We Can All Be Activists with Jasmine Leyva




Jasmine is an artist in every sense of the word. With a Bachelor of Arts in TV, Film and Media and a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting, she worked as an associate producer on a NAACP winning docuseries entitled Unsung, and shortly after, was given the opportunity to write and produce on Being, a docuseries highlighting dynamic entertainers in film and music. She’s done court shows, casted for Food Network productions and made strides in front of the camera.


She went on to star in commercials and print ads for major brands like Nissan, Sony, Apple, Uber, American Express, Diesel, BlackPeopleMeet, Credit Sesame, Michelle Watches, Elle magazine and more. She also starred in the Lifetime show, My Crazy Ex, along with other TV projects.

Jasmine and Kenny Leyva produced their own feature length documentary, The InvisibleVegan, a film that chronicles Jasmine’s personal experience with plant-based eating.


The film also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression stemming from slavery, economics and modern agribusiness. They are currently in pre-production for a few projects.


Jasmine and Carly talk about her career in film, how she became vegan, and how no matter how small the act we can all find a way to be activists.


Please note, this episode has been transcribed by a computer, expect some typos!


Carly Puch

Welcome back to another episode of Consciously Clueless. I'm your host, Carly, and I'll be your guide in this journey from consciousness to cluelessness and back around again. Today on the podcast, I talked to Jasmine Leyva. Jasmine is an artist in every sense of the word. She works as a model as an actress, and as a producer for many different projects. She produced a feature-length documentary, The Invisible vegan that chronicles her experience with plant-based eating. It also talks about how African American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression stemming from slavery, economics, and modern agribusiness. Here we go. Well, thank you for joining me today, I'm really excited to chat with you and finally get to connect.

Jasmine Leyva

I'm excited too!

Carly Puch

I like to start with this question. The podcast is called consciously clueless. And I did that with this idea in mind that, you know, on this journey, you have those moments where you're like, I get it. I'm conscious, I have reached the moment where I understand the world. And then you have those moments where you're like, just kidding, I know nothing. I'm clueless. And I really like talking about like, all of it in between, right? So I like asking people, when we start just kind of where you're feeling right now, in this moment on the spectrum from conscious to clueless.

Jasmine Leyva

Oh, wow, um, I guess a little bit of both. And I think from the day that you're born to the day that you die, like you should always be in a state of growth. And even you know, now, like, in my 20s, I was more attached to this idea of like, this is right, and this is wrong. Whereas in my 30s, it's more of looking at things as right and wrong looking at things like No, these are just two really different perspectives. And they each have, you know, qualities of truth. Um, so yeah, in a constant state of learning. Yeah,

Carly Puch

I like that qualities of truth. Like, that's all there. That's really beautiful. Um, so I started following you on Instagram A while back, and I really loved how honest your conversations about like veganism, and social justice and all those intersections where, and I think that, as someone who's been vegan for a few years, I and as a white woman, it's been really good to find these spaces where my white veganism is challenged. And I think that some of the content that you put out in some of the conversations you've had in the past on your platform are like, really, really cool. And I would love to hear more about the film that you created.

Jasmine Leyva

Okay, so I created the invisible vegan, as you know, just it, there was a void in mainstream vegan media, like a lot of my MB and I would tell them all about the vegan diet, and they were just not excited. And I'm like, why are they not getting this and then I started tuning into all these things that I loved, you know, the inks, the cowspiracy, the educated all this stuff. And then it hit me, I'm like, you know what, I mean, I like the you know, I like all of those documentaries, as a collective totally. Notice, like, they're all kind of geared towards the same group, like you have all you know, all those dogs, like you, the male, there's usually like a white male lead, if there is a black x for brought in. It's only like a few, or, you know, color brought into the narrative as like, Look, these is the people that need help, you know, so we weren't seeing ourselves in an empowered role within the movement. So that's all like, oh, okay, this is what's missing. This is what's invisible, you know, kind of caters to what I want to see and what we need to see, which is diversity, because we want a diverse movement.

Carly Puch

So you're an actress, had you done film production before?

Jasmine Leyva

Our Yeah, so I worked on a documentary series prior to doing the film. It was funny because I wanted to write on the documentary series, I was an associate producer at the time, and my EP, he kind of like laughed it off. Like, hi, you know, writing is a big beast. And I took that as Oh, cool. So he wants to hold me in a position that I don't want to stay like, I know that I know how to write and I'm not gonna sit here and wait for someone else to give me the green light. I'm just gonna do it myself. So yeah, that's so I did go into the project. Production experience.

