Two years ago, Tabitha Brown was a part-time actress, working as an Uber driver in Los Angeles between gigs. One day while on a break, she grabbed a vegan BLT sandwich from her local Whole Foods Market and began recording a reaction video for her fledgling Facebook page. The video chronicled the then five-month vegan’s awe at the convincingly meaty TTLA (tempeh-tomato-lettuce-avocado) sandwich. It instantly went viral, amassing more than 2.6 million views, and landed Brown a role as the company’s Plant Based Brand Ambassador.
“That video changed my life. I’ve been acting for 20 years and the thing that made me popular was eating a sandwich in my car,” Brown laughs. “Every day, I wake up and I’m still amazed.”
Then, Brown got her biggest break yet earlier this year when her videos went viral again, amassing a staggering 1 million followers in less than a month upon first joining TikTok, landing a guest role on Will & Grace, being named VegNews readers’ Favorite Social Media Personality and signing with one of Hollywood’s leading talent agencies.
But what’s given this Eden, North Carolina-native true staying power is her commitment to spreading joy to anyone who’ll listen. Increasingly, followers are flocking to Brown not just for her recipe-free cooking videos (she “cooks from the spirit” without much care for measuring) or hilarious product reviews, but for the way she makes them feel—especially during the mentally taxing times of COVID-19 and police brutality demonstrations.
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“I absolutely wish you were my next-door neighbor,” one commenter writes. “She’s my IG mom, period.” “Where do you get your endless insight and wisdom? Always such good words,” write others.
For all the boundless positivity she provides, though, Brown isn’t without her own struggles.
She lives with chronic pain due to a spinal injury, has dealt with anxiety and depression, and has lost several loved ones—including her beloved mother who died from ALS in 2007. All this in addition to the adversity she faces because of her skin color. “I’ve dealt with so much racism in my life,” she says. “It’s unfortunate that I have to have uncomfortable conversations with my children because they are Black, but that’s our reality. And as women, we are still fighting for equality. And as a Black woman, the fight is even harder.”
But through it all, Brown makes the conscious decision to focus on joy (“I’m still here, and every day I wake up, that’s something to smile about”) and offers her followers a place to escape, preserve their energy, and do the same. That is not to say that she doesn’t acknowledge the pain of anti-Black racism.
“Killing, hurting, hating, and fearing people because of the color of their skin means they aren’t being seen as human. I’ve experienced more racism in my lifetime then I can count. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but sadly it’s true and it exists,” she says. “Racism is a pandemic and we have to find a cure. We all must do our part. I choose to spread love while spreading awareness! I believe it can be done without violence. I believe that with my entire heart.”
It’s that special brand of Tabitha love—calming, restorative, nurturing, and nourishing—that makes a scroll through her feed the epitome of self-care. And these days, we need it more than ever.
Senior Editor Richard Bowie has been a fan of Tabitha’s from way before TikTok and misses her hour-long Facebook live cooking shows.
This interview was updated from the published feature “Black Health Matters” in the 2019 Wellness Issue of VegNews Magazine.
Photo credit: Emily Beth