Xtra Factor and radio presenter, actress and DJ Sarah-Jane Crawford talks to Vegan Life about her journey to plant-based eating
“It was spring of 2015. Veganism was just a fun thing I was testing out to talk about on my radio show. When you have a daily show you are always working to come up with new content. It was around the time that Beyoncé announced she was doing the 21-day nutrition challenge and had teamed up with a chef to do her plant-based food delivery service. I was about to do this three week vegan challenge. I had an intern at the time, and she kept saying: “After you do this, you’re going to be vegan for life.” I denied it – I thought it was only going to last a few weeks.”
Sarah-Jane Crawford is a TV and radio presenter, as well as actress, DJ, and vegan. While she may not have anticipated that veganism would have become such an important part of her life, it is something that has now influenced her in many ways.
She tells Vegan Life: “During those three weeks, while I was getting into this new arena of starting to eat differently, I started to think differently – about animal welfare as well as health. I was exposed to different conversations with vegans who spoke so passionately about their lifestyle. Someone who waxed lyrical about it was [grime MC] JME. I call him the urban vegan. I said to him that I had no idea he didn’t eat meat, and he talked about videos he’d seen. He said he firmly believed it isn’t fair to any living individual to go through the hell caused by the dairy industry. When he left the studio, I text him, and asked about these videos, which had made him swear off meat forever. What were they? I knew some would be too full-on to mention on air. He sent some links that I watched with a friend – she didn’t eat meat for a while after that. It had an impact on us both.”
Two years later, Sarah-Jane describes her transition as ‘an interesting journey’. “In that time I left the BBC, and have been moving back and forth between here and LA, where they have an amazing set-up for vegans. There is some really great healthy food available, but also very interesting fast food for vegans. I really believe that to live as a happy vegan you need to know you have the option of eating these sorts of foods. That’s why places like Temple of Hackney (serving vegan fried ‘chicken’) are so cool.
“We’re moving away from that old fashioned idea that everyone who eats vegan only eats healthy food all the time. So many people who are vegan used to eat meat – like me, I used to eat cheeseburgers, I know what it’s like to eat animal products, milkshakes, and cheese. When you come from that food background, you want to know that you can still enjoy yourself, but in a way where no-one’s had to die for you to live.
“What’s cool about my journey in terms of how I can advocate for the lifestyle, is that I ate meat before with no care about where it came from, and no appreciation about the impact of factory farming on the environment, so I can identify with non-vegans, I really didn’t care about leather or fur, I would just wear it, now that I have transitioned I have been phasing the leather I already owned out of my wardrobe, I categorically wouldn’t wear fur, and have got rid of all my fur jackets.”
Inspired by compassionate living, in mid-2016, the star decided she wanted to create an app. “I wanted to solve the problem of how inconvenient it can be for vegans who want to just go out and eat on a whim,” she says. “There is already an app called ‘Happy Cow’ and I love it, but I wanted something a bit cooler and cleaner. My vegan app is called Viappi and it’s free. At the moment you can visit viappi.co.uk and enter your email and we’ll contact you as soon as the app launches. It is a restaurant finder and recipe database, serving both veggies and vegans who want to go out for dinner and those who want to cook at home.”
There were also some health issues that made the former Radio One DJ want to eat plant-based food. She says: “I had a lump removed from my breast. It’s called a papilloma lump. That means although it’s not cancerous, it’s not your typical cyst, and could change in the future. I’ve also had a non-cancerous fibroid removed from my uterus. To me, these issues seemed reminiscent of someone who had unbalanced hormones.
“It made me think about hormones in meat, and I thought if I’m going through this in my early thirties I don’t want to be going through life knowing I am prone to things like this because of my diet. It’s all very good going under the knife every five years – we’re living in such an advanced society you can have operations all day long, but if you’re not even looking at your diet, that’s so backwards. We spend money on drugs, we use NHS resources, we go private to try and work out all these problems with our bodies, but we rarely look at the most natural way of solving it which is food and drink – we try and solve the problem after it’s happened.”
This month will see one of Sarah-Jane’s acting projects hit the big screen, when movie The Hatton Garden Job, is released to coincide with the second anniversary of the robbery that shocked the city. A group of aging East Enders raided London’s jewellery quarter making off with millions.
“I would say this is my biggest acting job – I don’t have loads of scenes, but the presence in the film is exciting for me. I play the part of detective inspector Emma Carter,” says Sarah -Jane. “The director said he wanted it to play out as a sort of OAP version of Ocean’s 11. I only use the term OAP as the guys who took on the robbery were a little bit older that the people who usually get involved in this kind of thing. What they did was naughty, but there is an element of humour to it. They robbed Hatton Gardens, got away with £15 million, they got picked up because of a silly mistake. At least one of them is still at large.
“I didn’t get any method acting underway – you know, shadowing police or anything like that. I worked with a very cool actor called Mark Harris who has done a number of British films and played my partner in it. He sent me links to films like The Sweeney, and British cop movies to help set the tone. He ran lines with me loads of times. It was a really awesome process. I enjoyed learning lines and doing the table read with all the other actors.
“The film features some real stalwarts of British cinema. I have a really fun scene with Larry Lamb. It’s really cool – the shoot was great.
“My birthday was the day we wrapped and my ex-boyfriend (who is a dear friend and also acted in the film) brought in a cake from Ruby’s of London, which was amazing. Everyone enjoyed it – people are often really curious about veganism – and they usually enjoy the food.”
To find out more about Sarah Jane’s app, visit viappi.co.uk
Photographer: Joseph Sinclair