Sheree Grant    |           September 1, 2018         |     www.thejamericanvegan.com


Maryland, USA

Photo: Maryland-based pioneer, founder and creator of Plant Powered Sistas, Lola St John.
It's not every day that you meet a person who wants to interview you because they believe your story can empower many others who are either transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, or veganism. This is why after I completed an interview that Lola requested from me, I returned the favor.

Usually, those who look out for others are rarely noticed for what they do, especially when they are selflessly working hard to promote and place other people in the limelight. Sometimes, we might find out years later who the person was behind the curtains, making sure that everything was prepped properly for those who would stand in front of the crowd, collecting the applause. I know that feeling all too well, so when Lola requested an interview with me for her website Plant Powered Sistas, I feverishly wanted to show the world that she is the beauty behind the blog that boosts and highlights melanin Queens.

As a black Caribbean woman living in America, I can personally attest that there is no getting around the negativity that we as black women face daily. In fact, the society we live in today dictates the way many of us style our hair, dress or wear makeup and accessories. To embrace yourself as a Black woman is an act of rebellion, and to migrate to a plant-based lifestyle can seem daunting, but it quickly becomes a liberating feeling. Unfortunately, most people don't get the opportunity to learn this because it is rarely promoted. Having a platform that is dedicated to showcasing committed Black women who are not afraid to tell the world that they do not consume animal-based products is truly refreshing, and I am beyond grateful to have found this page.

With nearly 20,000 followers, Plant Powered Sistas has a large fan base that continues to grow and advocate for Black women across the diaspora. Regardless of shape, size, complexion, age or length of time in the plant-based world, one thing is certain. All Black Queens who've transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle are welcomed, showered with love and wrapped up in a community of support. This is the environment that Lola creates within her platform, as she advances her company and mission to encourage and uplift Black Queens worldwide. Just one visit to her website and you'll agree that Lola is not only loyal to the cause, but she is a quiet storm, here to remind us that we can change our stories, and rewrite a new chapter- one that fosters living a happy and healthy plant-based lifestyle. Continue reading to learn more about the woman behind the powerful movement.


Photo: The Plant Powered Sistas brand, showcasing
an image of Black women in different shapes and sizes.
When did you become plant-based/ Vegan and how did that moment when you made the decision change your lifestyle?

My initial decision to change my lifestyle was in  December 2012. I watched the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and ordered a Breville Juicer the next day. I started a 21-day juice fast in January 2013. After the juice fast, I was plant-based/vegan for about 4 months. I was not committed and did not have a transitioning plan, so I slowly went back to old eating habits. I decided to try again two years later and have not looked back since.

Did you go cold tofurkey, or did you transition to a vegan lifestyle over time?

I went straight to veganism. 

What inspired you to create Plant Powered Sistas?

Plant Powered Sistas was created out of my own need to see women who looked like me thriving in a plant based lifestyle. As a Black Woman, I am inspired and strengthened by my sistas…our struggles, our resilience and our incredible determination. I was searching for a platform where I could draw motivation from my plant powered sistas. 

Photo: Lola, elegantly rocking a gorgeous African head scarf.
Well we're certainly glad that you created the platform you'd been seeking. As an entrepreneur, have you ever experienced moments where you wanted to give up, and if so, what kept you going?

Most definitely! There were days I questioned what I was doing and if it had any value. When you start a business, you have to invest time and money, and more often than not, it takes time to reap the benefits. The two things that have kept me going are 1) the mission and the passion I have for PPS and 2) the amazing women who send private messages and emails expressing how happy they are to see other sistas and thanking me for the platform. Those messages have always come to me at the right time. I am extremely grateful and humbled. 

What are some key practices you have that strengthen your work ethics in business?

A clear vision, focus and consistency! There are times when I have hit some low points and questioned myself, but I never stopped. Also, this work is NOT about me. It's about OUR community, our healing and restoration in more ways than one.

Photo: "Live and let live" is the powerful
motto Lola lives by.
How do you manage your vegan lifestyle with a busy schedule?

