutely delicious and staff made me feel like a celebrity whilst I was there! I have since been back there for dinner and the food never disappoints.
Please tell us why you became a vegan and how long you've adopted this lifestyle for. Was it ever about looking better for you or was it deeper than that?
I have always looked after myself in terms of eating healthy and exercising and have always been a big animal lover. I stopped eating meat a couple years ago and thought that as long as I wasn't eating meat, I wasn't contributing to any animal suffering. Like most people- I was completely blind to the dairy and egg industry. After much research and seeing various videos on PETA and YouTube all my pre-conceived ideas of a vegetarian lifestyle crashed down on me.
For me it was all about making the connection. Once you make the connection- everything falls into place. Animals are voiceless creatures and as humans we should be a voice for the animals. I saw the reality and I just couldn't ignore it anymore. Switching to a compassionate vegan lifestyle made me feel like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. Looking and feeling better was just a bonus to that.
Why do you think it's important to showcase how well people can look on a plant based diet?
These days people are a lot more health and image conscious and always looking for ways to improve themselves. Eating a healthy plant based diet achieves that without the need for counting calories. Showcasing this and setting an example myself hopefully encourages others to do the same and as a result means less animal products being consumed as a whole. The research is all there to tell us that consuming animal products contributes to many long term illnesses so avoiding it is the key to looking and feeling good both inside and out.
Why in your opinion are vegans the sexiest people in the world?
Nothing is sexier than a healthy body and a big heart filled with passion and compassion!
You were veggie for a while, so why is being vegetarian not enough to help animals?
Veganism is about a complete lifestyle not just diet. People forget that in the dairy industry for instance, a cow needs to give birth to a calf in order to produce milk. Male calves are caged off for veal and female ones suffer same fate as their mother. Seeing calves taken away from their mothers is heart-breaking and unnatural. Hundreds of baby chicks are ground alive everyday simply as a by-product of the egg industry. The cruelty involved to obtain products like leather, wool and fur it is truly horrific and unnecessary when it is just as easy and fashion forward to shop for other materials. This also goes for beauty products and cleaning products, there is so much cruelty in the beauty industry alone it is heart-breaking.
I always encourage people and my clients to buy cruelty free products. There is a comprehensive database on PETA the list brands that are cruelty free. Around the world there is still a lot of animal suffering in cosmetics with chemicals dripped into rabbits eyes or rubbed into their skin just for a mascara or new shade of lip-gloss. To me there is no justifiable reason for this. I now only buy and use products that are cruelty free. Things like real mink eyelashes or real hair brushes contribute to unnecessary animal suffering when there are cruelty free products on the market that do the job just as well.
Why did you not talk much about veganism at first?
I guess I didn't really have the platform to speak much about it as I do now. When I first became vegan I did not know any other vegans so connected with people on social media. After winning the competition all my friends and colleagues found a real interest in it and I now have a few friends who have become vegan and we love to swap recipes and try new meal combinations!
Plant based diets are becoming a lot more mainstream now and certain ingredients are much easier to get hold of and competitions such as this keep veganism in the limelight which helps the word to spread.
As you've said in the past there are so many cruelty free products on the shelves- so what vegan beauty can't you live without?
Gosh so many! I am a professional makeup artist so most of my makeup brushes come from a vegan range from Royal and Langnickel which are really high quality synthetic fibres. Superdrugs B. Range is my go to skincare especially their night cream. I only use Superdrug hairspray as it is one of the only ones that are cruelty free and affordable. For makeup to look flawless you need good skin and tools so those are key items. I also love The Balm Mary-Lou maniser highlighter to give brides a real glow as well as Too faced and Innika foundations. It is important to always check the ingredients in the products you buy and know what you are putting on your skin. PETA cruelty free companies list is really helpful however if you are unsure just stick to products with the cruelty free bunny logo on it.
What do you most like cooking at home?
I absolutely love food and cooking and am always trying new things. The popular dishes my family and friends love tend to be original recipes which I have veganised. So things like quiche, lasagne, pad thai noodles and roast dinner make for hearty meals. At work my collegues are always looking into my lunchbox to see what I have! I come from a Bangladeshi background so I do also make super delicious curries and I also love baking cakes a lot.
What is next for you?
I am currently building up my vegan freelance make-up artistry business 'Anna Jahan London' and will be showcasing that with a bridal campaign later this year and am very excited. I travel as much as I can and love going on a food crawl in other cities and am planning to go Berlin this year and eat my way through the city! Also in future I plan on opening a vegan eco-friendly cafe with a twist so keep your eyes peeled!