Interview With Vegan Local and VP of Horseracing Wrongs, Nicole Arciello
How long have you been vegan and how/why did you become vegan?
This June is my 10-year veganniversary.
My vegan evolution began when I started having low-blood sugar problems. After seeing doctors and having tests, I was sent to a dietitian. She gave me an every-two-hour eating schedule, consisting of two carbohydrate and two protein servings. Needless to say, the protein servings were mostly meats and cheeses and (surprise!) I didn’t feel better. I began doing my own research and found that protein with fiber will keep your blood sugar more stable. And I quickly discovered that was (drum-roll) beans! Here is where the real magic happened – about a week in, eating beans and feeling better, I was telling a friend and she gave me the book “Skinny Bitch.” I took it home and read it immediately. What happened was amazing; the first chapter was humorous and full of swear words, the second chapter exposed the factory-farming industry. Wow. I went vegetarian on the spot and there was no looking back. I knew I was already feeling better, and I knew I couldn’t contribute to the suffering of animals – it was easy. Within a month, I was healthier and those blood-sugar problems were gone. Because I didn’t like or know how to cook vegetables, I went to the library and checked out every vegetarian/vegan cookbook I could find. I learned a lot and cooked a lot, but I still wasn’t vegan. However, the more I read, the more I learned from those vegan cookbooks! The best thing about vegan cookbooks is that most of them make things easy because the authors want you to be vegan! They also talk about all of the reasons to be vegan. I couldn’t overlook my contribution to the suffering in the dairy industry (I wasn’t eating eggs because of an allergy) and there was no longer a reason to. And I guess that was easy too because without realizing it I was having vegan days, then vegan weeks! I called everyone – friends, my parents – and told them that I was now vegan, explaining what that meant, and why I was doing it – for the animals!
I think a lot of people know you from Horseracing Wrongs, but what was your first form of vegan advocacy and how did you get into it?
In 2009 I began blogging about vegan food and animals rights. In 2010 I went to my first circus protest. I was hooked. I loved the feeling of being out there and being a voice for the animals who were being abused for entertainment. I attended protests for a couple years and learned everything I could about effective advocacy from Donna Reynolds, the organizer of Albany-area circus protests; I learned how to lobby from Samantha Mullen of NYSHA. I watched and attended and learned as much as I could. Activism is really a rewarding experience. You are putting all of your energies into being a voice for the voiceless and contributing to a shift in thinking, and really changing the world.
Horseracing Wrongs had a big year in 2018. Can you share with us some of the highlights and tell us what’s coming up in 2019?
Horseracing Wrongs has grown so much locally and nationally in the past couple years. Our protests at Saratoga continue to grow with over 75-100 advocates each week over the July and August protests. We protested the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, in 2018, which led to a relationship with advocates in the NYC area; those advocates now hold regular protests at Belmont Park. We are assisting advocates in 10 states and in the past year, we attended the Vegas Vegfest, VegFest Colorado, and Hudson Valley VegFest, and of course, the Albany VegFest!
This year we have big plans for adding advocates in more states, more educational events, speaking engagements for Patrick, and a billboard campaign along the way!
I know you have a new endeavor you recently launched called “Head to Toe Wellness with Nicole.” Can you share with us some of the services you are offering?
Head to Toe Wellness with Nicole was a way to bring everything together for me: vegan food, vegan cooking and vegan beauty. I have been a nail specialist for over 16 years, and for much of that time I have worked for myself renting space within a salon. I use all-vegan, cruelty-free and mostly organic products for my nail services.
Right before I closed Imagine Desserts (a vegan bakery I owned with Pat Battuello) I was approached to teach vegan cooking classes at two local libraries. An opportunity to talk to a large group of people about vegan cooking (it’s my passion you know!), be able to prepare it live, and walking them through the steps with tips along the way? I couldn’t think of a reason to say no! And I’m so glad I did! Eighty-seven people registered and showed up at that first cooking class at the Colonie Library.
The general public is interested in vegan cooking and I was showing them the way! It was that evening that I realized that I found my calling. I had to show the world that a vegan lifestyle is attainable and sustainable.
Having no bakery and looking for a place to rent for my nail business, I put together a pitch for a local school district’s continuing education program. I received a response the same day and they loved the idea. I wrote a four-week class called “Introduction to Vegan Cooking,” and then I wrote a one-time class “Vegan Cooking: Healthy Bowls and Smoothies.” I’m currently teaching my 3rd semester at South Colonie School District, and I will also be teaching at Shenendehowa School District this spring.
In addition to my continuing-ed classes I am now offering private cooking classes and one-on-one coaching.
I’m busy creating new original recipes for my new website as well.
I love sharing my knowledge and skills and most importantly, my passion for great vegan food with my students! My goal is for each student to walk away confident and ready for their vegan lifestyle.
I’d like to end with a question I hear most frequently. Do you still take orders for cakes and other baked goods? And if so, where can people contact you?
Oh very sneaky! Well, with the soft launch of Head to Toe Wellness and the expansion of cooking classes, coaching and recipe-creation, you never know what’s coming or where I will be next! I am still creating great vegan menu items for Little Anthony’s; you’ll find my vegan pepperoni, sausage, ranch and my famous chocolate chip cookies there every day. Maybe another pop-up is in the near future?? I welcome emails and messages about everything from cooking to animal advocacy. Tell me what you want! Feel free to reach out! email@example.com or through Facebook or Instagram.