Tabitha Brown brings vegan meals and pep talks to the internet

TAbetha Brown fell into a familiar wave of nausea. She got used to this feeling, her body sent her a warning when she had a vision of the future and she was called to share the message. This time, she had a dream that her co-worker Miss Stella cut two fingers at the Macy’s warehouse where they worked in the mid-2000s. When she told Miss Stella that her dream might foreshadowed illness and urged her to see a doctor, the woman complied—and was soon diagnosed with cancer.

These visions, or as Brown calls them, began the gift of “Second Sight” when she was a child. The 42-year-old says they warned her about everything from the death of a friend’s wife to the dangerous car ride that nearly injured her daughter. Her mother, who was herself able to see, told her that it was a gift that should not be squandered.

Tranquilization and dream interpretation are not what people usually think of when they think of Brown, the actor and vegan “momfluencer.” She became famous on TikTok last year as one of the app’s top creators for her videos of her cooking, telling stories from her life and offering encouragement to anyone going through a tough time. Since she created her account in March of 2020, she has become one of the hottest stars on the internet, albeit not far from improbable.

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In corners of the web typically dominated by young, skinny, white women—vegan content, self-improvement and TikTok more broadly—Brown, who aspires to be known as “America’s Mom,” stands out with her warmth, honesty, and vitality with famous phrases, such as “That’s your business!” and “I like it, like that!” Brown says the same deep interest and spirituality that inspires her to force her to share her visions with people like Miss Stella is what drives her to connect with her audience on TikTok, where her nearly 5 million followers follow for positive affirmations and wise humour, delivered in her calming Southern botanical, as They do for their easy vegan recipes. Brown, who has worked for two decades trying to carve out a career in Hollywood, has turned social media dominance into the kind of industry opportunity and recognition she’s always dreamed of — last year, she portrayed a character that Lena Wyeth wrote specifically for her on Season 4 of chi; won an NAACP Image Award; The theme of the drag queen salute was on RuPaul’s Drag Race; He started hosting a show, All the love, on Ellen Digital Network; It launched its own sitcom development process with Will & Grace Creator Max Machnik.

She is about to issue notes, Feed the soul (because it’s practical), On September 28. In the book, just like her social media accounts, Brown’s sandwiches talk about vegetarian recipes among spiritual and sometimes supernatural tales, such as the story of Miss Stella’s diagnosis of cancer. She treats every life experience as an opportunity to share a lesson she’s learned, sometimes the kind that approaches the cliched sentimentality of the “Live, Laugh, Love” tag, but always backed up by the same real and honest joy that made her a hit on TikTok.

To hear Brown tell it, she was destined for fame – her last visions. “I’ve been pursuing a dream for over 20 years, and it hasn’t worked for the majority,” she says. “But I never stopped, because the faith within me said that something greater was coming.”

From a young age, Brown felt that she was meant to be an artist. She dreamed of attracting an audience like Keshia Knight Pulliam as did Rudy Hostable. Growing up in Eden, North Carolina, she developed her stage presence and comedic timing by cracking jokes at family cooking and acting at school and local theater. After a semester of studying fashion design at a Miami college, the 19-year-old Brown decided to seriously commit to her acting ambitions by moving to California. The move was difficult and short-lived, with Brown returning home a few months later to save money and joining then-boyfriend (now husband) Chance Brown in Greensboro, armed with a plan to return to Los Angeles within a year. . One year turned into five, a time period that included an unplanned pregnancy, a wedding, new career projects, and a mortgage.

But Brown never forgot her dreams of acting, and a successful gig as co-host of a late-night entertainment program on a local television station revitalized her ambition. By 2004, Brown and her family had finally moved to Los Angeles, where she began auditioning while working a day job at a Massey warehouse.

It was more than a decade before Brown became the star she always felt destined to be — and in the most unexpected ways. In March 2020, as fear of a COVID-19 shutdown began, Brown joined TikTok at the invitation of her teenage daughter. While she initially created her account to take part in the popular Renegade dance challenge, Brown quickly became a viral sensation herself, as her health and mommy videos offered followers on the platform a soothing respite from the chaos of the world.

Brown had hit viral fame once before, in 2017, when she was an Uber driver. On a break one day, I stopped at Whole Foods and bought the vegan store BLT: TTLA (bacon, tomato, lettuce, and avocado). On a whim, she posted a racy video of the sandwich, which she praised for being so good that “my life changes before my eyes” on Facebook. The video launched a copycat trend and prompted Whole Foods to offer it a brand ambassador deal, which led to more opportunities as a vegan influencer.

