Oh man. Jaime Karpovich is on fire. My interview with her was one of the most fun I’ve ever conducted for the online magazine. #PRIVATE#Did you see the interview I published earlier today, where she gave us the skinny on everything from her popular Save the Kales! show to her take on DIY media (which I particularly appreciated)? It’s worth a read, y’all. And so is today’s flock content, which is an extended – and somewhat more intimate – interview with Jaime, who is currently hard at work helping to organize the Bethlehem VegFest, as well as helping spearhead the Bethlehem Food Co-Op Project.
And thanks to Jaime’s generosity and all-around awesomeness, one lucky flock member now has the opportunity to win a Save the Kales! T-shirt (there’s only size large, y’all!) AND a Save the Kales! DVD. (Note that you can also watch all of the episodes on her YouTube channel; therefore, I recommend gifting the DVD to a vegan-curious friend.) To win, email contest [at] ourhenhouse [dot] org, indicate you are entering to win the Save the Kales! T-shirt and DVD, and include your mailing address. You have one week to enter, which means you have until Thursday, May 23, 2013, at midnight EDT. At that point, we will randomly select one winner (and you can only enter one time). You must be a flock member to enter (and if you’re a flock member, then you must be fabulous!).
Read on, little chickens! Check out Part Deux of my interview with Jaime Karpovich of Save the Kales!
Our Hen House: Do you have any particular favorite segments from Season 1?
Jaime Karpovich: At least once an episode we have to pause taping because of hysterical laughter. The kind where you can’t talk, you know? That’s always great; it gets rid of the nerves. Otherwise, getting to visit some local businesses and spaces is such a great way to interact with the community, and to showcase cool things that aren’t blatantly “vegan” but serve an environmental, artistic, or community-minded purpose.
Fall is my favorite season. We went to this pumpkin patch/apple orchard and just ran amok in the corn maze, and went into the field of pumpkins – and I kept picking them up and improvising things to say. I was goofy and I was cracking myself up. That was an afternoon of “work,” which never fails to amaze me.
The show is not scripted whatsoever. Matt, my right-hand man, tries to keep a good mix of useful information and Jaime-isms.
OHH: What’s your vegan pie in the sky for Save the Kales!? What’s next?
JK: Our show is slowly making its way across the country. It’ll be airing in Seattle and Vancouver soon (to a cable audience of 3.9 million subscribers – holy crap!), and we’re hoping to add more cities to the list down the road.
I want to write, host, speak, and organize more events going forward. I was talking to my boyfriend a little while ago and said, “You know, I’m not sure I’m ever going to have a ‘normal’ job.” I like this smattering of things too much. I don’t want to choose.
There is this great quote by the darling Betty White: “Just say yes to everything and figure the rest out later.” I’ve learned a lot about setting boundaries, but I want to say yes. Connecting with people – that’s what I thrive on.
OHH: One thing that I’ve noticed you bring to Save the Kales! – and to your advocacy in general – is a very personal and holistic approach. I think that’s partly why people find it so easy to relate to you, and why they keep coming back for more. You’re the BFF we all wish we had. Can you talk a bit about your own veganism, what drives it, and the takeaway message that you hope to impart to your audience?
JK: Veganism is everywhere right now (not a bad thing!). Everyone has a blog, a restaurant, a podcast, something … Sometimes you can wonder what your place is, if your work matters. But whenever I start to question that, I remember why I do this: because I don’t want to hurt animals (or other people, for that matter).
My work, while very personal, is ultimately not about me. Get rid of the ego that says, “I need more followers” or “I need to have more blog hits” – that is so much less important than just being genuine about your mission.
I believe inherently people don’t want to hurt animals. People get upset when they see a dog locked in a hot car. They advocate adopting from shelters instead of buying from a breeder. Even when it comes to humans, like people bombing other people – everyone is horrified, wondering why the world is so violent and how can we create more peace. What’s weird is when those same people mock you for being vegan. It’s like, wait a minute, I’m pretty sure you think doing horrible things to animals is awful and wrong, and I’m pretty sure you believe violence sucks and we’re better off with less of it, or ideally, none. For me, I just made the connection to it as a bigger picture. How can you make fun of that?
We need to really “be the change.” If someone has never met a vegan in real life, I want them to see my work, the way I live, the way I really try to find the good in things, and notice that I like conversation, not confrontation. Then maybe vegans won’t seem so crazy or “other.” Maybe they’ll think, that girl seems successful and happy and put together; she isn’t missing out on life and she’s gets to do a lot of neat things; and that food actually looks pretty good, and maybe it will shift their perspective a bit. We need to try to live as examples of the kind of world we want to have.
