Lauren Karl is an actress, comedian and personal trainer who was born in the USA. She moved to London (England) for her masters degree in theatre, where she now lives. In her performances, she explores different characters, ranging from Drag King to Burlesque performer. Lauren has been vegan for 8 years and also talks about veganism in her own YouTube channel "Just veganin", which she started about a year ago.
In this interview we talk about how her performances allow her to embrace both her masculine and feminine side, vegan food, past and future social projects she engages in, as well as her life in London as a lesbian and the looming risk of the Brexit.
Q: You have already done a lot in your life. You started jazz and modern dance at a young age, studied theatre at the Berkeley University of California, and now have a comedian drag king show in London. How did all of this come about?
Well, I am always been a performer. I started acting when I was thirteen and loved it and just keep going with it. Acting in theatre and film then opened up my mind to other ways to express myself. Therefore got into fire dancing (haha that is probably the aries in me) and then really feel in love with burlesque, drag king work, and cabaret.
When living and acting in Los Angeles I often found it really frustrating how they represented women. A lot of times I felt that the industry in Los Angeles was more focused on the appearange of a woman - e.g. how thin she was - than her talent.
I do not think that what we see on TV and film is an accurate reflection of the body types, genders, and ethnicities that we have in the real world. That is why I feel in love with cabaret and burlesque. I loved seeing women onstage who felt body-confident and sexy, no matter what size or ethnicity they were, and being loved and celebrated for that. I think women are sexual beings and being able to perform burlesque and to dive into the sexy goddess inside ourselves by our OWN choice is such an incredible feeling.
I also love being a drag king because it truly allows me to explore and rejoice in my masculine side, which I have always felt more comfortable being in. Therefore I am grateful for the space that burlesque/cabaret brings to a performer. It allows them to discover and be who they are then gives them a space to create that persona and show it to the world.
[Photo credit: Veronika Vee Marx.
Image description: Lauren posing as her drag king character Loui von Dini. Loui has curly brown hair,
a fancy mustache, and is wearing round glasses, a black shirt and a grey jeans suit.]
Q: You also have your own YouTube channel called "Just Veganin”, which you started almost a year ago. What is it the channel all about?
Yes I started my YouTube channel a little over a year ago and I just really want to show people how fun, delicious, and orgasmically good it is to eat vegan and how plant-based eating is possible and enjoyable. I like going to different restaurants in London and in different countries (haha anytime I travel I try to go to different vegan restaurants to film there). But on my channel I like to go to the vegan restaurant, eat the food, give some thoughts, obviously show the food, and speak with the owners if possible. I also do some vegan recipes on the show and vegan food hauls. I might also try to do some vegan mukbangs in the New Year so please keep an eye out for that. Really, I just want people to realise how easy it is to live vegan these days.
Q: When did you start to live vegan and how was your way there? Has this changed your life and if so, how?
I have been vegan for over 8 years now. Before that I was a vegetarian for a year and then I watched earthlings and cried the whole way through. From then on, I have been a vegan. I have have always loved animals and it doesn’t make any sense to me to hurt them. They do have emotions and feelings, like we do.
Also, being a part time personal trainer and nutritionist I know that humans do not need to be eating meat to have a balanced diet. Therefore it doesn’t any make sense to cause pain to a living creature for the mere reason of eating meat, when it is something our bodies don’t need. In fact, the amount of meat most people are eating is harmful and causes a lot of diseases. So from a health perspective, it doesn’t make sense.
So you have asked if it has changed my life, and I would definitely say yes! It really has become such a big part of me… it changes the way I eat and how I treat living beings, and it also makes me feel that I am doing my part to make this world a little better.
Q: How do your friends and family feel about veganism? Could you share some experiences you have had with others regarding this?
They are really supportive, but they always make fun of me when we to restaurants because I always say “I am vegan". Then my mom and brother makes jokes like: “Really you are? You haven’t mentioned it. Haha". So I guess I mention it a lot! Haha!
But they know that a passion of mine is always to find a good vegan restaurant, so we are always on the hunt for good vegan food. It has been fun because my Mom has been finding some vegan food she really likes… she is loving the impossible burger and my mom has even helped me film a vegan vlog or two when I was back in the States (check out the Philadelphia Vegan Restaurants vlog on my YouTube channel if you want to see my mom’s camera skills!).
