Some of you will remember that 2019 was dubbed as “The Year of the Vegan” by The Economist, and while we thought that the year of face masks and global lockdowns would bring the mainstream ascent of the plant-based lifestyle to a sudden halt, the reality is much, much different than that.
2020 has seen veganism growing even bigger.
Vegan-curious people have used this time of stasis and reflection to delve into plant-based cooking with more enthusiasm than ever before, and health-conscious individuals have become increasingly more aware of the link between animal agriculture and public health.
A-list celebrities, activists, athletes, chefs, and CEOs are joining the plant-based path, adding their unique perspectives and skills to the movement to push veganism forward.
So, without further ado, here we list (in no particular order) our top picks for the 20 biggest vegan game changers of 2020!
1. Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara
Following the global cultural phenomenon that was “Joker” in 2019, Joaquin Phoenix has become the biggest vegan icon among A-list celebrities, mostly due to his groundbreaking Golden Globes acceptance speech, which made headlines by boldly bringing attention to the link between animal agriculture and climate change.
Phoenix has been vegan since toddlerhood, and along with his partner Rooney Mara, he never misses the chance to promote a plant-based, ethical vegan lifestyle during interviews, speeches, and TV appearances. The couple is set to be producing a new vegan documentary, titled “The End of Medicine”, exposing factory farms for their cruel practices and appalling hygiene and safety standards.
The couple has also announced they are expecting their first child, who they are (of course!) going to raise vegan – we sincerely wish them all the best with this new adventure!
2. Tabitha Brown
This charming lady is not just a vegan TikTok star, she’s THE vegan TikTok star.
Just as this popular social media platform has defined the year 2020, Tabitha Brown has defined how vegans use this video-sharing app to promote their lifestyle. Engaging catchphrases, colorful recipes, and a sweet yet lively disposition make Tabitha a creator to watch out for – the future of veganism online might very well follow in her footsteps.
It looks like everyone wants a piece of Tabitha’s infectious personality right now: just last month, it was announced that she’d be getting her own TV show on the Ellen DeGeneres Network soon, focusing on parenting, self-care, social media, cooking, and of course, veganism.
We can’t wait to tune in!
3. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is Britain’s most decorated racing driver, and he’s not only been vocal about his plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle since 2017, but also embarked on several vegan campaigns aimed to reduce animal exploitation in a variety of industries.
From pushing Mercedes-Benz to get rid of all the leather supplied to cars to sharing countless posts supporting veganism as the most ethical lifestyle to lead to his millions of followers, Lewis Hamilton has really been walking the walk when it comes to being an outspoken vegan celebrity.
His latest vegan-friendly project? Opening his own vegan restaurant chain, Neat Burgers, aimed to bridge the gap between healthy plant-based cuisine and high street chain eateries.
4. Billie Eilish
The biggest musical sensation of the past two years, Billie Eilish has managed to raise awareness on the cruelty and environmental consequences of animal agriculture to her incredibly young fandom, all while being incredibly young herself.
Allegedly vegan since 2014, Billie Eilish has become more and more vocal about her conscious lifestyle in recent years, going as far as to making her most recent world tour as eco-friendly as can be. She’s a trailblazing musician who never shies away from promoting veganism and ecology during interviews and social media posts, a fact that makes her, in our humble opinion, one of the best role models for young teens everywhere.
5. Bruce Friedrich
Co-founder and executive director of The Good Food Institute, Bruce Friedrich is the textbook definition of a plant-based visionary. After spending decades trying to persuade people to stop eating meat through his writing and direct action activism, he realized that these particular methods wouldn’t bring about the urgent changes needed, shifting his focus to creating better alternatives for meat eaters instead.
The Good Food Institute is the leading team behind lab-grown meat and groundbreaking plant-based meat alternatives, harnessing the power of science to innovate the way we look at plant-based food (and food as a whole, really). While you don’t have to purchase cultivated meat once it becomes a reality if you don’t want to, it’s hard not to root for a product that has so much potential to reduce the suffering of farm animals and massively cut down GHG emissions from animal agriculture for good!
6. Greta Thunberg
Nothing exemplifies the global cultural shift towards sustainability quite like the 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. She’s been protesting outside of the Swedish parliament for years, and her lone “School strike for climate” initiative has taken her all the way to New York City to give a soul-crushing, instantly iconic speech to the United Nations.
