12 Famous Vegans and Why They Made the Switch

As reported by RadarOnline last week, Usher has gone vegan, and he wants his protege Justin Bieber to join him, convinced that it’s the healthiest way to eat. Late last month, Rosie O’Donnell switched to a plant-based diet after nearly dying of what’s known as a “Widow Maker” heart attack. Then there’s Bill Clinton who adopted a near-vegan regimen (occasionally eating fish) a few years ago in order to reverse coronary artery disease. Other famous vegans who chose the diet for its health benefits include Carl Lewis, Ozzy Osbourne and Mike Tyson. Yes, that Mike Tyson.

Among those who made the switch in the name of animal welfare are Ellen DeGeneres, Alicia Silverstone and Dennis Kucinich, and each of them has been outspoken in their advocacy for that cause. Apparently it was after watching the 2005 documentary “Earthlings,” about the suffering of animals for food, fashion, pets, entertainment and medical research, that Ms. DeGeneres committed to the vegan lifestyle. The film, nicknamed “the Vegan maker,” was narrated by animal-rights activist Joaquin Phoenix who himself has been vegan since age three.

For Alec Baldwin and Russell Simmons, a sense of responsibility for the health of the planet rounded out their reasons for becoming vegan. The impact on the environment from the consumption of meat, Mr. Simmons wrote, is “mind-blowing.”

People, famous or otherwise, become vegan for health, ethical and/or environmental reasons. I can’t disagree with the arguments made for veganism and the way it advances both animal and environmental causes, but I continue to wonder about whether a diet composed entirely of plant-based foods is the healthiest for everyone.

Angelina backs off

A few years ago, as noted in The Telegraph, Angelina Jolie started eating meat again, saying, “I was a vegan for a long time, and it nearly killed me. I found I was not getting enough nutrition.” Maybe Ms. Jolie wasn’t doing it right, wasn’t eating a well-balanced vegan diet, and maybe she thereby did a disservice to the vegan movement by making that statement. Maybe she should have adopted Bill Clinton’s regimen.

Bill Clinton’s version

“I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit,” Mr. Clinton said in a TV interview two years ago. “I drink a protein supplement every morning — no dairy, I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit and a protein powder so I get the protein for the day when I start the day up.” What I wonder, however, is why a healthy, well-balanced diet has to include supplements, powders and various fortified foods. I wonder why adopting a vegan diet has to involve careful considerations and special accommodations for nutrients such as vitamins B12 and D, iron and calcium. So I wonder — and I know I may start a firestorm with this one — if a vegan diet is natural. What do you think?

Portman’s story

As for Ms. Jolie, it’s possible, as she argues, that a plant-based diet, however well-devised, wasn’t ever going to provide the nourishment her body needed. Every body is different. Natalie Portman, after declaring her conversion to veganism in a well-publicized essay for The Huffington Post, switched back during her pregnancy because, as she told the Q100 Bert Show in Atlanta, “I felt like I wanted that stuff. I was listening to my body to have eggs and dairy.” Likewise, I remember being unable to stop myself from eating meat while pregnant, much as I tried, because I was feeling chronically undernourished without it.

Diet is a very personal choice, an expression of who we are, our values and beliefs, whether or not we’re deliberately trying to make a statement. That there are more and more vegans who are famous, however, has certainly raised the profile of the animal-free, plant-based lifestyle. Many advocates view Bill Clinton as the biggest “catch.” One vegan told The Associated Press: “It legitimizes it a lot. I like to point it out all the time when people are skeptical about veganism — Clinton’s a smart man.”

Related Stories:

Speciesism and Veganism: Transcending Politics and Religion

The Importance of Being Vegan

10 Arguments Against A Vegan Lifestyle

Photo Credit: SweetOnVeg


Peggy B
Peggy B7 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Ivana D.
Ivana D2 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

I didn't know some of these people were vegans. Good for them and all others who choose this healthy lifestyle.

Max Hickson
Max Hickson4 years ago

Clinton was never Vegan, he was on a plant based diet. Still wore leather shoes and probably used other animal product. It annoys me when someone thinks they're Vegan just because they don't eat meat or dairy.

Carissa Roberts
Carissa Roberts4 years ago

This was a brilliant article! It very articulately summarized the key misconceptions which people commonly quote as 'evidence'.

4 years ago

Juta, many of us feel like you do, and we also have to take care of our own bodies, so eating what we require is important for our health.
Sometimes reality isn't perfect, but we can only do our best and feel peace with that knowledge.

Juta Semmel
Juta Semmel4 years ago

During these past years of my life, I find myself eating much less meat and more fish; am not a vegan, but do try to eat healthier; was eating pizza on a daily basis for a long time..yes, very stupid! When I look at meat and watch others eating it, the eyes of the animal are before me, looking very sad...so, can't eat it; we should all try to eat healthier....but in a way that doesn't hurt another soul...yes, I do believe animals have souls..as I am typing this, now thinking of the fish I eat..never thought of them having souls..more to think about now.....

Ruth S.
Ruth C4 years ago

I'm a very happy Vegan.

Douglas Jack
Douglas Jack4 years ago

If you are interested in a healthy body, living more in harmony with nature, less taxing the limited resources of the earth & adding your contribution for a sustainable earth, then vegetarian & vegan eating is a huge contribution. However to become informed about how to go about eating in balance you have to go beyond articles, books & theory to meeting & being with vegans & vegetarians. Most communities & all cities have some. Its not just listening to experiences but as well playing & working with people. We learn more from the energy & love which people express than what they say. When I was a teen-20 something in the 1970s, I found myself living in Russian Dukobour (45,000 people) & other pacifist mostly vegetarian communities, where their practice was centuries & decades old. I went further by orcharding, gardening & helping to develop the British Columbia Natural Food Co-op network then helping to operate the Quebec network. This is all to say that learning is primarily cultural & the strategies we take to contribute to a better world & healthy nutrition for all. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/design/responsable-health