Fame Bites goes inside the belly of the entertainment beast. We're dishing out where the celebrities are eating, what they're eating and who they're eating with.
Hip hop impresario Russell Simmons has just come out with a new book called "Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All." The book's message is just as it sounds: you can have it all, but "all" isn't necessarily what you think it is - it's a state of enlightenment.
Part of that spiritual richness includes treating your body as a temple, Simmons says - which is why the self-made multi-millionaire and co-founder of Def Jam Records is a devoted vegan.
We already know from our parents and from the prophets and promoters of the scripture, whether they're rabbis or imams or whatever, they promote to you certain choices in life. They said dominion over the animals and doing the least amount of harm - which is a very first thing in the Yogi scripture, dominion over the animals. So, you learn these things and then you actually get experience that they work. You learn that you don’t eat pigs’ feet. I used to eat pigs’ feet and chitlins. I used to do a lot of things; I evolved. I found things that are healthier and made me feel better, and I had faith in them.
There wasn’t the short term high of doing what was against the scripture, it’s the long-term satisfaction that you get – and the real lasting, almost-stable, happiness that you get when you have a life diet. After yoga class, the teacher says go out and put something in your body that promotes a better practice. And if you’ve done a really aggressive class and you chanted and you sang and you did all these things and they said put something in your body – I don’t want to put a steak in me. You can’t. You can’t possibly after twisting and all these things you do for your digestive system and all these things you do to make your body feel better. You take care of your temple.
And then all the things you hear? Fifteen billion farm animals are born into suffering. You want to cause less harm, which is the very first thing in the Yogi scripture. There are eight different parts of the practice, and the first part is the social laws - and the first thing is not harming.
You know that all the oil, a lot of the oil the army doesn’t take up, goes to making that food you eat, a lot of the grain, a lot of the water. The grain is causing more global warming over all the trains, planes and automobiles put together – and the worst Karmic disaster in the history of human kind.
All those things put together – and it makes you sick. After all that, maybe you can decide not to on your own.
You hear these things in passing and by practicing next to people who talk about it and digest it - you find these things to be true, but you also feel lighter and happier when you test the diet itself. So that’s why I’m a vegan – because I’ve had experience with it, been taught about it, talked about it.
It’s a popular subject these days. I was at a vegetarian festival yesterday down in Chelsea and it was overdone, there were so many people who couldn’t get in. They miscalculated the number of people who came. The discussion between Oprah and Martha Stewart and all these people is weighing in on people who you think might never consider it. They are hearing so much about it that they’re changing their diets.”
What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about making the transition?
And you became a vegan?
What are the misconceptions about vegan food?
Soy ice cream is not bad. Tofutti Cutie is not bad. You can’t beat a Tofutti Cutie. You frontin’ if you say so. You know, the cream is not as creamy – someone might not notice it, or they might if they put them together. But you find the vegan cheesecake, if you digest it, it doesn’t stick in your chest the whole day. It might be a little lighter and taste a little better, but that takes a minute.
There’s also a psychosomatic effect obviously, if you believe it’s healthier and you eat it. A lot of people can take so much green vegetable juice without apple. You drink it and you kind of feel like it’s cleaning you. You ever drink green juice, would you say it’s yummy? I don’t know. I’ve been drinking green juice a lot for a long time, but add a spark of apple, it’s kind of different.
You can learn to love green juice. You learn to love the way it feels going down – so there’s something psychosomatic about eating healthy. It’s kind of a cleansing thing, spiritually as well. That’s why you know you’re doing something for your temple – a Yogi principle. Christian, Buddhist, all faiths ask you to take care of your temple. It’s been drummed in your head a little bit, and then you eat something and you know it’s good for you. That’ll add to your practice.
You want to be healthy, you want to feel light. I’m a person who comes from a lot of drugs – for 25 years. All the drugs. All kinds of highs. Now, you find food as a drug. It’s become more subtle. Food is a drug. It makes you tired, lethargic or awake and clear. It’s inflammatory food or it's anti-inflammatory food. You start to look at your body differently. You try to become more in your body. You put things in it and know what they are – you feel that they’re uplifting your body or making the body slow. So that’s a part of it."
So, do you cook often?
If you want junk, there’s plenty of vegan junk – it’s all better than the real junk. I was talking about the ice cream – I don’t eat a lot of sugar and all that stuff – but if I do, I know that most likely the vegan junk is better than the other junk.
I mostly eat healthy. I just do. I’m not a vegan for health reasons – although obviously I’m 20 pounds lighter than when I started. I stayed 20 pounds lighter. I feel better. My friends say I look better. All that’s true. But I’m a vegan for compassionate reasons.
Like I said, for the planet and for the Karma. It’s to not cause too much harm. The first part of every scripture, in terms of the science that they give for happiness, is to not cause harm. You gain happiness by eliminating or relieving suffering. You want to relieve suffering; you don’t want to be the cause. If all the oil is being used – beside what the army is using – in the manufacturing of food, we’re fighting wars over your diet. It sounds like a big stretch but it’s not when you find out the amount of oil that you use. Then you think about the global warming issue, and you think about the 15 billion animals that are born into suffering.
So all those things combined are reasons. And I feel better. I wouldn’t like real ice cream – it’d be too heavy now. It takes a second to get used the lighter alternatives. There are just so many healthy alternatives - maybe a little bit more expensive for some people. A lot of places it’s very difficult to live [vegan]. There’s a lot of economics, but still there are choices."
And what about when you go out to eat?
Previously - Stephanie Chen talks money, bliss and much more with the hip-hop mogul