Veganism has some stylish new spokespeople: Celebs

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In an interview, de Rossi said she had been essentially vegan when she met DeGeneres, who was a fan of meat, especially burgers. De Rossi went back to meat, but later, together, they became vegans.

“It took a couple years, but we realized we didn’t feel comfortable ethically eating meat,” de Rossi says. “For animal lovers, something kind of clicks. But it doesn’t really matter how you get to it, as long as you believe in why you chose a vegan diet.”

De Rossi is encouraged that prominent figures like Wynn and Clinton are throwing their weight _ even 24 pounds less of it, in Clinton’s case _ behind veganism.

“I think men in particular are taking note of Steve Wynn and Bill Clinton,” she says. “They’re really powerful men that people want to emulate.” As for entertainment figures like herself, “we can do our part too,” the actress says. “The more we can demystify the word `vegan,’ the better.” She notes that all cooking segments on DeGeneres‘ show are vegan.

But what about the cost argument _ that shifting to a vegan diet is expensive and time-consuming, and often simply untenable for average Americans who, unlike stars and billionaire moguls, don’t have their own private chefs?

“I get some of that,” acknowledges de Rossi. “But look at the diet. Foods like beans and rice are staple foods in so many cultures. And there’s so much you can buy in supermarkets now. Being vegan is not an exclusive thing. I think for people to say, `Well, it’s fine for you’ _ that’s kind of an excuse.”

De Rossi and DeGeneres, in fact, are becoming restaurateurs: They’ve invested in a vegan chain, The Veggie Grill, and may be investing in a standalone vegan restaurant as well, according to a spokesman.

They could probably take advice from Sarma Melngailis, owner of Pure, who co-founded it in the summer of 2004.

“It’s all so much more mainstream now than seven years ago,” Melngailis says. “We’ve moved away from that crunchy image. You won’t see that here.”

What you will see are diners eating a raw lasagna made with zucchini, heirloom tomatoes and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta, or squash blossoms filled with a spiced cashew “cheese” _ both dishes bearing a high-end $24 price tag. Or sipping cocktails made with fresh organic juices, like a mojito with mint, lime juice and sake.

Melngailis, who also owns the One Lucky Duck retail store and online business, specializing in vegan snacks, feels that the more adaptable veganism is, essentially, the more people will accept it.

“A lot of people associate veganism with judgment, and I don’t like that,” she says. “Our goal is to encourage a shift. It’s not black and white. It’s gray.”

The role of a (mostly) vegan like Clinton is crucial, she says. “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.”

The former president pleased advocates for veganism once again when he was asked recently, rather too bluntly in the view of some, whether it “sucked” to be vegan.

No, Clinton told Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” show: “I’d like to have as many good days as possible, and this seems to be the best way to get it,” he said.

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