At age 33, Jess Hart has graced countless glossy magazine covers, sailed on super yachts all over the globe and walked the runway for some of the world’s most recognized fashion design icons. She’s also a relatively new member of the vegan gang, and she’s loving it.
Here, she reveals her journey to writer Shonagh Walker.
“I was a big meat eater growing up,” Jess recalls when we chat on the phone early on a rainy Saturday morning in July. Despite never meeting before, our conversation flowed like we were old friends and we jumped around topics regularly and erratically, laughing about long-past, late-night, tequila- fueled table dancing one minute (we’ve all been there!), and discussing animal welfare the next. In fact, we’d been talking for over an hour before we discovered we were both vegan. You see, Jess and I were talking to celebrate her first year of sobriety, something she wanted to share with her fans and followers and the readers of Harper’s Bazaar (the story was published in the April 2019 issue).
It came up that she had made a pact with her boyfriend, NASCAR race driver James Kirkham, that she would embrace veganism if he joined her in a life of sobriety. So, at the same time Jess quit drinking, she also gave up eating animals and their by-products, going from full-on omnivore to living life as vegan as possible.
Already a vegan, and only a some time drinker, it wasn’t a major trade off for James, but for Jess, there was a little more effort involved. We are talking about an Aussie girl who used to love a meat pie, after all! “My mum actually brought us up vegetarian, but I loved meat so much that I would always have it on my plate,” she recalls. “I loved meat pies and chicken! Mum would make me eat them on the porch!.” “Something about being with James though, made me think more about what I was eating and putting into my body. So we made a deal and I’ve not really ever looked back!” Everyone begins their journey into veganism for their own individual reasons but most arrive at the same common ground eventually – animal welfare and the environment, and Jess is all too aware of that. “At first, being vegan for me was largely about health, although, let’s face it – there is plenty of unhealthy vegan food out there! I do try to avoid the highly processed, packaged stuff.”
“At first, being vegan for me was largely about health, although, let’s face it – there is plenty of unhealthy vegan food out there! I do try to avoid the highly processed, packaged stuff.”“James says he will show me one day why he is fully vegan [with documentaries like Dominion and Earthlings], but right now I am doing it for my health. I know I will get there with the animals and environment, but right now this is where I am on my journey and I know by rushing things I will only set myself up for failure.”
At the time of our interview, Jess had been vegan – and loving it - for seven months. She was navigating it with the same aplomb as she does walking any haute couture catwalk.
“I started doing a master cleanse at first and detox, which was a great way to kick start a cleaner way of eating. But now, yeah, I really think it is just an amazingly positive way of life, where I know I’m ultimately living a great lifestyle and it’s also a great way to learn, to play with what I eat and to learn new ways with food.
“Living in New York, it’s obviously easy as there are so many incredible vegan restaurants. However, If I am at an event I will ask for the vegan option and at a dinner, there is always a vegan option. Sometimes it’s amazing; other times it’s boring, so I eat before I go out, just in case! I do eat out all the time – a lot of Asian food, and you can always find something vegan in Asian menus. I think I might move to LA next year and I’m looking forward to the huge vegan scene there.”
“I try to eat a lot of avocado. I eat a lot of spinach and rice, and gluten free toast. I try to be gluten free too, as when I first went vegan I was eating a lot of gluten and sugar and that wasn’t so great for me. Now, I am the gluten-free vegan who doesn’t drink”!
She laughs, ”I am the last person anyone will invite to a party, but you know what? I’m totally OK with that!”
I highly doubt the invitations will stop piling up in Jess’s letterbox any time soon. She’s living proof that life can indeed be fun and fabulous without needing to consume alcohol or animal products, and as we wrap up our now two hour phone call, I make a mental note to invite her to my next birthday bash.