In Netflix’s hit coming-of-age comedy Never Have I Ever, PhD student Kamala Nandiawada is on a mission to follow her passion and find her voice while balancing her family’s traditional expectations. In real life, 33-year-old actress Richa Shukla Moorjani knows all about transformation and being true to herself.
In 2019, the then-vegetarian’s life changed when she happened upon the documentary Cowspiracy and started seriously examining the dairy industry and her own consumption habits. The reflection radically changed her.
“Now, I truly feel I am living according to my values of nonviolence, compassion, and respect for Mother Earth and all her inhabitants,” she says.
From a non-dairy cream cheese obsession to the vegan reason she’s saying “sorry, not sorry” to her castmates, VegNews digs deep to find out more about what makes this vegan leading lady tick.
VegNews: How has your new lifestyle affected you?
Richa Shukla Moorjani: From the day I turned vegan, I felt my eyes were opened to not just the horrors of the animal-industrial complex—which was beyond anything I even imagined—but also to the impact on the environment. It fueled my activism and in a way gave me a sense of purpose I had long been searching for.
VN: What’s it like being vegan in Hollywood?
RSM: I refuse to consume anything on set that isn’t vegan, and that applies to the products used for my makeup, hair, and clothing. I even make sure any food used while shooting scenes with eating involved is vegan—sorry, not sorry to my non-vegan co-stars. I’ve also turned down invitations to big brand partnerships or events that don’t align with my values. It’s so important to send a message to these brands that until they start incorporating more plant-based and compassionate alternatives, more and more people who are aware—and care—are going to say no.
VN: What’s something that’s surprised you since making the switch?
RSM: I’ve been amazed by how many vegan options I’ve been fortunate to find when traveling. I was just at the Qatar airport for a 10-hour layover to India and was afraid I would have nothing to eat. But, lo and behold, there was an incredible all-vegan and organic café with breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
VN: And other than Qatar, where else are you traveling for great food?
RSM: New York, Tulum, and Vancouver are my top cities for sure—but I have to give it up for California, too. Vegan pasta at Sestina in Culver City, all the rolls and sashimi at Ma-Kin Sushi in Agoura Hills, and The Butcher’s Daughter in Venice—I love it all.
VN: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
RSM: Nothing beats my mom’s cooking. She makes the best vegan lasagna that beats any dairy-based one I’ve tried.
Richa Shukla Moorjani
VN: How about when cooking at home—where do you get your cooking
RSM: I love following Nisha Vora of Rainbow Plant Life, Dr. Sheil Shukla’s Plant Based India, and all the cookbooks from Vegan Richa—a different Richa! They all have amazing recipes.
VN: What are your go-to snacks?
RSM: Either sliced avocado drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper or chia seed pudding when at home. Or GoMacro bars and SkinnyPop popcorn when I’m on the go.
VN: What are some of your favorite vegan products?
RSM: Just Egg, Oatly’s oat milk, Sown coffee creamer, Miyoko’s Creamery vegan mozzarella, and all of Kite Hill’s cream cheeses and yogurts.
VN: What’s your biggest advice for people thinking about going vegan?
RSM: Educate yourself about the meat and dairy industries—even if it means watching graphic documentaries and videos. I think visuals are powerful, and if you see a baby cow being cruelly torn away from its mother shortly after birth, you’ll never unsee it. It’s those visuals and images that helped me turn vegan cold turkey—no pun intended, and I never once felt compelled to go back. But also, taking it slowly and gradually is totally fine, too. Whatever works for you is what you should do, and just know that with every plant-based meal or alternative you choose, you are literally saving lives and the planet.