People and Community

For Tabitha Brown, actress, entrepreneur, and vegan, feeding the soul is key

Student Government’s “What Matters to U” agency hosted the social media personality and bestselling author for its ninth moderated discussion series at the Shalala Student Center on Tuesday evening. Brown discussed self-acceptance, wellness, and representation.
Tabitha Brown was the guest speaker at the What Matters to U series on Tuesday evening. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami
Tabitha Brown was the guest speaker at the What Matters to U series on Tuesday evening. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Most known for sharing vegan recipes online that are sprinkled with wholesome, warm motherly advice, Tabitha Brown kicked off this semester’s “What Matters to U”—Student Government’s moderated speaker series. With her infectious smile and positive personality, Brown lit up the Donna E. Shalala Student Center ballroom on Tuesday evening.

To many, it may seem like the viral sensation well known for her catchphrase “’Cause that’s my business!” rose to popularity overnight. But Brown shared with the audience—primarily made up of students—her story of growing from a small-town girl from Eden, North Carolina, into the wife, mom, actress, and entrepreneur she is today.

“Be patient, but be consistent and just keep going,” said Brown, who began pursuing acting in 1997. “The days where it felt hard or that it was never going to happen, I had to deal with that emotion but also replace it with persistence.” 

During the discussion—moderated by Kennedy Robinson, assistant director of multicultural students affairs, and Tiyah Snell, a senior studying creative advertising—the actress chatted about her wellness journey, self-love, and the freedom in being your true self.

Tabitha Brown was the guest speaker at the What Matters to U series on Tuesday evening. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

“Back in 2016, I got sick and thought I was going to die,” said Brown, who struggled for a year and a half with chronic pain. Subsequently, she wrestled with her faith and questioned the direction of her life. “I prayed to God and decided that I would only live my life the way he wanted me to.” She began to share positive messages and be her authentic self in videos, she told the audience.

By the end of 2017, Brown decided to try a 30-day vegan diet challenge which stopped her persistent migraines within 10 days. The following month, Brown went viral for the first time on Facebook after filming her positive, comical reaction to eating the Whole Foods Market TTLA (tempeh bacon, tomato, lettuce, and avocado) sandwich. Choyce, Brown’s daughter, convinced her to add to her social media presence by joining TikTok in 2020—during the height of the pandemic.

“So many people discovered me and were saying things like my voice sounded like a warm hug; I became their TikTok mom,” said Brown, as she answered questions throughout the evening. “Then it became a responsibility. I posted every day consistently, and it changed my life.” As Brown continued to share her day-in-the-life moments, she inspired many of her followers to stop “overthinking” vegan or a plant-based lifestyle. 

“The goal was to show people how to veganize my favorite non-vegan foods and to tell stories through food and make it fun,” said Brown. “Also, representation matters. I never knew anyone who was Black and vegan growing up.”

What Matters to U chair Meera Patel, a junior studying microbiology and immunology and public health, said Brown was an “excellent choice” to kick off Black Awareness Month on campus because of her influence and intersectionality. Brown shared with the mostly Black audience her personal journey to freedom and why she no longer hides her Southern accent or straightens her hair to fit in. 

“Realizing that doing that meant I wasn’t free and that I was doing it for other people,” said Brown. “That’s freedom. I am going to live my life as Tabitha Brown—I’m enough just as I am.”

When asked who her “hero or shero” was, Brown beamed as she talked about her late mom and how watching her help people inspired her to live her life doing the same.

“The things that she taught me and that I learned without her intentionally teaching me have impacted my life. She was a social worker, so helping people was her ministry. I believe in people so much, so I pray every day that I can help someone. My hope is that I am able to leave a mark on someone’s life, on their heart, and their mind,” Brown explained.  

Since capturing the hearts of many Americans, Brown’s list of accolades continues to grow. The vegan influencer has had multiple television and film appearances, including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and Showtime’s “The Chi.” She created her own line of vegan-based haircare products, is the author of The New York Times best-selling book, “Feeding the Soul (Because It’s My Business),” and most recently opened a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles called Kale My Name.

Now, at 43, Brown said that she feels that she has attained complete self-acceptance. The social media personality gave the audience of mostly college-aged adults a strong message to live life abundantly. 

“Be free and know that you are enough. Always be vocal about how you feel. Don’t ever shrink yourself and hold your feelings in because that’s no good for us—and that takes away your freedom,” Brown emphasized.