And yet, the young environmental activist never asked to be an icon. Vocally vegan for the future of our planet, Thunberg has been hailed as the voice of a generation, and if the generations to come are to be just half as conscious and brave as she’s been for the past two years, our planet might really have a fair chance after all!
7. Michelle Cehn
Michelle Cehn is a working vegan mama with a lot on her plate: she’s the founder of the popular online news and recipe website World of Vegan, one of the two voices behind the Plant-Powered People Podcast, cookbook author, and an amazing vegan illustrator.
Cehn is the perfect representation of the creative entrepreneurial spark that has allowed veganism to go further and further into the mainstream in the golden age of social media. We can’t wait to see what she’ll branch out with next!
8. Robbie Lockie
World Plant Milk is not only a vegan challenge and a day of celebration of anything dairy-free, but it is also the flag under which a team of British activists has started to campaign in order to change the way dairy is seen within our society. One of their latest initiatives, in partnerships with a number of health professionals, has been urging the U.K. government to ban dairy milk in schools for the sake of children’s health. It’s certainly an ambitious goal, but as more and more social media-savvy brands decide to join in the fight every August, and as dairy milk sales continue to decline every year, we can’t help but thinking we might see a dairy-free future in our lifetime after all!
9. Pinky Cole
Aisha “Pinky” Cole, aka “The Sl*tty Vegan” for those in the know, is the proud owner of the Atlanta plant-based burger joint of the same name, an institution in the U.S. vegan scene that was quick to become a celebrity hotspot and an inspiration for vegan African American business owners everywhere.
From bottling their signature sauces to opening a second restaurant location along with pop-up joints on a national scale, Pinky Cole has been virtually unstoppable since 2018. And now, she’s embarked on a new, amazing initiative: the Pinky Cole Foundation, focused on empowering black youth through entrepreneurship, leadership training, and creating generational wealth.
Most recently, the Foundation has been in the news for providing free plant-based meals to hospital staff fighting Covid-19, as well as for giving $10,000 scholarships and job opportunities to formerly incarcerated youth – and something tells us this is still just the start!
10. Omari McQueen
Omari McQueen is the youngest award-winning vegan chef in the U.K., and the founder and CEO of Dipalicious, a plant-based restaurant and snack company.
At the incredibly young age of only 8 years old, Omari was inspired to go vegan after learning about the suffering farmed animals face to end up on our plates. Now aged 12, he is about to release his first cookbook featuring 30 easy-to-make vegan recipes, so that he can share his love of plant-based food and his strong commitment to an ethical, cruelty-free living to an audience that’s just as young as he is.
11. Keegan Kuhn
At this point, we’re pretty confident that award-winning documentary filmmaker Keegan Kuhn needs no introduction.
As the man behind two of the most influential vegan documentaries of all time, “Cowspiracy” and “What The Health”, Keegan Kuhn has become one of the most respected personalities in the vegan world thanks to his relentless activism and his commitment to bold investigative journalism aimed to question the authority of the animal agriculture industry. Kuhn was raised vegetarian and he has made it his life’s goal to bring the injustice, cruelty, and deceit of the industry to light through his filmmaking, running the video production company First Spark Media.
So, what’s next for Keegan? It’s been announced that he is one of the directors involved in the upcoming documentary “The End of Medicine”, produced by fellow vegan game changers Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara.
12. Cheap Lazy Vegan
Rose has been the face behind the YouTube smash-hit channel Cheap Lazy Vegan since 2015, but for the past year, her online reach has been greater than ever before.
Her Instagram page and YouTube channel are now some of the most popular resources for new plant-based eaters, thanks to her infectious personality, laid-back attitude, and no-brainer approach to vegan food and recipe-making (it’s all in the name!).
With three recipe ebooks under her belt, Rose’s vegan creations are constantly shared by online news outlets promoting plant-based diets, and her popularity continues to rise following her vegan Mukbangs (eating shows), showcasing the best that Korean plant-based cuisine has to offer!
13. Kristen Leo
Kristen Leo is a vegan Greek content creator specializing in sustainability issues and ethical consumption practices, especially pertaining to the fashion industry.