Carly Puch

Okay, wow. Were you in this field as an actress first and production later or like what got you into this kind of media space?

Jasmine Leyva

So growing up, I was usually I was really into acting. But then I got to LA, the way acting is structure like the having to do all these auditions and maybe you only get one role. It's just like it wasn't practical enough. It's like, yeah, you know, I kind of want something a little more secure. But film and TV was still my love. So I decided to, you know, go to school to learn, like behind the scenes stuff. And it's equally you know, for me, it's like an equally creative thing. And I don't have to be in front of the camera. So I kind of just just merge the two. Yeah.

Carly Puch

So as I am not going to just call you a film buff, because that's how that's what I imagine like anybody who works in that field, like knows all those things. What are like a best kept secret of a show or a movie or something that you're like, I can't believe people. Everyone doesn't watch this.

Jasmine Leyva

Oh, it's so funny. Because when you work in TV, like right now I'm working on a show. I don't even have time to watch TV. The irony right now like you don't even have time to watch me. Um, so what happens is I end up watching the more like popular thing. One second. Stay Ahead in my indie just came out. I was just like, guess we're watching Game of Thrones.

Carly Puch

That's when I actually haven't watched.

Jasmine Leyva

Oh, man. It was great. The I mean, the last season was it was but up until that point, amazing.

Carly Puch

Yeah, I mean, I paid attention to the internet enough to know that people were up in arms about last season. But other than that, I really don't know anything.

Jasmine Leyva

Yes, it's an incredible show.

Carly Puch

So take me on your journey of becoming vegan. How did that happen?

Jasmine Leyva

Oh, it was not a noble story. It was more like, you know, saw this woman, you know, middle aged and she was wearing booty shorts and like this tank top, and it was like, and I was just like, hey, I want to be like that. And I want my body looked just like her is vegan. So I'm like, oh, let me try veganism because I want to look like that. And I did. And what happened was some of the things that I was battling with, you know, some minor health situations I had going on clearing up. So I was like, wow, this is more than just an aesthetic thing. This is actually getting my health in order. And so I started reading up about it. And then I'm like, oh, wow, this is actually you know, how I eat plays a part in climate change like it plays in the welfare of other species like so I just started kind of making all these other connections and I became more inspired to stick with it.

Carly Puch

What were some of those health issues if you don't mind sharing that we're kind of clearing up?

Jasmine Leyva

Oh, absolutely not. So when I... TMI alert to all your listeners, but when I was in my 20s, like I started having problems with hemorrhoids, which is the comfortable thing. And even my, my cycle, you know, every month I would get really bad bloating and it was super uncomfortable. And then when I switched my diet, I'm like, wait, I went from this horror movie every month to now my goal is like this cute little friend that just says, Hey, girl, and she keeps it real light. And there's no oh, I jealous man. So that was a dream. And then I was going through it with acne at the time. Okay, so having really clear skin and I hit my 20s and it's like, now I'm getting acne. It give me self conscious. And then when I switch to when I cut out like dairy and stuff, my skin started clearing up. So yeah.

Carly Puch

Yeah, it's amazing how many people talk about like, not necessarily going into being vegan, like, I'm going to get rid of my hemorrhoids. I'm going to go vegan, but like the byproduct of realizing, oh, shit, like, this has a lot of effects on my body.

Jasmine Leyva

Mm hmm. And now it's an I have to be very careful because when I was eating this way, you know, this is something I did 15 years ago. Oh, you have all of the options that you have now. You know, I wasn't eating, you know, my skin and stuff started clearing up but I was also eating healthier foods like I wasn't they didn't have like the vegan Ben and Jerry's, the vegan junk food the have out now.

Carly Puch

Oh, wow. 15 years ago, you were ahead of the curve.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah. Before it was a trend.

Carly Puch

So have you influenced anyone in your life or anyone like you work with or anything to go vegan and Those 15 years I imagine that you've got stories of people telling you, you're the reason.

Jasmine Leyva

Oh, yeah. And so I wasn't, you know, just I wasn't vegan, the entire 15 years, it was a thing where I did it, I really liked it. But the upkeep was a little like, so then I would just go back and forth. And then finally, I stuck with it after a lot of trial and error. But yeah, like people in my life. Um, I see changes everywhere, like friends, people I've been in dance classes with, you know, they've been inspired to try to be like, Yo, I haven't had meat since I watched your films. I get that all the time from friends and family members, and people that I would never have expected to do it. But none of it. None of it came for me, like preaching the vegan word for anyone. Like it all came from just me living by example, or people watching my film and listening to my talk. Like, I never tried to force anything on anybody. It just kind of came around.