My Dad also is very supportive and he tries to be aware to what food I can eat. I am also lucky because my brother is a vegan/veggie so he is into loads of the same foods that I am into. As you can tell, I am very enthusiastic about vegan food, but I don’t try to be preachy. I really only share why I am a vegan when asked because it works for me and I understand it might not be for everyone. I always tell people as long as you are actively doing something that makes this world a better place than that is amazing. For me being a vegan really resonants with that but for some people it might be doing work for kids with cancer, or finding ways to use more sustainable resources. I just say as long as you are doing something to better the world then that is doing your part.
[Photo credit: Tiger Rice.
Image description: Lauren posing as her burlesque character Loretta von Dini.]
Q: Is veganism also a topic that you explore on stage?
I have to admit I have not explored veganism on stage yet. I obviously do it on my YouTube channel "Just Veganin", but the more I think about it, the I would like to start exploring it onstage. Ummmmmm... maybe in 2019. ;)
Q: Can you think of a special story or experience that connects you with an animal?
Awwwww animals are just magic! Well, really every moment I get to share with my Puggle, Berkeley, is such a beautiful encounter. She lives with my Mom in the United States. I moved to London for my masters in Theatre and started traveling and performing loads after I graduated so this lifestle would just not have been fair to her. Plus my Mom treats her like a spoiled grandchild! So Berkeley is really happy with my mom! But really, when I am back home and Berkeley and I snuggle, or she just lies on me when she sleeps, I just feel my heart opening up. It just amazes me how loyal, loving, and trusting dogs are. I mean, they possess qualities that are hard to find in most humans. I just love how dogs intertwine their lives with ours and how we do the same with theirs, they become our family. I love seeing this love that we can share between two species. It gives me hope that in our society we can continue loving one another despite all our differences and find our commonalities.
Q: Are there any social projects that are particularly close to your heart?
One of my best friend has Cystic Fibrosis so I have done some runs and fundraising for CF Trust. I also partake in the Vagina Monologues. The Vagina Monolgues are a series of monologues using interviews about women and their vaginas to tell truthful, funny, and serious stories of what they have been through. I love this show because all the money goes towards stopping violence against women and helping women who have experienced abuse. The Vagina Monologues are performed in February as part of the non-profit V-Day. Eve Ensler started V-Day to work towards ending violence against women throughout the world.
Adding to that, I have also done numerous physical challenges like the three peak challenge and biking from London to Paris to raise money for Cancer Research. Last year I also took part in the London Animal Rights March, which I really thought raised a lot of awareness regarding animal cruelty and it is something I would like to do every year.
[Photo credit: Lauren Karl.
Image description: Lauren with Berkeley the puggle.
Lauren is smiling into the camera, Berkely hasn't found the camera yet.]
Q: Sadly, like many other countries, England now is experiencing a national shift to the right. Have you noticed this in your personal life and have you, as a lesbian woman in London, already experienced hostilities related to this?
Ummmm… I personally have not felt it too much but I know a lot of my trans and non-binary friends have. I have to admit that I worry that if the Brexit does happen, we might see more radical right way of thinking, which I think could be very detrimental to the LGBTQ community. I mean, let's be honerst, there are already so many LGBTQ bars, pubs, and performance spaces being closed. I just don’t want England to get run by fear and become close minded at all.
Q: Currently, the Brexit is imminent. To what extent do you think will this affect you and your plans for the future?
Well, I am a personal trainer and performer, so as a freelance worker, I honestly think Brexit will affect everything. If the economy is doing poorly, I will expect cutbacks on peoples discretionary income spending, so that would directly affect the services I provide. So if people need to cut back on spending due to the fact that prices go up, it will effect me. The economy already is not doing too well and if we Brexit it will affect so many things. There are trading agreements, business deals, immigration laws etc. that have been made due the agreements we made as part of the EU. So if Brexit goes ahead we will have to come up with new solutions to all of these and it will take years, if not decades. This will break down so much and it is also time that we could be putting into education and healthcare, so Brexit will take the focus away from other important issues in our society.
I also worry because by being a part of the EU we have been able to keep so much peace between countries. I just do not want to see that being disturbed due to border issues. I personally am still sending positive energy out that Brexit doesn’t happen. :)
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
HAHA I think I have said a lot but I want to say thank you to everyone for reading this and thank you for interviewing me. :)
Youtube Just Veganin: https://www.youtube.com/c/justveganin
Twitter Just Veganin: https://twitter.com/JustVeganin
Instagram Just Veganin: https://www.instagram.com/justveganin/
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this interview are prepared to the interviewee’s and the interviewer’s best capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Vegan Rainbow Project itself. Please also not that people change and so do their opinions. We kindly ask you to be mindful of that when reading past articles and/ or statements that are referenced in this interview.