1. Please introduce yourself.
What do you want to know? I’m Victoria Moran, and I live in New York City with my husband, William Melton, our rescue dog, Forbes, and rescue pigeon, Thunder. I’ve written since I was a kid, starting with writing about rock groups for teen magazines. I got into my first Beatles press conference at fourteen, and when I was seventeen, Paul McCartney bought me a drink. When I went vegetarian at nineteen, inspired by a love of animals and an interest in yoga, my writing shifted more to health topics. My first book, Compassion the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism, came out in 1985; a dozen others have followed. I was on Oprah twice — thrilling — and my book, Creating a Charmed Life, made quite a splash twenty years ago. I hope there is at least one more book in me, but I am seventy-two and life does start to look different at this point. In addition, books and publishing aren’t what they once were. Like most writers, I do other things: running Main Street Vegan Academy, hosting the Victoria Moran Podcast, and being on the leadership team for the Compassion Consortium, a Zoom-based spiritual center for people who care about animals.
2. What inspired you to create Main Street Vegan?
Main Street Vegan as an umbrella enterprise grew up after the Main Street Vegan bookwas published in 2012. It had magical beginnings. The editor at TarcherPerigee didn’t like the term “Main Street.” I was trying to write the book and find a different title, but it wasn’t working. Then — miraculously — I ran into filmmaker Michael Moore on the street. I didn’t know him, but he had had some success with a weight loss book I’d written earlier, Fit from Within, and included it among his ten favorite books in an article in O Magazine, so I introduced myself. This led to a series of conversations and during one of them I mentioned my problem with the book title. He said, “It’s a perfect title. Everyone wants to be ‘Main Street.’ Let me talk to them.” So … there was a 3-way call with an Academy Award winner, my editor, and me, and I got the title. Once I had it, so many other ideas started to pop: a Main Street Vegan podcast (which ran for ten years); Main Street Vegan Productions — we did our first film, A Prayer for Compassion, about spirituality and food choices, in 2019; the Main Street Vegan blog; and the crowning jewel, Main Street Vegan Academy, training and certifying Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators.
3. How many years have you been vegan?
I’ve been vegan in 1983, so thirty-eight years. It was a long transition for me from vegan to vegetarian. I was dealing with a binge eating disorder and kept falling off the vegan wagon. When I finally committed, it was after committing first to the recovery program of Overeaters Anonymous, which gave me freedom of choice when it came to food, probably for the first time in my life. Also at this time, my daughter was an infant. I looked down at her one day in her crib and just knew I wanted to raise her with the elevated way of being on earth that a vegan lifestyle offers, but in order to that, I had to take the plunge first.
4. What does being vegan really mean to you?
It means being kind. It means living the Golden Rule. It means being able to look a cow in the eye. I happen to be someone who is enchanted by non-human animals, but I remember someone saying to me years ago: ‘I don’t love animals; I hate cruelty.’ That’s a big part of it, too: the cruelty involved in all slaughter and almost all animal agriculture at the present time is something I simply cannot support. Being vegan is the only option.
5. You are the mom of a very dynamic adult daughter! Were you vegan during your pregnancy?
Adair is dynamic indeed: she works as an aerialist and stunt performer. (Check out her Instagram, @a_daring_girl, where she posts wonderful pictures and videos of her unusual profession.) I was vegetarian during pregnancy but not vegan. I still hadn’t committed for myself, and the doctors scared me about protein et al. This was nearly forty years ago and there simply wasn’t as much known as there is now, when even the conservative Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that ‘appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.’ I regret not having had a vegan pregnancy, but my daughter has been vegan since infancy and she’s practically a superhero.
6. What was your experience raising your daughter as a vegan? Do you have any suggestions for other parents interested in doing the same?
Being vegan was part of a multi-faceted adventure of raising a child in a way that made sense to me. When I was pregnant, I read all the baby books with their conflicting ideas and was hopelessly confused until I discovered ‘attachment parenting,’ first through La Leche League, the breastfeeding moms’ organization, followed by Jean Liedloff’s 1986 classic, The Continuum Concept. The basic philosophy is that closeness is always called for and that a mother’s instincts are worth trusting. In our case, that meant a medically supervised home birth and eventually homeschooling, allowing for travel and adventures and learning from life. The vegan aspect was just what we did. From early on, Adair had a close relationship with our three, and eventually four, cats, and when she begged to join me for animal rights marches, I said okay. Once, when she was three and my mom was visiting, Adair burst into tears at dinner. When we got her calmed down, she said through sobs, ‘I’m sad because Gramma eats animals.’ That’s when I learned that raising vegan kids is about more than nutrition and socialization. They know early something of the ugly side of the world, and because they do they need extra support and fun and friends and humor.
