"A journey of a thousand miles begins
with a single step."
- Confucius

  All photos above courtesy of Michael Bartelle.

I’ve been vegan since 2008. The whole story of how I actually became vegan, however, began when I was a little girl. I was always curious about nature and the creatures of this world, and I loved caring for the numerous companion animals we had growing up in my South Jersey home. When my brother or sister saw a daddy-long-leg spider, they would run away or scream - I would just get closer to it. I even went through a "kissing worms" phase (I know, I know - don't judge!).

Though acting had been my greatest passion since I was young - I've been working on and off as a performer since the age of four (to learn more about that, you can check out my website) - an "aha" moment happened for me about three years ago, forever changing where my passions would lie.

Back in 2007, I saw the end of the independent film Fast Food Nation. It was the point in the film where cows in a slaughterhouse are forced onto the kill floor to be slaughtered for meat. I was an emotional wreck, my shirt soaked with tears, and I could barely control the shame and shock overcoming me, as I watched what was horrifically occurring onscreen - scared, innocent animals screaming out in fear and desperation, trying to do everything they could to save their own lives, were being violently killed for their flesh. In that moment, the lightbulb of my conscience lit up deep inside, and I knew in my heart that my life would never be the same.

At the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, October 2009.

I started with baby steps - cutting out all land animals, but still dining on fish, eggs, and dairy. After about a year, I decided to forgo meat entirely by giving up fish, but I was still very hesistant about going all the way to becoming vegan. How could I part with cheese? No more omelets? What about whipped cream?! Fear was a huge deterrent for me - I had already given up what I felt was so much that I was afraid to give up everything completely. Little did I realize what I would be receiving in return.

After a few months of researching a vegan diet, as well as learning about what dairy and eggs really are in terms of health and animal welfare, I decided to start taking vegan "breaks" - I would spend a day, or a few days, eating only vegan food. I was still so scared to jump into it completely, because I knew it would be something I'd have to do with 100% of me (as my dad likes to say, I'm a "hurricane" when it comes to my passions in life - once I decide to do something, I give it my entire focus and effort). But as the months went by, I started longing for the vegan days more and more. After simply dipping my toes in the waters of a vegan lifestyle, I was beginning to get hooked. By October 2008, I was a full-fledged vegan. And now, I can proudly say that I live as cruelty-free a lifestyle as I possibly can - I am vegan in all aspect of my life, not just in my dietary choices.

Going vegan was the single best choice I've ever made for myself and this world. My heart is fuller, my body is healthier and stronger, and my mind is so much more open and expanded than ever before. As if all that weren't enough, my steps have become lighter - and by steps, I not only mean my carbon footprint, but also the way I handle life. I am more gentle, compassionate, and balanced in my everyday existence since making this choice.

Just moved to Los Angeles and got to visit Orland's Farm Sanctuary! (2011)

And so, out of a desire to share with the world this new gift that I had been given - a delicious, exciting, and kind vegan lifestyle - I created Kiss Me, I'm Vegan! in November 2008. It all started as a way to share with my family and friends how positively this way of life has affected me. I had no idea that by continuing on with it, I would find such a wonderful - and international! - support system. 

If you had told me when I was in high school that I would be living vegan and blogging about it, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. But life has a funny way of showing you who you really are through each and every experience you have. The experience that has defined my passion for life today was watching Fast Food Nation three years ago. I will forever hold on to that moment as the point where I learned how deeply love and compassion - for the animals of this Earth, for our environment, and for each other - is desperately needed in this world. As I take each light, loving step, I continue to happily promote this way of living through Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!, and I am so thrilled to have you become a part of my journey.

"It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you."
- Randy Pausch