Advice from a vegan YouTuber (Ft. The Tofu Goddess)

Vegans use many ways to explore their activism. I use this blog as an opportunity to educate people about the cause, we’ve previously talked about LuLu Lotus Book’s using children’s books as a way to explore activism, and now we’re looking at YouTube. YouTuber’s have been on the rise of influencer marketing for years now. They build successful empires of loyal followers, and focus on particular niches to attract their audiences. Today we’re walking through an interview with The Tofu Goddess.

First, a little background on Leanna. She is a philosophy undergraduate student at Western University, specifically interested in ethics and the philosophy of the mind. She’s been vegan for five years now, and meat-free for a total of six. When she’s not doing YouTube, you might find her reading (currently slugging through a book on the history of vegetarianism), walking her dog, or hanging out at vegan restaurants. Now, let’s hear about her experience as a vegan YouTuber:

What made you start a Youtube channel?

When I first “discovered” vegan YouTube, I had already been vegan for a year. The only version of veganism I was seeing online did not match my lived experiences. Vegan YouTube in 2015 was a bizarre place; the message being promoted by (seemingly) almost everyone was that veganism consisted of riding bikes, wearing bikinis, and eating bananas on the beach. The sentiment was very much: “If you want to help the cause, then get on YouTube, get lean, and eat an unnatural amount of fruit! It’s only form of activism that matters!”

I saw all this and thought that I could offer an alternative narrative. Veganism is more than physical attractiveness and eating fruit; it’s political, it’s philosophical; it’s something that exists in the physical world, thus our activism should not be limited to the internet. Not to say that I was the only one thinking this way, but I couldn’t find anyone who shared my viewpoints on the platform. So, I started making videos with this message and throwing them out into the void that is the internet, and miraculously, people noticed. 

This was the first video I watched from The Tofu Goddess. It provides a lot of critical thinking about the current state of vegan YouTube.

What is the number one advice you would give someone who wants to start a Youtube channel?

One word: NETWORK. When you first start out, you’ve got 0 subscribers. The YouTube algorithms are not in your favour.  Even if someone does happen to stumble across your channel, they have no reason to care about you or your content. You need to be pretty active online; leaving comments on other videos, making responses to other YouTubers. I would recommend turning on notifications for channels you like to comment on so that you can comment early and maximize the amount of people who see your comment.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and message people with a channel similar to yours, both in content type and subscriber count. The idea here is that you might eventually collaborate on a video together or shout each other out. Of course, you shouldn’t reach out to people exclusively with this in mind; people can sense social climbers from a mile away. Your motivations should primarily be that you just want to connect with like-minded people. If you don’t genuinely enjoy being an active member of the vegan YouTube community, then don’t start a channel.

If you would change one thing about how you currently run your channel, what would it be?

Just one thing? Oh wow, I think there is a lot I could change! I would imagine that there will always be stuff that I can improve on. But, for now, my focus is on actually letting myself have fun. You know, enjoy the process more. It’s easy to get hung up on the little details and the work that goes on behind the scenes, and sometimes I forget that this is supposed to be enjoyable. Especially once you start getting some attention, you can really get caught up in the numbers. You don’t want the momentum to stop! But people don’t want to watch someone who isn’t having a good time. It just puts out bad vibes, you know? There’s a couple of my videos where I want to reach through the screen and shake myself and say, “STOP TAKING THE INTERNET SO SERIOUSLY.”

What are the most challenging aspects of having a Youtube channel?

The internet is simultaneously a wonderful and terrible place. Two sides of the same slice of tempeh bacon. Some people really don’t like seeing a confident woman who is loud and unapologetic with her beliefs—especially when her beliefs threaten their eating habits! They will not hesitate to express their distain. I will also get nasty feedback from some my fellow vegans if they disagree with my opinion, or just don’t like what I’m saying.

It’s not that these comments personally affect me in the sense that they make me think less of myself, but it is discouraging, sometimes. I don’t think people realize just how many hours of work can go into a single 15 minute video. It’s really disheartening to see your work not being appreciated. I used to think to myself, “Why am I even doing this?” It could feel like I was not making any sort of impact on people, and that felt like failure. It’s why I have, historically, taken many long hiatuses. I think I’m better off doing something else, but I would always come back. Some things you just can’t shake.  

What are the most rewarding aspects of having a Youtube channel?

Of course, the people who do appreciate your work, even if they disagree with the opinions you’re expressing, make it all worthwhile. I made my channel not to necessarily persuade people to think the same way as me, but to challenge people to just think. Why should we accept that having pet dogs and cats are ethical? Why should we agree with [insert any vegan YouTuber here]’s opinion? What does it mean that vegans are mostly liberal? And so on. While I typically do research to include an educational component to my videos, at the end of the day, I just want to help people be the best version of themselves. Frankly, if everyone agreed with me on everything all the time, I would consider my channel a failure. Heck, the discussions had in the comments of my videos have made me a better vegan. Along the way, I’ve met and talked to some amazing people (both YouTubers and viewers) and they’re the reason I do this.

What are your upcoming plans for your channel?

I definitely want to start uploading more personal content. Things like vlogs and “What I Eat in a Day”. Videos like these would be a better outlet for my creativity, but my main motivations are to show more of my life and personality. You know, be a bit more human. So while I will probably always do my current style of videos (I refer to them as “chatty” videos), I want to expand. As my channel stands, people are free to assume the best of me (which is nice), but, conversely, they are also free to assume the worst (which is less nice). I’d rather people just see me for exactly as I am; nothing more, nothing less. Hopefully, more personal content will achieve this. 

What else would you like us to know before signing off?

Vegan YouTube has evolved a lot over the years. And it will continue to evolve. Which direction it goes in is entirely up to us; both viewer and content creator. I love this platform. It’s an amazing tool for vegans from around the world to connect. So while trends will come and go, my hope is that will always be a place where we vegans can come together and challenge each other to be better. We owe it to the animals, we owe it to the planet, and we owe it to ourselves.

Thank you so much to Leanna from The Tofu Goddess for taking time to let us know a bit more about her experiences as a vegan YouTuber. Be sure to check her out on her Instagram and YouTube - subscribe and click that notification bell!

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