Carly Puch

Did you ever go through that phase of, like, I've talked about this before on the podcast, I feel like when I initially became vegan, I was like, oh, everything I knew was a lie. Oh, my gosh, what is happening, and I was really upset by it. And I didn't understand why everyone in my life wasn't as mad as me. And then I was like, no one's really listening to this anger.

Jasmine Leyva

Um, you know, I've always, I guess, I've always prized my relationships with people. And I always have a good relationship with people. And I know there are people who are like, I don't care if I make people uncomfortable. And I actually do care if I make people uncomfortable. And one of the reasons why I didn't consider veganism initially, is because I saw a lot of the fanatics and I saw a lot of the extremists. And I was like, I want nothing to do with that. Yeah. You know, that negative energy that I saw. So when I became vegan, it was almost like, you know, I wanted to show respect for where people weren't. And I wanted to kind of show them like, Look, you know, all vegans aren't crazy, if not to label people as crazy. But you know, if I see someone eating their burger, even though I don't agree with that choice, like they're the see of their own lives, and I have to respect that. And people tend to listen to you more Anyway, when you show that respect,

Carly Puch

Yeah, I love I definitely learned that lesson the hard way, because people weren't really interested in me being upset with them for their life choices, who would have thought, but I also I don't know, if this has been your experience. But the more intentional I become with learning about all the intersections of these issues, I've realized that the loudest, angriest, most judgmental vegans, and like some of those, like Facebook groups, or whatever it is, tend to be white, and tend to like not be coming from that perspective of intersectionality. I don't know if that's been your experience.

Jasmine Leyva

I you know what, to be honest, and I guess To be fair, like I've seen the, you know, the vegan righteous people. I've seen it come from all races, but I definitely see a strand of it in the mainstream like community, for sure. And the problem with it is, they don't realize that their actions get interpreted, even though that, you know, they don't think they're bringing race into it, right, yes, like their actions get kind of decoded through race. You know, as a man. in society, I'm just so used to someone telling me I need to change, I need to straighten my hair, I need to have a more like, I can't wear a dashiki or African print to a job interview, I need to wear something that's more European friendly. So I'm in a society where I always have to whiten up. And so when white person comes and tells like this other group, that they actually want nothing to do with some time, like, Hey, we want nothing to do with your community. But we want you to eat the way that we eat, we want you to eat the way that we tell you to eat. And you're also bad because you eat the way that you eat. So it just comes off as like, okay, here's this group of white people villainizing or vilifying this group of people of color again, you know, a trigger, it's like a weird thing. So you just have to know, as a messenger, how your message is being decoded by certain groups.

Carly Puch

And I think what you said in the beginning was interesting, too, because then I was thinking back to some of the like, more earlier films made about veganism, that kind of white Savior. It totally does have that flavor of like, We're going into these communities that really need our help because they don't know how to eat and we're going to help them out and I didn't put that white savior label on some of those things. I'd seen before but you're right.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah. Yeah. And it's and when you see it over and over again, and I mean, they, you know, they don't mean harm, like, I'll watch it like that. And I'll see that, you know, it was like, okay, you didn't bring any people who color into the narrative. And now you bring them in at the hour mark, like, Oh, look at this poor family eating Burger King every night. And it's just like, when you constantly see yourself represented in that context, it gets so annoying, because like, I know that that element exists. But there's so much more to our culture, like you have people who are making who are pioneers in the plant based movement, but it seems like there's a choice not to highlight those people. You know, even when I hear, you know, people give credit to David Watson, you know, in I guess, I had coined the term veganism in the 1940s. Which, okay, he created the vegan society. give him credit for that. Yes. But to not acknowledge that other indigenous cultures have plant based eating ways long before the 1940s is, you know, it's a little it's inappropriate, you know,

Carly Puch

Yeah, to act as if eating primarily plants was this new idea in the 1940s?

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah, yeah.

Carly Puch

And then when you like, even my set it out loud. I was like, this is it's silly. Like it's like wild.

Jasmine Leyva

Right? Right. It's just like, sometimes, you know, certain groups give themselves a little bit too much credit for things. And, you know, after a while, I was just like, Okay, stop, stop, stop, stop. He created a term he created a society. Yes, I will give you that. But I was like, Who created plant based eating lots of different groups, whether you're talking about Ross's or Buddhist, you know, of groups, you know, believed in plant base ways.

