Who says being vegan is all about bright colors and rainbows? There are some who like gray clouds and cemeteries, and Nnaus O. Feratu of Goth in the Raw is one of them! Nnaus (they/them) is a multi-talented and enchanting entrepreneur, activist, chef, and content and recipe creator who showcases veganism with a dark side.
Learn more about their work vegan journey, cultural background, and likes and dislikes in our recent interview with them!
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in the United States in the state of Michigan. However, I spent the majority of my baby years in Nigeria, which is where my mum is from. My father is of West African/Ethiopian descent. My parents live in Georgia along with my siblings and aunts and uncles. My significant other and our two gothlings, ages 6 and 7, also live in Georgia. I have a large family in Nigeria and visit quite often. I have dual citizenship and my little ones do as well. I love my culture ever so much and love going back home.
2. What were your favorite foods growing up?
Oooooohhhhh, sooooo many foods! Jollof rice, plantains, fufu, egusi soup, suya (before I became vegan at the age of 16), puff puff and chin chin - these are my favorite Nigerian dishes. Other dishes that I loved growing up were sautéed brussel sprouts, Ethiopian food and soul food. I also had a bit of a sweet tooth, I still do actually (laughing). I loved cheesecake, apple pie, ice cream, and donuts. The beautiful thing is that I can eat any one of these as vegan versions. Like we say, "Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan."
3. How did your platform begin?
Veganism is for everyone - not just one race, gender or class. It was not until 2015, when I started Goth In The Raw per the nudging of my beloved spouse Matthieu, that I was able to show people veganism in a different style. I have been Goth since I was 12 (a Baby Bat, as we in the Goth Community say for those that are young in the subculture). While most vegans like bright colors and rainbows, I like grey clouds and cemeteries and taxidermy and séances - and that is okay! Vegans do not come cookie cutter.....they are not meant to be.
Veganism is about the planet, the animals, the environment, and more - not about what a vegan looks like. My creations are a representation of me in every way. I have been fortunate to work with NetflixFoods and movie studios for collaborative projects. Veganism in the Alt/Goth subculture is huge and I am glad that I not only get to represent the Goth subculture as a vegan, but also my pride in being Igbo-Nigerian and queer. Representation matters in all facets.
4. What do you do outside of your personal and professional work?
I am fortunate enough to be a mum to my beautiful gothlings: Opara Eze (Prince) Amaoha Kama Alucard - 7 years old and Opara Eze (Prince) Ikenna Nwosa Draven - 6 years old, with my soulmate of 10 years and their dad, Matthieu. We love spending time with our little ones watching movies, baking vegan treats, playing games, playing video games, taking walks, brunching in the cemetery, drawing, playing African instruments and other instruments (guitar, KORG, drums, bass, piano....it is like a recording studio lol), dancing to Goth music, Nigerian music, and alternative music - enjoying anything and everything.
I, myself, love to sing/write and record music. I also love to dance and sit outside at night underneath moonlight with my love and have a glass of wine once our littles have gone to sleep. Traveling is another thing that I greatly enjoy! Be it traveling within the US (New York City, Los Angeles, and Salem are a few of my favorite cities) or traveling to Nigeria to visit family - it is something I look forward to. I do so much professionally with my vegan beauty company (Haus of Abali), Goth In The Raw, my upcoming vegfest (VOTH Fest), my vegan makeup brand launching this October (Nnaus Feratu Cosmetics), and writing my first vegan cookbook - to find time to relax can be rarity. So, when I do, I love it ever so much.
5. What's your vegan story?
It began in 1997 when I was a sophomore in high school. My best friend of 20+ years since HS was vegan before I was. She had me try a soy milk drink and I was so shocked that it was not milk that I went and bought a supply from GNC. It was Strawberry Spiru-Tein. That immediately led to me doing my own research and going vegetarian. Now, I am also Igbo-Nigerian and in my culture, meats in some dishes are a staple although it is not a must. My family thought that was going to be a phase - but 23 years and counting, I am vegan-strong.
After going to a rock concert of one of my favorite bands (in which members happen to be vegan and animal activists), I noticed a commotion at their merch table. Girls were covering their mouths and turning away and leaving - I was like, "Uhm, it is just band tees and stickers....what are they freaking out about?". When I reached the table, I noticed that there was a video of factory farming playing and the cruelty that animals go through. I could not look away......I was mortified, angry and in tears. It was that moment that I went vegan and knew that I had to be a voice for the voiceless in any way that I could. I immediately started getting involved in animal activism, spoke out against animal cruelty and helped show others the great health and environmental benefits that veganism brings.
6. What's your best advice for helping someone go vegan?
Definitely do your research and check out all of the resources on veganism that you can find. There are soooo many wonderful resources online and the great thing is that it is accessible to everyone. Know that one vegan plan may work for one person but not for you....and that is okay! Every person's body is different and it will take time to find what works for you. Start slow with introducing more plants into your daily diet. Start with a smoothie for breakfast, reduce your meat intake with Meatless Mondays, watch films such as Earthlings and Forks Over Knives. Also, there are amazing vegan organizations like yours that have so many tips and useful information. I can not forget social media (Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter). Vegans from everywhere are very present and share tips/tricks/resources/etc.
7. Who inspires you?
Oh, where do I begin? Well, I must start with my mum - Uwa Onyioha-Osimiri, PhD.: she is the epitome of strength, power, fire, grace, poise, presence and a leader. She is a delegate with the United Nations for Nigeria, an author, speaker, artist, clinical psychologist, President/Founder of the non-profit organization called AWEC (African Women's Economic Consortium), which helps women and children with education/business development/agriculture/STEM and more on the continent. She is almost finished with her 3rd PhD. She never took no for an answer and defied naysayers in the most eloquent of ways. When she speaks, people listen....and that is powerful. She has also been one of my biggest cheerleaders.
Next would be my late grandfather - His Excellency, Eze Ahanyi K.O.K. Onyioha: my grandfather always told me, "You do not have a right to leave this earth unknown and without making a difference." These words always stay with me and are present in everything that I do and set out to do. He was one of the Founders of Nigeria's Independence from British rule in the 1970s, spoke at the United Nations, was an author, speaker, met with The Dalai Lama, Kings and Queens....and was wise beyond all reason. There is not a day that goes by where I do not miss him.
Another person is late uncle Emeka, who always told me that I am unique and what others may find strange and unusual is only because they could not possess the boldness to do it themselves. Being Goth, he never saw me as "weird" or "odd" - I was just myself. He was the most gentle soul anyone could ever know. I miss him dearly.
And I can not forget my beautiful children, who are my driving force for all that I do. No matter how tired I may be or how challenging a task - they are my fire. They are my reason for being. They are my motivation.
8. Why is community important when it comes to Afro-Veganism?
It is important because community is a huge part of us as a people. "It takes a village...." is not just something that sounds great to say - it has a powerful meaning and purpose. There is such a big misconception that veganism is solely for white people and if you are POC and vegan, you are trying to be "white" or "better than" or "bougie" - it still baffles me when I hear these said as we as Africans were already vegan/vegetarian before colonialism. Meat was only consumed when necessary and during specific celebrations, so being plant-based is nothing new to our people. Being healthy is not just for one race of people and caring about your health does not make you "better than" anyone. Veganism is for all.....and all are welcome.
Wow, isn’t Nnaus awesome? Check them out on Instagram and Facebook @GothintheRaw and be sure to support their upcoming events and projects!