Tabitha Brown Is on a Journey to Be Her True Self and You Can Follow Her Lead

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It all may have started just a few years ago with a viral video of a vegan BLT sandwich. But in record time, this multitalented creative force has redefined her life while finding her true self (and great success) in the process.

Tabitha Brown Special Edition

Andrew Eccles

Tabitha Brown has many descriptors. She’s an actress, author (of four books), Emmy-winning host of her children’s series Tab Time, a vegan chef, and self-help social media personality. She’s the cofounder of Donna’s Recipe, a hair-care line sold at Ulta Beauty and Target (Donna is her nickname for her hair, whom she chats with quite a bit on Instagram). And she has created a line of seasonings for McCormick as well as a selection of vegan food and home products for Target. What unites everything that Tabitha does? A straightforward, heartfelt, and nonjudgmental approach based on encouraging people, whether they be friends, family, or strangers on social media. Tabitha has a smile and demeanor that light up any room—or screen—she enters. I recently talked with her about how her life story, though it may appear to have many parts heading in many directions, ends up leading toward her goal of creative freedom while helping others.

Making a Splash on Social Media

Finding a new sandwich and expressing her love of it online set in motion life-changing events.

Q: Did I get it right that all the things you have going now began with one video?

Yes, it basically started with that sandwich and an Uber. That was my first video that ever went viral. I was already doing Facebook videos with me cooking for friends and family. In December 2017, I was driving an Uber and dropped somebody off, so I went to Whole Foods and got me a little breakfast. I had never heard of vegan bacon at the time, so I ordered the TTLA [tempeh bacon, tomato, lettuce, avocado] sandwich. In my excitement of eating the sandwich, I decided to do a video in the car. It quickly started going viral, and by January, Whole Foods messaged me on Facebook. They said, ‘We saw your video, and we’d love to work with you on some other things.’ And the rest came from that.

Tabitha Brown Special Edition

Andrew Eccles

Q: You have a wonderful way of presenting yourself on social media and in video. Does that come out of your work as an actor?

That’s just me. I was still very afraid in the beginning though. I had been in L.A. pursuing acting for so long and taking dialect classes, you know, trying to mask my North Carolina accent. But then I finally said, ‘I’m gonna talk to people the same way I really speak. I don’t know if they are going to like it. But I gotta be exactly who I am—all the time.’ So that’s how people found me. Turns out, the thing I used to be afraid of and was scared to share was the thing that blessed me the most. People were like, Who is this lady? I think it was just God’s timing for my life.

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Making A Happy Life

Being authentically Tabitha brought her to a place of peace, but it took a lot of work to get there.

Q: Besides food, you’ve moved into other content spaces with aspects of positive inspiration, self- help, or life coaching. Do you have a formula for the types of content you share?

I love to make people laugh, so I was always joking around. I’ve been a performer my whole life. But some days, I’m not joking. Some days, I’m crying. Some days, I’m giving inspiration. Some days, I’m speaking from the heart. And I noticed that people still liked my videos, and they kept watching. So I was like, Oh, maybe it’s just what God has planned for my life. I never had a thought that I was gonna do A, B, and C so I could go viral. I didn’t even know what viral meant. I was just sharing what I’m enjoying eating and thinking about right now.

Q: I’ve heard you mention your freedom walk several times. Tell me about that.

Well, we all deserve it, right? In my new book [I Did a New Thing: 30 Days to Living Free, HarperCollins], I talk about how to get on your own freedom walk. Mine started because I was sick; I was desperate to feel better. Mostly, I was desperate to be made whole again. I had inflammation, a chronic headache for a year and seven months, and back pain spasms throughout my body. I was just all out of whack, you know. We would never get a diagnosis, and everything would come back negative, which is the most frustrating thing ever. Depression and anxiety set in. I was so frustrated with life. And so, my thought was, OK, I’m going to try one last time to really connect with myself and with God. That meant I had to start taking all the layers off that I had put on myself. Now I can’t care about what the world thinks, which is very scary and hard to do. But we have to be intentional about it, which means I also had to get out of the people-pleasing. I was a people pleaser for a very long time. It’s a thing that can be rooted in childhood, that we don’t want to disappoint. So I had to get to a place where I’m like, I don’t care—I gotta get to a place of peace for me.

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Q: So how did that exhibit itself in your work?

I said, ‘OK, if I’m gonna start doing these videos, I don’t want to show up anymore as that other Tab I had previously created. Now I’m gonna show up and be honest and vulnerable, telling people about my life right now.’ That’s how freedom begins, when we just start to show up without any expectation from the world or care about what they think. And I’ve been doing that now for the last six years; it’s really changed my entire life. I lost a lot of people I thought were my friends, because the other thing is, sometimes when you are on a walk of freedom and other people are not ready to be free, your freedom bothers them. You have to give them grace and have understanding that they’re not ready yet. People don’t always know where to start. So I tell them to do a 30-day challenge. And in the 30 days, do something new every day. Just one thing. It can be something as small as wearing your hair differently. You never take time to go to a museum? Then go to a museum. Or walk around in a park, sit down by yourself, and eat lunch. And stay off your phone. Watching people is one of the great things to do in life.

Q: How did you segue from your freedom walk and your discovery of veganism to going online and doing quick videos about topics that have nothing to do with food?