Carly Puch

Do you engage in a lot of those kind of conversations, whether it be on social media, or people you interact with? If you hear stuff like that, like, is that something that you like to do? Because some people are like, I love educating people and jumping in and some people are like, I'm just gonna eat my vegan burger and hope someone asks about it. And I think both pathways are great. But is that something you like to engage in.

Jasmine Leyva

I like to, like across the board, whether we're talking about veganism or anything else, I like to engage with people who want to understand different perspectives, because that's how I like even me, as a vegan. I don't like to stay in the echo chamber. So like, right now I'm reading a book, nourishing wisdom by Mark David, it's a book about food, because I'm interested in food, but it's not a vegan book, like I don't want to ever sell off. So I enjoy kind of talking to people who are on the same page. Because sometimes if you talk to, if I, you know, get the vibe from someone that they're not interested in learning, they're not interested in learning, they're just committed to their ignorance, it's gonna exhaust me to try to convince that person because they're already shut down. So totally,

Carly Puch

would before you created the invisible vegan film where you would you have called yourself an activist, or do you feel like when you kind of had that, like, Wait a second, all these films are the same. I need to change the narrative. Do you feel like that was a moment that kind of pushed you into that role?

Jasmine Leyva

I actually never considered. I never consider myself an activist. And oh,

Carly Puch

Yeah, I guess I could have asked that. First is if you can tell yourself that now. I'm sorry.

Jasmine Leyva

No, it's, I'm, you know, what I and I always say, like, before, when I thought of activists, I always think of people who really put their lives on the line, you know, like, you're out there, you're in front of a hose or in front of dogs you're organizing. And I didn't think that, you know, just having when you have the power of influence, like what you choose, influence can make you an activist even like I am, I have the gift of art, I could have made a movie about all this taking a bigger bite like Kim Kardashian. I couldn't use my art for that purpose. But the fact that I chose to say like, No, I want to, you know, add something to the social fabric of society, like something that's positive, you know, that is a form of activism. So I accept that. Mm hmm.

Carly Puch

And did you not really, like think of it that way until you created that film? So you're saying like, before that you're like, I don't, I'm not an activist.

Jasmine Leyva

I didn't think of it until someone I got asked to do a panel and a talk about activism. And that's where, you know, it was kind of like this label that someone thrust upon me, and then I had to think about it. And, you know, the speech I did was literally about how I didn't even think of myself as an activist. But I you know, I just, I guess I in a sense that I am motivating people, and I am taking action against something that I don't agree with. And you know, activism can be as simple as putting up a photo on Instagram to try to persuade others to do something positive. Like it can be that simple.

Carly Puch

Yeah I think it's a really cool way to think about making change. Because I often thought of that kind of like activism as these big grandiose things to which are super important. But, you know, if I post a picture of vegan pancakes, and one person is like, Wait a second, those actually look good. Tell me more about that. Like, you know, like, that's starting a cool conversation. And it's, I think we underestimate the influence we have sometimes over people.

Jasmine Leyva

We do we do. And if everyone it'd be cool if you didn't have more people kind of accepting that activist role, like you could do something positive, and then you would just have way more people kind of putting out positive things that would lead us more towards a more spiritual society than what we are now.

Carly Puch

Yeah. Oh, if more people would accept that role. I really like that. Because I think a lot of people just think that they can't or they don't. Like, I don't know what it is. There's something scary I think about the word like activists are thinking of yourself in that way. I don't know what it is. But it's in it's like, intimidating.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah. Yeah, you feel you feel a lot of pressure, you feel like you also feel like once you take that role, like you can't make mistakes. You know, if you're an actress you know, if you're the Lindsay Lohan is just like, yo, she's an actress, she totally do all that stuff, and make all these mistakes. But then when you're in this like activist role, this almost feels like I have to be perfect, in a sense, because any display of moral corruption will result in my battle.

Carly Puch

Yeah totally, I think that I never described it exactly in that way. But I think I definitely, I definitely fell into that when I started becoming more interested in sustainability. And like low waste living. All of a sudden, I was just like, Oh, I have to be perfectly low waste. And if I accidentally get a straw at a restaurant, like I'm a failure, and that's crazy.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah, yeah. And then when you start to overthink it, I think you you become a little uncomfortable in your own life. And you can't even you know, it just creates this obsession. Like even for me, you know, one time I had a purse and it was a vegan leather purse, and then someone called me out and I'm like, my vegan leather. And they're like, well, you're still perpetuating the idea that it's okay to wear animals. And and so like, what that taught me kind of is, you know, damned if you do damned if you don't, like no matter what I try to do, there will be someone that will find the flaw in it. So for now, you know, I'm just on a journey. I do what I can, if mistakes get made. Everyone will just have to live with it.