Doing vlogging on Facebook gave her space to be real in a way she had never been able to do professionally, and a respite from the constant switching of codes that she was expected to do with her clothes, hair, and even her voice in her company jobs and auditions. Small but loyal Brown started building on Facebook before it went viral (now 2.6 million strong) it became a way to heal her in more ways than one; While she charted her vegan journey in an effort to improve her physical health—she became a vegan after noticing that a vegan diet improved some chronic health issues—she also opened up about her personal struggles, speaking for the first time about sexual abuse she lived to be 15.

What she found on Facebook, she says, was not just followers, but also a community that wanted to recover and grow alongside her. “I enjoy helping people feel seen, loved and heard,” Brown says. “I love making people laugh. Honey, you even make them cry sometimes, because we all need it.”

Brown’s always hopeful, spiritual book is not aimed at skeptics, skeptics, or harsh realists. In one particularly memorable chapter, she details a conversation with her mother, who was dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in which she joked that after she was gone, she would leave her midwife daughter to make her presence felt. Just two weeks after her mother died in North Carolina, upon her return to Los Angeles, Brown says she found several cents in her bed and shower. The author, realizing what this story and others in the book might look like, points out that it takes more effort to discredit something than it takes to believe it.

“I know what I saw,” she said with a calm affirmation. “It is not my duty to make you believe. My job is simply to share.”

This attitude corresponds to one of her signature jokes: “This is your business!” It’s a phrase that Brown publishes liberally in her videos when instructing you how much garlic powder to use or whether or not to garnish with red onions, but it has also become a guiding principle for Tabitha Brown’s motivational gospel — which is basically, if you can show love. And kindness to yourself and others, and blessings are sure to follow. She sees that those who need to hear her supernatural stories are the ones who will choose to believe her and keep reading. Whether they do it or not their businessBut being true to herself is totally up to her.

“That’s your business!” It is also an apt description of Brown’s attitude toward her vegetarianism, which parallels her view of spirituality: she prefers a gentle, nonjudgmental approach. While growing up in the church, she chose to leave behind religious traditions in favor of her own interpretation of spirituality. And though she’s an ardent vegan because of the health benefits she’s experienced, she admits she dreams of crab legs and initially view vegans as “white women doing yoga in a field.”

Predictably, Brown’s version of veganism irritated some of her more nervous moral adherents. “When you are forced to go to church all the time, the last thing you want to do is go to church,” she says, suggesting that her approach may have persuaded thousands of people to try vegan food, if they hadn’t turned to vegan teachings. What I say is, ‘This is what you did for me,’ or ‘That’s how I make this and it’s so good – you should try it! Certain vegetarian communities “hate” it, says Brown. “I tell them, ‘God bless you, first and foremost,'” she says, “but I probably saved more animals than you.” “I’m not trying to hurt anyone while trying to help someone.”

Brown’s deep commitment to kindness and her overarching message of love — traits that have made her a household name in the aggressive chaos of the internet — may be the only real threat to the near-universal adoration she enjoys online. In the wake of a national accountability with structural racism and police brutality last year, some Brown followers have drawn criticism that her husband is a police officer. While Brown has been vocal about the need for racial justice and reform, her approach has remained the same: agile, gentle, and nonconfrontational.

“You have to remember when it comes to activity—no matter what kind—it is rooted in pain,” Brown says, citing examples of movements to defend the lives of humans and animals under threat. “I am a love activist. I do my best to spread love and make people feel less pain.”

Brown’s surprisingly sweet style is often surprising to the Internet – and it’s especially effective when you use it to defuse conflict. This summer, her husband’s work was in the news again, but for a completely different reason. After Brown announced in a YouTube video that her success over the past year had allowed Chance to retire from the Los Angeles Police Department, talk show host Wendy Williams contested that choice and predicted that Brown’s marriage would suffer as much as Williams after she was financially sane. She supported her ex-husband. Brown took to Instagram to send a loving but succinct message of positivity to Williams.

“Wendy, the pain you have to feel to feel this way, and I am so sorry,” she said heartily in the clip, describing the strength of her marriage before setting out in a prayer for Williams. “I pray that love finds you – true love…Let us all pray for people like Miss Wendy and others who have been badly hurt or have never found true love to fill their hearts with so much sympathy and joy.” (A representative for Williams did not respond to a request for comment.)

Brown’s prayer for Williams evokes another common phrase, phrases she got from her father and is now loved by her followers: “Have a nice day, and even if you can’t, don’t spoil anyone else.” It’s a constant reminder for Brown to spread the love, because although she spends a good amount of her time spreading positive vibes, she admits that she’s not completely immune to the negativity and trolling that’s prevalent on the internet. But just as she felt confident in her dreams and other visions, Brown is quietly confident that she can help make the Internet a kinder, kinder place—one post at a time.

“The Internet has been a place where people can make others feel how they feel,” she says. “Some feel anger, sadness, bitterness and pain and want others to feel it. And I do the same thing – I try to make people feel what I feel: happiness. I believe that love conquers everything.”

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write to Cady Lang and