Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lisa Valentine on Being Vegan, Her Career, and Training for the 2011 Mrs. Maine America Pageant

You never know when you'll call the US marketing department with a question about a flier and your business partner starts telling you that her friend, who's a vegan, who is married to a vegan and has a vegan dog, made the best meal the other night... 

I would like to thank Lisa Valentine for sharing her story about living a vegan lifestyle, giving back to the Maine community, getting her MBA and training for her first ever Mrs. Maine America pageant.

 Good Luck!

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Interview with Lisa Valentine

The Valentine Family

You’ve been a vegan since 2007. What made you decide to become a vegan?

My husband and I decided to become vegan as a result of the inhumane treatment associated with many of the products we were currently consuming, both in our diet and our lifestyle. It started with us recognizing the problem, doing research, understanding how we could positively affect this through our own actions and the rest is history!

What encouragement would you give to someone who wants to start a vegan lifestyle but is intimidated?

Many people view a vegan lifestyle or diet to be restrictive, but in fact, it can open up someone to a whole new way of eating and thinking about the decisions they make, subsequently giving them more choices. A lot of this stems from one’s knowledge of veganism. Without completely understanding what it essentially entails, they might be turned off at the thought of eating only vegetables. But with a closer look, those vegetables, paired with sauces, spreads, whole grain pastas, legumes and beans (the list is endless), become a discovery of new ways of eating the basics. 

I hear so often that people “can’t live without cheese.” They don’t have to! There are numerous “nut” cheese options available that can be made at home or purchased online (my favorite site is www.veganstore.com where they have an entire selection of various types of cheeses including cheddar, cream cheese, parmesan – even chipotle options!) I can’t even begin to tell people how much these taste like real cheese! Dr. Cow is one I would highly recommend. 

So my biggest piece of encouragement is to not look at veganism as restrictive, but as an opportunity to explore new ways to eat, shop and protect our beast friends while enjoying the same foods and products as you do today.

What made you decide to run for Mrs. Maine America?

To be honest, this was a complete surprise to me. One of the pageant staff had contacted me via Facebook last June. She introduced herself and the Mrs. Maine America pageant. I thought she was asking me if I wanted to be a judge! The concept of participating in a pageant had never crossed my mind, but I am however, extremely involved in my community in various board-level and civic volunteer capacities. So really the judging seemed initially to make the most sense! But she laughed and said she wanted me to participate.  We met over coffee a week later where I had my notebook and no less than 100 questions for her. I talked to my husband and family and everyone loved the idea-as did I! I’m particularly excited to use the opportunity as a platform for the various commitments I have, including animal welfare and veganism, mentoring less-fortunate children and growing our sustainable business economy here in Maine.

What does training for a pageant entail? Is anything particularly difficult because you’re a vegan?

The biggest shift came in the form of my diet and exercise. As those that know me can attest, I was a gym nut before the pageant, and it become even more evident as I took up personal training. Lucky for me, my trainer had experience with pageants from a training perspective so basically whatever he said, I did. It has taken a lot of discipline but it’s been very easy, knowing that I will be on stage. In a bikini. In heels. EEEK! No alcohol, pasta or bread until the pageant? Done. I haven’t consumed any of those in over 3 months.  It did stump him because of my diet-he kept forgetting that I don’t eat eggs or baked chicken breast or fish. But he did his due diligence with his research. Coupled with the 5-6 week workouts sessions of which 2 were personal training, I’m ready.

Which pageant event are you most excited about?

I’m really excited about the interview. I love talking to people about the various commitments I have within the community, as I mentioned prior, and this will be the outlet where I can share my experiences, and why, along with other key attributes, I am the best contestant to represent the Mrs. Maine America title in 2011.

Lisa's final dress fitting before the event!

Do you work in an office? From a vegan standpoint, what’s been the most challenging experience? Best experience?

I do work in an office but the environment is extremely accommodating. Any office gathering, be it Summer or Winter parties or other luncheon-type events, will have a vegan option for me and my husband (and anyone else who wants to try it out!) I’m the only vegan in the office, although there are a few vegetarians. I love that they consider my diet-it really means a lot to me. 

For the past two years, we’ve had our office party at Grace which included a three course meal. From the salad to dessert, there was a delicious vegan option. So good! It’s died down a bit, but when I first started with the company, I fielded a lot of questions about what I ate, how I got protein, what beers and wines are vegan. It was a lot of fun educating people!

You’re in the process of getting your MBA from St, Joe’s in Maine. Did you enjoy going back to school? Did your veganism ideals or concepts apply to learning?

I absolutely love being in school. I love learning and applying new concepts every day and the MBA program with St. Joe’s allows me to do that. The course content is extremely applicable and timely-really a great program all-around. I can’t say that I can connect my vegan ideals or concepts to my application of learning, but it did come up in my Ethical, Social and Environmental Responsibility class. I tend to find that my vegan ideals tend to parallel those within the environmental and social sector. I think one would find a heavy correlation between those that follow a vegan diet and those that recycle or have lower carbon footprints in general. So my ideals were a unique way I was able to contribute to class.

Who or what is your inspiration (vegan or just in general)?

Every animal. Each and every animal that exists-that is my inspiration. That’s it. I do it for those that don’t have a voice.

What’s your favorite thing to buy at the farmer’s market?

My husband loves sweet green peppers which we tend to buy at the local Farmer’s Market. I’m lucky enough to work just steps from Monument Square so the Wednesday market always gives me an excuse to buy fresh flowers for my office! Really anything. It’s all so fresh and crisp and crunchy. I love vegetables, especially in-season!!

You’re passionate about volunteering. Why do you think giving back to the community is so important?

We live in a system – a living system that is constantly changing, adapting and accommodating – each moment relying on the one previous and the one to follow. Most people don’t understand how truly interconnected we are. Not spiritually mind you (although some would agree that is true) but through our actions and the choices we make.  

My love of volunteering stems from this belief that in order to make us proud of the society in which we live, we must understand the impact we have on each other, and contribute to those less fortunate or organizations in which we believe in, to create a more livable and harmonious society. I’m not looking for world peace, mind you, although I’m all about it. But I understand the value of giving to back to our neighbors and the impact that can have not only on tomorrow and next week within our own communities, but eventually the world over. A ripple effect, if you will.


Fill in the blank, If I could change one thing about the world I would __________.

Ensure that no animal is mistreated and given proper care, including food, shelter and LOVE.

What is your favorite vegan comfort food?

I have a friend who makes the most AMAZING homemade Mac and Cheese. I really can’t say much more than that because I’m off pasta for another 3 weeks and I want to eat it RIGHT NOW!

What are you most thankful for?

I’m most thankful for the various good fortunes that I’ve experienced in my life. My wonderful and supportive family, my fabulous group of girlfriends and, of course, my dog Bagel :-) I’m especially thankful to my husband who shares the same ideals concerning the treatment of animals. We were both carnivores when we met so it’s been amazing, to say the least, to make the crossover in our diet and lifestyle together. I find that being vegan is a learning and discovery process so I’m glad to be on this thoughtful journey with a friend.

Lisa and Bagel hanging out by the pool.

Maine Marathon Relay Team

Make sure you check out Lisa's blog at 




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