One of her most-viewed videos of 2019 became a viral YouTube challenge aimed to shock viewers out of climate change denial, and her advocacy efforts have landed her an interview on Vogue Greece, bringing ethical vegan fashion to the mainstream. Even more recently, Kristen was a contestant on a Greek reality TV show centered around personal style and outfit challenges, and she decided to use this opportunity to raise awareness on veganism, buying second-hand, and shopping sustainably.
Front cover of Vogue Greece next? One can only hope!
14. John Lewis
John Lewis, aka Badass Vegan, is a fitness expert, public speaker, entrepreneur, and vegan influencer that’s really blown up in 2020. He has recently teamed up with Keegan Kuhn to create the joint venture “Hungry for Justice”, a documentary production company exploring the link between poverty, inadequate nutrition, and institutional racism in North America.
John has appeared in multiple TV shows, music videos and fitness magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Maxim, and Sports Illustrated, pushing a whole new audience to get interested in leading a plant-based lifestyle.
If you haven’t heard of him, you definitely will soon: his first feature-length documentary is coming out soon.
15. Dr. Michael Greger
New York Times best-seller author Dr. Greger already made our game changers list back in 2018, but it’d be impossible for us to leave him out of this one since he’s been the undiscussed vegan voice of reason throughout this tumultuous year.
While his work on NutritionFacts.org needs no introduction, his latest book might: “How To Survive A Pandemic” is an essential resource for cutting through the noise and misinformation, revealing not only what we can do to protect ourselves during a pandemic, but also digging deeper into the roots of the problem: animal agriculture and its increasingly unsafe practices.
If you haven’t managed to get your hands on it yet, do yourself a favor and pick this book up – whether you’re vegan or not, it will open your mind to the public health emergency that animal agriculture really is.
16. Rachel Ama
Rachel Ama is a London-based vegan influencer and recipe developer that was catapulted into the mainstream last year, thanks to the success of her plant-based cookbook “Vegan Eats”.
Fusing healthy vegan staples with colorful Caribbean cuisine, Ama draws from her heritage to present plant-based cuisine in a whole new light, and her culinary efforts had her winning the Observer’s Rising Star of Food in 2019 as well as becoming a featured chef on BBC Food.
17. Matthew Glover
Matthew Glover is a name you may not be familiar with at first glance, but if you’ve heard of the increasingly popular initiative/charity Veganuary before, then you may be more familiar with Glover’s work than you think.
He and his wife Jane Land founded Veganuary back in 2004, and even though the couple has since stepped down from the charity, claiming that the toll on their health and relationships had become too great to bear, the initiative has continued to thrive – 2020 was their biggest year yet, seeing over 400,000 people taking the pledge.
Glover and Land are still working to help the animals and the planet, just in a slightly different way: Glover’s York-based company Veg Capital is providing early-stage capital to companies striving to replace the use of animals in their food products.
18. Genesis Butler
Genesis Butler is yet another super young plant-based activist on a mission to save the world. At 10 years old, she became one of the youngest people to ever give a TEDx Talk, and just last year, at only 12 years old, she founded her own nonprofit organization, Genesis for Animals, in support of animal sanctuaries.
But that’s not all. Genesis has become a full-fledged Marvel superhero after being included in Disney’s Marvel Hero Project, along with other inspiring young activists.
We cannot wait to see what she’ll be up to next!
Grammy Award-winning singer Lizzo announced she was going vegan a few months back, and since then, she has taken to TikTok to share tasty vegan recipes and engaging updates on her plant-based diet.
Sure, she is a brand-new vegan, but the way Lizzo has embraced plant-based cooking on all her social media platforms is definitely praiseworthy. Sharing her enthusiasm for the lifestyle to over 9 million followers every day is bound to make a difference, and hopefully we’ll see even more celebrities going vegan AND vocal in the year to come!
20. Elijah Hall
American record-breaking sprinter Elijah Hall is going to be representing the U.S. at the postponed Tokyo Olympics, and he is training plant-powered through and through.
Hall is one of the many athletes that found countless physical benefits in adopting a plant-based diet, and he’s also been one of the most vocal while doing so, stating on a recent Instagram post that going plant-based was the best decision he could’ve made in his life. According to the athlete, the diet has had amazing effect on his body, going as far as to say: “Becoming a plant-based athlete has open many doors to my health and my training. We On A Mission”.