OHH: Jaime, you do so much. When you’re not saving the kales, one project you’ve been working on has been the Bethlehem Food Co-op. Give us the skinny on this project.
JK: Bethlehem has been cited as a “food desert,” which means our downtown is thriving and you can eat well and do some shopping and see art galleries and live music and indie movies … but you can’t get any groceries unless you get in your car and drive a few miles away to a store. We want to change that.
The Bethlehem Food Co-op project is an effort to get a brick-and-mortar cooperative grocery store in our downtown. What’s amazing is that the idea started as a Facebook conversation over a year ago, and now we’re really on track to have this store. Talk about grassroots!
OHH: Your advocacy is driven by animal rights. Does the reality of the plight of animals ever get the best of you? In moments like those, how do you deal?
I’ve still never seen Earthlings. The trailer slays me. I felt guilty about not watching some of the undercover footage, but then I realized I can’t help animals when I’m holed up in my bed under the covers crying for a week straight. I’m a sensitive person and I know while that footage is hugely important, saturating myself with it takes me away from being an effective advocate (and human being).
I prefer to focus on the positive changes that people are making in ways big and small, from Debbie, the woman who runs For the Animals Sanctuary in New Jersey who has a full-time job as a nurse and then manages to take care of those animals every single day in her “free time” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Don’t miss the Our Hen House podcast interview with Debra Kowalski], to the companies making gorgeous vegan handbags because when people compliment you on your bag you get to talk about an awesome ethical company making gorgeous cruelty-free bags … that’s activism, too!
There’s a lot of good. I want to focus on the good.
OHH: A little birdie told me that you have a book proposal in the works. Can you give us an idea of what it’s about? We promise not to tell!
JK: Blogging and veganism became a big part of my life when I was battling severe depression and anxiety. It was a weird time for me. I couldn’t work (I could barely get out of bed to get a glass of water), and anxiety was manifesting itself in strange ways. Like, there was a month or two when I couldn’t chew foods. Chewing felt “wrong.” I ate a lot of applesauce and instant mashed potatoes. I was convinced that my existence was only harming other people and the world, being a burden to everyone I knew.
Then it kind of hit me: How can I care about saving pigs, how can I have compassion for chickens, but still hate myself so much? If I was preaching and believing in compassion, shouldn’t that apply to me, too?
Veganism was this thing other than myself that gave me a purpose when I didn’t think I had one.
My book could be classified as self-help (or “self-discovery” or “self-empowerment” or whatever sort of term feels the least corny). It’s about using compassion as a lens to not just see the world, but to see who you are – and using that to guide you as a productive person who does things that make the world better.
OHH: Do you give workshops, too?
JK: I’ve been a speaker at conferences, festivals, and colleges and universities, but a dream is to host several-day retreats. Like vegan adult summer camp with a self-improvement vibe and some art thrown in. That’s a long-term goal. Who doesn’t love summer camp?
And I want to work with young girls and have talks and seminars about confidence and body image and getting over comparisons to others. It kills me to think of the literal years of my life, I’m sure, that I spent just feeling totally lousy about myself. I could have taken that time, energy, and focus and put it toward anything else and really made some big waves. I think when you’re younger it helps to have a real-life person to look to for advice and support with all of that stuff. Then it’s not just a concept you have to force yourself to (try to) believe, you have this person showing you how it’s done. There’s that idea again – be the example. Be the change.
OHH: Any advice for anyone out there who wants to be Jaime when they grow up?
JK: For the past 10 years, I’ve been aching, desperate to try to find someone who could tell me exactly what path I should take. I wanted someone to say “Do X then Y, and after a few years do Z, and you will be successful and happy!” I used to wonder if I should go back to school to be an accountant or something, because it’s like, you take classes and work and then you are this thing; you graduate and then you go and be an accountant and it’s all figured out. There would more direction, and I desperately craved that – knowing I wanted to do important work but not figuring out what that work was.
I’ve always wanted to host a show and write books, but doesn’t everyone? Is that even real?
Advice: Stop worrying so damn much. You’re doing OK. Kindness isn’t a weakness. These confusing “figuring it all out” times are important because figuring it out is such an important part of the process. And for goodness sake, don’t compare yourself to other people! Over anything. Ever.
OHH: What’s the one thing that you can’t live without? This can be a food item, or you can feel free to think bigger.
Books. I’ve worked in bookstores in some capacity for literally half of my life. When I go to a new town, the first thing I do (after Googling where to get lunch) is to find the local bookstore. I feel calm and at home when I’m surrounded by books.
And avocados, and hot sauce.
Special thanks, again, to Jaime Karpovich of Save the Kales! for taking the time to answer all of my questions. And, darling flock, best of luck in winning the giveaway!