Angela Yee is perhaps best known as the host of the radio show The Breakfast Club, which she hosted in New York from 2010 until the show ended last August. She now hosts Way Up With Yee on iHeartRadio.
Yee recently appeared on the Black Vegan Cooking Show with chef Charlise Rookwood. The episode was to celebrate Black Women’s History Month, and the two prepared an array of vegan dishes. This includes Buffalo Cauliflower and Zucchini, Banana Blossom ‘FISH FRY’ and Vegan Pudding.
Plant news writer MeccaGodZilla went behind the scenes of the shoot and interviewed Yee about plant life and her career.
Find the interview below…
Angela, as someone who has been involved in the hip-hop and R&B community for many years, how do you see the intersection of plant life and hip-hop culture? And what role do you think artists can play in promoting a healthier lifestyle?
I think so many people look at what artists do. So when they can live a certain lifestyle and promote it organically, people will really follow and believe in it. We see NLE Choppa and what he’s doing with his lifestyle, being vegan and having the truck and all that… Styles P with the juice bars and the pharmacy… even when we opened Juices for Life in the beginning, I remember Common coming. We see Jeezy and how much weight he’s lost and being careful about what he eats. And I just think that’s something that other people should pay attention to. Because the sooner you start practicing healthy habits, the better it will be for you in the long run.
We have seen many people simply look healthier, younger and feel better. We have seen people who have had health problems and we have seen people in our community die from health problems. So it’s really important to make sure we enforce these healthy habits.
Many times where we grow up can dictate the type of foods we eat. We talk about food desserts, we talk about burgers and wings on every corner, liquor stores and all that, but it’s just as important to have those healthy options. I think if you look for certain things, you can find them. I feel like there’s a lot more access now than there ever was. A lot more people are talking about it. And I love him.
Watch the Black Vegan Cooking Show episode here
You are one of the co-owners of Juices for Life and your juice bars offer a variety of healthy and nutritious drinks. How do you see this business fitting into the larger plant-based movement or the larger health movement? And what impact do you hope it will have on our community?
My first business was opening Juices for Life in Brooklyn. I also have a fresh juice company, Drink Fresh Juice, and then the cafe.
In the cafe, what was important to me is just to have a lot of vegan options in the cafe. And I also know that in a community it’s important for people to try different things.
I know people who don’t go vegan, the word scares them because they think it’s gross. So even if there is a juice bar to let people know that these juices are delicious. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it tastes bad. It can be healthy and taste great. And that’s the main thing I want to get across to people…that things can taste great but also be good for your body.
A lot of the business that I do with the press juices that I have… people are like “Oh, this is really good!” or “oh, I’ve never liked beets, but I like your help with beetroot and ginger – I didn’t know that beets can taste like that!” I just want people to expand their palates just like I did. And I know because I’ve been there too, where I’m like, “Oh, I don’t have that. I’m not going to eat this…” You know, some people think it’s gross to put kale or spinach in a drink or even celery. But they don’t know the combinations of things you can put with it so that it all tastes really good.
The evolution of vegan food
It’s really dope. I love hearing that! Just on a personal level, I know from my own juices and smoothies that you can mask the taste of spinach and kale. So I have to ask because even on the Black Vegan Cooking Show with Chef Charlies (@Vegansoulicious), as you said, you’ve been vegan before for short periods of time. So, during these periods, what foods did you “go to”?
Well, I love quinoa. I never liked it until I did the detox I did. I also love zucchini and squash. Those are some of the things that I enjoy… I love veggie fries, you know, and so if I can make my own, I make my veggie fries and put them on some quinoa. Sauces are important to me. I love a good dipping sauce, I just picked up some vegan mayo. I never make mayo period, but this didn’t taste bad.
Oh that’s good come to our side haha. Well, you think, because the era we come from… vegan food isn’t necessarily the tastiest, and we’ve watched it evolve over time. You know what I’m saying? In the past, it was out of place at all (at least it was not clear how to make foods as tasty as they are today). So, is there anything that you’ve seen or wanted to try that’s either super delicious, or are there any foods that you’ve seen nowadays that are kind of innovative for where you want to try them?
I used to work for the Wu-Tang Clan, a lot of them liked vegan products, but I remember some of the stuff being gross. Like the vegan bologna, they had vegan pastrami. And I even feel like when vegan bacon first came out it was kind of gross and cardboardy, but I feel like it’s evolved so much. I also know that processed food in general is not always the best for you. You just do it because you want to have a non-meat option, and that’s okay. I try not to overdo it. I’ve never made vegan chili. I know people love this.
Wow, vegan chili sounds amazing. OK! Okay, last question. What message would you like to send to your fans and followers about the importance of living a healthy, plant-based life? And how do you see plant-based living fitting into larger issues of health, wellness and sustainability? You kind of answered this earlier, but I’m just finishing. What would you like to say to your fans?
I feel like I’m just seeing the effects that the pandemic had on so many people and how it disproportionately affected some people who had health issues. And many times it was us. So, just make sure you take care of your health and pay attention to it early. And don’t forget to go to the doctor and get yourself checked out. I found out I had really high cholesterol when I was younger and went to the doctor very early on. And thank God I knew when I did, but it’s so important to get your blood work done, to make sure you know what’s going on with your body.
And so I just think that all of these things matter. I think if you have a family you want to take care of your family and part of that is taking care of yourself. So, the worst feeling would be if you have children or loved ones around you… and now you have all these health problems that you could have prevented if you took better care of yourself.
This is an important thing to think about. We care so much about how we look on the outside and we really should pay a lot of attention to how we look on the inside as well. It’s probably even more important than anything and then just how it makes you feel.
I just know that when I eat, I shouldn’t be exhausted afterwards or be “full” or feel like I don’t want to do anything. You should eat and feel good afterwards. And a lot of that is based on the type of food we eat. Also don’t overeat – a lot of times you feel like you have to finish what’s on your plate. When we go to restaurants, they give you these huge dishes. You don’t have to eat it all. What I started doing was taking half of it home as soon as I sat down and wrapping half of the food and eating half of it there. There are only small things you can do. You don’t have to be perfect, and it’s okay not to be, but just make some really conscious, intentional decisions until they become a habit.
Follow Angela Yee and her companies:
Angela Yee (@angelayee)
Drink Fresh Juice (@drinkfreshjuice)
Coffee Uplifts People (CUP) (@coffeeupliftspeople)