7. Do you offer training or support to others who are interested in becoming vegan?
I write and lecture for people on all points of the dietary spectrum, but I don’t work with one-on-one with pre-vegans myself. However, I’m the founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, which trains others to do just that.
8. Can you tell us some more about MSVA?
Main Street Vegan Academy‘s first class took place in my Harlem apartment in 2012. Since then, we’ve had thirty-three classes and graduated nearly 600 certified Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators (VLCEs) from over thirty countries on 6 continents. The pandemic moved us to Zoom in 2020, and this has enabled even more students to take the course which, in a live online format, has more class hours, more practice time, and more incredible instructors than ever before. The faculty includes luminaries such Milton Mills, MD, Joel Kahn, MD, Marty Davey, MS, RD, vegan fashion designer Joshua Katcher, Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House, Chef Fran Costigan of Vegan Chocolate fame, vegan biz wiz Stephanie Redcross West, and prolific cookbook author JL Fields, VLCE. Many who took the course have gone on to become working coaches, authors, and online influencers. Others work for animal rights organizations and plant-based businesses (Peta, the Humane League, the Barnard Clinic, VegNews), or they went on for university studies to study, for example, dietetics or animal rights law. Another contingent has started businesses of their own — food trucks, restaurants, an award-winning bakery, a bed and breakfast, vegan cheese and yogurt manufacturers, vegan cowboy boots, and all kinds of retail: cruelty-free bodycare, a bodega, a fromagerie. The next class is coming in October, 7 full weekend days, recorded if a student needs to miss a day. There is additional information on the website.
9. What were some of the personal challenges you encountered during the creation of your company?
The Academy took off from the start. We had thirteen students for that first class, and I’m still not sure how that came about. Main Street Vegan was my first new book in the vegan genre since 1994. My audience was largely composed of people whose interest was self-help and spirituality, not veganism. Even so, through my existing database and a couple of podcast appearances, a class formed. It was terrific, so I scheduled another one, and we’re celebrating ten years in operation. I never thought I’d have a business. I don’t have a head for business or a particular interest in it, but I had been self-employed as a writer since I left my last 9 to 5 job in 1988, so I was used to having business insurance and paying quarterly taxes. That, along with knowing a great many brilliant vegans with the expertise to comprise my faculty, was enough to get started. I’ve learned something with every cohort. The curriculum has grown and now every aspect of our three core categories — Vegan Principles, Communication Principles, and Business Principles — is covered in depth. We also have a sprinkling of mini-classes during every course — ‘Elements of Ayurveda,’ ‘Can Dogs Be Healthy on Vegan Diets?’ ‘Was Jesus Vegetarian?’ Knowledge of these subset topics isn’t essential for coaching others or starting a vegan business, but they help to make our graduates what I’ve always envisioned them to be: genuine experts on the vegan lifestyle in all its aspects.
10. What’s the next project you’re working on? Can you share any details?
There’s never just one thing. A lot of my time these days is devoted to the Compassion Consortium, mentioned in my intro. I’m the layperson founder along with three Interfaith ministers, Rev. Sarah Bowen, Rev. Erika Allison, and my husband, Rev. William Melton. We meet via Zoom on the 4th Sunday of every month, 4 pm Eastern, for an interfaith, interspiritual, interspecies worship celebration. And this summer we’re kicking off an exciting new program, our Animal Chaplain Training Program.
In addition, I’m rebranding and relaunching my podcast. I did the Main Street Vegan show as a hybrid radio show and podcast for ten years through Unity Online Radio. They ceased operation in April, and I’ll be starting the Victoria Moran Podcast, with its tagline ‘Vitality, Spirituality, Compassion,’ in June, through MindBodySpirit.FM on all podcast platforms.
And there is another book in me. The working title is Age Like a Yogi, something that I sincerely hope I’m doing myself.
Jacqueline Demeri has a diverse background in education, literature, workshop facilitation, herbalism, and yoga. She brings over 25-years of experience teaching ages preschool – adults. Her love of learning, and enthusiasm for sharing life-enriching information is transferred to her classes and writing projects. She is the author of Animooves: Yoga & Creativity Inspired by Animals, a Mom’s Choice Gold Honoree book.