Planning is key. When I first started my plant-based lifestyle, I formed a habit of planning my meals on the weekend for the week ahead. My husband and teenage daughters were not about the vegan life so I prepared my meals ahead so that I was never tempted or caught off guard. I worked a full time corporate job also, so planning has been the key to my success in staying on track.

Your approach to a plant- based lifestyle is quite subtle, yet powerful. Do you believe that there are many ways to encourage people into a plant-based lifestyle? Are there strategies that you believe do not work?

My approach to life is “live and let live” so I don’t believe in forcing my opinions on others. One of my mentors once told me ”the greatest thing you have going for you, is your personal testimony and example.” When I started my plant-based journey, I did it quietly and I did not push my family to follow suit. 

My husband and children would occasionally taste my meals. I never pushed or coaxed, I just stayed committed. My husband decided he was “veganish” a year ago and started giving up chicken. Then he was pescatarian, and 4 months ago he became full vegan. My daughters are also diary free and moving away from chicken. The short answer is to lovingly inspire others by your actions and example. I definitely do not subscribe to the hard core, judgmental and self righteous approach. It turns people off.

Photo: Melanin Queens sporting beautiful
Plant Powered Sistas tees.
You’ve encountered many stories about black women from all walks of life. What stories have you published on your page that have inspired you?

There are too many to call out. There are times that I open an email to read a story and I am moved to tears. It happens more often than not...
I am moved by the determination, commitment and courage that it takes my sistas to take back their minds, souls, and bodies- to do what is necessary to facilitate wholistic healing. That is POWERFUL…that is empowerment!!

Yes, that is empowerment and empowering! Speaking of empowering, I love the quality of the Plant Powered Sistas t-shirt I ordered from you. The image of the shades of black women showcases the multifaceted parts of our people, and I love that the image positively reinforces that black women who are living a healthy plant-based lifestyle exist. This really challenges the stereotype that we are all overweight and unhealthy. What prompted you to expand your brand, and to market in this way? 

The goal is to celebrate our sistas. We are not defined by our skin tone, hair texture, dress sizes, age, etc. I wanted that to be clear because sometimes we are so used to being judged by outsiders so harshly that we judge ourselves within the same way.  To be truly free, we have to embrace who we are. I also want to dispel the myth that healthy is defined by a size. 

Photo: Tabling the cause for a healthier lifestyle,
featuring pamphlets, Plant Powered Sistas tees
and totes!

Yes- I agree! Now I have to ask, because I know you experience this... I’ve notice that a lot of pro-black pages get a significant amount of push-back from people who get upset about promoting black-centered products/ sites/ merchandise. Why do you choose to promote black women, and how do you keep things positive in a time when black women are usually undermined for their beautiful qualities?

Sometimes there are comments made but I am clear on the mission and vision of PPS so I am not distracted by those comments. Uplifting and celebrating my sistas of color  does not mean that I don’t love my caucasian sistas. It just means that I am choosing to dedicate this work/platform to my own. I am unapologetic about that. 
I had a couple of people tell me to re-brand and that I would do better if I moved away from making it about women of color. I thanked them for their opinions and kept going. I am clear on what my mission is with this work.

That is beautiful. Now if you could advise anyone transitioning to veganism, what would you say?

Education….do your homework. Read, research and then implement. Sometimes we get so excited by the hype and excitement that we don’t take time to build a solid foundation. Even after you are vegan or plant-based, you have to keep reading and learning. This is why we refer to the stories as journeys… because it’s a process. Take your time.

How can people connect with your brand Plant Powered Sistas?

We are on Instagram, facebook, and twitter. You can connect with us best via email at plantpoweredsistas@gmail.com or via our website at www.plantpoweredsistas.com

Thank you Lola, for giving me the opportunity to give to you what you give to the world.  Thank you for using your platform to advocate for women of color. May you continue to soar to the highest heights. Let's celebrate this Vegan Queen for the month of September!


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