When I came across Shai’s Instagram page, I was immediately drawn to her food photography. When you see her posts, you can tell she has an incredible amount of passion for cooking. She is a chef and it definitely shows. Not only is she vegan, but her fro has me SHOOK!!! Don’t even get me started on her skin! She also has a YouTube channel that you can check out here. Shai is beyond talented and I can’t wait for you guys to get to know her more!
Tell me a little about yourself. What made you decide to go vegan?
I became vegan because growing up I was always health conscious — some of which stemmed from dealing with personal weight and moderate skin issues. However, it wasn’t until I started doing further research and met my husband that I learned more about health and was able to make the correlation with diet and diseases. This is when I realized veganism and a holistic lifestyle was the best for me. I’ve been vegan 8 years now and its journey I’m so grateful for.
Your food looks absolutely incredible! It’s very clear that cooking is a passion of yours. How did you become so passionate about cooking?
My passion for cooking comes from growing up in a Guyanese family/culture (which is a mix of Afro-Caribbean and East Indian influence). I’ve been cooking since I was 7 years old. Having said that, cooking was very big growing up, in fact, my grandmother and father impacted my cooking the most and served as a base for my very own cooking habits and skills. I can still smell the spices and herbs from the kitchen. I can still see my grandmother clapping roti in the air. Watching her and my father cooking from start to finish made me respect and appreciate the process that went into feeding our family.
Your food photography is amazing, how did you get into photography?
I’ve always been a visionary especially when it came to cooking. There’s just something about having proof of the vision you have in your mind for the world to see. Photography was something I always wanted to get into but never had the time. Once I started cooking my vegan dishes, I started researching how to make certain elements shine using lighting, different lenses and props.
Now let’s get into your massively beautiful fro. How long have you been natural?
My natural hair journey started about 10 years ago. I was just doing a lot of braiding hairstyles for about 6 months to give my hair a break from relaxers. My new growth was much healthier and thicker than my relaxed ends. I started hot combing my hair, still holding on to my permed ends. One day I just decided to chop them off and it was the most liberating feeling of my life. I never went back to the creamy crack lol.
What is your hair routine? What products do you use?
My hair routine is very simple. Wash, condition, moisturize and seal with Jamaican black castor oil. I often keep my hair braided or twisted to reduce, combing, brushing and applying heat to my hair. They all cause breakage. In other words the more you leave your hair alone and keep moisturized, the less breakage you will experience.
Your skin is also flawless. What is your skin care routine?
I actually suffered from eczema before going on my two month raw food diet. When I finished, my skin began to glow and it was smoother than ever. I’ve learned that your skin is a reflection of your blood, and the blood is a reflection of what you eat, which includes skin products. I don’t have a routine but I try to keep the products and foods I consume as organically natural and whole as possible. I love using all natural black soap, shea butter, coconut oil, rosehip extract (on certain areas) and essential oils. I also try to get Sunlight and keep myself hydrated with spring water. Natural sunlight (Vitamin D) and staying hydrated does wonders! Not only for my skin, but entire body.
We have talked before and you mentioned your husband is also vegan. How long has he been vegan? Did either one of you influence the other to transition?
Yes he’s been vegan and into the holistic lifestyle before we met. He’s actually been vegan over a decade and into the holistic health field even longer than he’s been vegan. Although I was also health conscious prior to meeting him, he added a new dimension of knowledge and wisdom to me that I never knew before.
Shai’s Smoothie Bowl made with peach, mangos, strawberries and almond milk, raw hemp seeds, toasted coconut, and raspberries.
Are you two the only vegans in your family? If not, were your family members understanding of your lifestyle?
Yes we are the first to become full blown vegans in our families. For both of us, there was not much understanding nor support initially. Overtime as the knowledge grew — along with positive results and benefits of a vegan lifestyle, our families started taking heed and taking us more serious. His initial trials and errors and how he responded helped a lot dealing with my own family when I became vegan as well.
Do both of you enjoy cooking? Who would you say is the better cook?
He actually used to cook a lot more when we first met but now I do most of the cooking because he loves my food and he always makes it known to everyone, and especially me, that only my hands make him feel truly satisfied and delighted after a meal.
Was it easy for you to transition to a vegan lifestyle? What were some of the obstacles you faced when you decided to make the switch?
I actually went cold turkey. I will say before I became vegan I had already given up red meat and pork. It wasn’t too difficult having my husband as an adviser, plus I was a very disciplined and hard working person (I’m a Capricorn). Anything I put my mind and focus on for the betterment of myself I gave it 100%. I went on a 2 month raw food/ juicing diet and never looked back to animal products. The toughest part for me sometimes was the healing crisis and overcoming my own preexisting minor health issues. Overall, adapting and transitioning to cooking up certain vegan recipes was pretty smooth and enjoyable.
Do you have any encouraging words or advice for those struggling to make the change to a plant based diet?
Yes! Become more healthy by focusing on your mind, body, and spirit. Don’t focus on superficial improvements like weight, skin, hair, etc. Too many times, people become vegan and only focus on the food. Focus on being spiritually, mentally and physically fit. Take care of yourself holistically. The food is your fuel to do so efficiently. This way instead of seeing it as changing your diet and having restrictions, you’ll be living a lifestyle with constant improvements. Self love should always shine above all which itself is apart of healing oneself.