I’ve always been that person, right? Even when I was not free. I was always helping others get to their place. That’s just a natural part of who I am. I love to uplift people, inspire people, help people. It’s the whole reason I wanted to be an actress. I love to perform. But as I got older, I realized the reason I love acting is because it helps people feel something. That’s laughter. That might be crying. But it’s some type of emotion. Acting helps people feel. I’ve always been that person people call when they’re in conflict or trying to figure something out. It’s love. But it’s understanding who’s going to tell you the truth.

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Making Veganism a Lifestyle

Eating a vegan diet has been a journey of its own. Initially leaning on convenience products that tasted like their meat counterparts lead to cooking more from scratch with whole foods and finding ingredients that make recipes more interesting.

Q: Did your family become vegan with you?

When I first went vegan, I was desperate to feel better. Once I did feel better, I didn’t want to think I was missing what I used to have, right? I decided to try to re-create all my favorite nonvegan items and make them vegan. Especially because I knew I had to feed my family and was cooking two different meals, and that got old real quick. The first 30 days, we all did it together as a family. After that, everybody went back to eating normally, except for me. And then the next year, my daughter decided she wanted to go vegan, and she was vegan for three years. And then she went back to eating fish and chicken. My husband ended up going vegan, and he did it for two years. And then last year, he went back to eating fish. So now I’m back alone again. But I don’t mind. I always tell people that sometimes on the journey that’s gonna change your life, you’ve got to be willing to go it alone.

Tabitha Brown Special Edition

Andrew Eccles

Q: You’ve become famous for clever ideas like your carrot dogs and jackfruit tacos. What are some other examples of what unites your cooking?

I cook the same way I’ve always cooked. I’m from the South, so you know we layer with flavor, but I’m also not a salt person. I normally cook without salt. My granny taught me at a young age. She said, ‘Listen, when you go into a restaurant, where’s your salt?’ I said it’s on the table. She says, ‘That’s where it belongs—on the table. It doesn’t belong in the kitchen. You layer first with herbs and spices, and then if you need the salt, you add it, but it shouldn’t be the main ingredient.’ I love herbs and spices. I love garlic. I love cumin and curry and all these different spices. I taste, layer, and season as I cook. It’s got to be flavorful and good, but it also has to be something that reminds me of home. I’m not taking anything away from myself. I’m giving myself something new. When you first go vegan, you are looking for texture and things that are like what you ate before. I used to love burgers, so I was looking for replacements, which involved a lot of processed foods. But as time went on, my body said, ‘I don’t want that anymore.’ So now I focus more on whole foods. Instead of a fake meat burger you buy at the store, I’d rather have something with black beans, mushrooms, onions, or grains. If we cook for ourselves, we know what we’re eating, instead of getting things that are processed where we don’t really know. If I gotta read all these ingredients and can’t understand them, then I’m not making the best choice.

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Q: How do you entertain for a crowd of mixed eaters while remaining vegan?

I love to entertain, so I’m always thinking of others when we gather. What’s something everybody can enjoy, right? Deviled eggs were my favorite growing up. But now we make Angel Eggs. It was a recipe I actually had a dream about. But it has become one of my most famous recipes.

Q: It seems to me you use some ingredients I’d kind of forgotten about, like liquid smoke.

Yes, instead of ham, I’ll use it to get that smoky flavor, but I also have, as part of my spice line for McCormick, my Like Sweet Like Smoky All Purpose Seasoning [which includes hickory smoke]. For a lot of my recipes, my first layer is onion and garlic. And then you add whatever flavor profile you want. You can either go kind of Mexican or Middle Eastern, or you could go South Asian, right? You can do all sorts of variations.

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Q: It may have started with a vegan sandwich, but how do you define yourself now?

I always tell people I’m an entertainer. People say to me, ‘You’re an actress, you’re an author, you’re a designer, you’re a chef.’ To me, all that falls under entertainment. The biggest thing I am? I’m just Tab. I’m a woman who happens to do a lot. One thing I want to make sure people know, as far as my veganism, is that I’m never hypocritical about my journey. I never want people to feel judged by how they eat and live their life. I did it to save my life. And when it changed how I felt and my health improved, I only wanted to share that with people. I thought, What if somebody else is going through the same thing? Maybe you don’t have to be fully vegan, maybe you do it once a week or once a day, or you incorporate more whole foods into your diet. Or maybe you don’t do dairy this week. I want us to be intentional about how we treat ourselves. You know, it blows me away with so many people. They’ll eat ice cream or mac and cheese with dairy. And they feel terrible afterward, and then they do it again. I tell people, ‘What if I told you, you could still have your favorite thing without feeling terrible after? Enjoy yourself.’ I want to lead people that way, you know? It’s very simple.

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Better Homes & Gardens March 2024 cover with Tabitha Brown on pink and purple surface

Andrew Eccles


Talent: Tabitha Brown

Text By: Stephen Orr

Photos By: Andrew Eccles

Produced By: Jessica Thomas and Jan Miller

Associate Editorial Director: Sheena Chihak

Social Promotion: Lauren Phillips

Prop Stylist: Brian Andriola

Food Stylist: Alysia Andriola

Wardrobe: Vannieka Woods. Yellow floral skirt by Payal Singhal, jumpsuit by Farm Rio, shoes by Nan-Ku Couture

Hair Stylist: Brandi White (Crosby Carter Agency)

Makeup: Shaylin Jones (Crosby Carter Agency)

Production Company: Zack Crawford Productions

Videographer: Eric Longden

Video Editor: Maura Willey

Video Director: Joan Yeam

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