Carly Puch

Yeah, and being able to talk about those mistakes, like that's something interviewing people and talking to people on this podcast, like I always joke. If nobody listens to it, it's okay. Because selfishly, I'm learning so much, talking to amazing people and realizing the moments that I have to be like, oh, I've done that. That wasn't cool. And I'm gonna own it on this podcast. So people listening will be like, oh, okay, I can admit that I did something wrong, and then move on. Like, I just don't want to be wrong.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah.

Carly Puch

You know, that's such a scary thing to do. And it's like, oh, my God, I'm wrong all the time.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah. So culture, you know, even within the vegan movement, and that's something that bothers me a little, because you'll see people say, you know, even if it's a celebrity, they decide to stop being me. And then you see all the, you know, this influx of Viens kind of putting this person down and jumping on them. And, and I don't want to be a part of that, because I look at it almost like a child when I walk if they fall and make a mistake. You don't yell at them for falling like you fell, you're a horrible person, and now everyone's against you. It's like no, even in my vegan journey, like there were times like relapse is almost a part of the process, like any addict will tell you that whether you quit drinking or smoking, you know, so I just try to keep it positive in my vegan practice.

Carly Puch

Yeah, that seems to have gotten more and more vicious to the like canceled culture of vegan celebrities or like vegan YouTube stars. A few people that have said that they're not vegan anymore. There has been like malicious attacks.

Jasmine Leyva

Right, right. And it's it's counterproductive because you're in a movement that's all about compassion. and compassion means also having compassion for people and whatever their struggles are. Because if you even understand food and food choices, people make it seem like it's a conscious thing. But it's not a conscious thing for everyone. You have a lot of people who, you know, eating is a psychological choice, you know, you're, they're going through something horrible in their own lives. And then they go to their fridge, and they're like binge eating, you know, it's almost a sickness. It's not even something that they're consciously choosing to do. But people don't keep things like that in mind when they judge people for food choices.

Carly Puch

Yeah, the connection between food and mental health, I think is underestimated. For sure.

Jasmine Leyva

And even out one diet can make someone feel like for me, if I eat peanuts, I'm fine. If the next person eats peanuts, they can die. So I listened to when you know, when I went vegan, and just like when I went vegan, I felt great. And then, you know, I'll read stories about other people. And she's like, Oh, I went vegan, and I was passing out every other day, you know, then it's like, well, if she decided to stop being vegan, like, I'm not going to judge her, like, I understand, like, maybe she needed to add more to her diet. But I understand why she said like, okay, I can't do this, because that would be traumatic. And then all these vegans writing rude stuff, and I'm just like, wow, this is this is just going to give her a stigma about the vegan movement. And she's not even going to want to try again, because she's not gonna want to be a part of this.

Carly Puch

Well, that's kind of like what you said in the beginning. You were like those, you saw that extreme example. And you were like, absolutely not.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah. No, no.

Carly Puch

So I'm curious with 2020 in some ways, being a bit of a dumpster fire. How has your work been affected? But I don't have many connections to people who work in that industry? Is that been a problem?

Jasmine Leyva

Um, it's, it depends. Like, for me, everything actually worked out pretty good. Okay. Um, yeah, like, now I'm working remotely. And with TV jobs, I kind of prefer that CV jobs can be a lot. So just having your own space can be a blessing. Um, but I know a lot of the work I think we're at like, 30% I think I don't want to be like Trump and spitting out crazy faxes. I think we're, I think we're about at, like, 30% capacity. So other people might be feeling it a little more than I am.

Carly Puch

What do you mean 30% capacity?

Jasmine Leyva

Oh, 30% of the kind of workforce is back like the productions are back? Oh, okay. I was fortunate enough to, you know, land a job when in production. But, you know, other people might not share that experience.

Carly Puch

I got it, do you have any plans to work on more like vegan films or shows or like activism, in that way in the form of art.

Jasmine Leyva

So I just did, I don't know if I'm supposed to talk about it. But I just hosted a, you know, a show for animals. It's like, you know, just advocating for how we get treat, especially like farm animals with a little more compassion. And then I'm working on a doc about, you know, food disorders now, in communities of color. Because that's not something that usually when people talk about food or food disorders, again, like it's always around, you know, white, fluent skinny women, and they're not the only ones that was eating. So.

Carly Puch

So definitely have plans to keep those that connection to what you're passionate about all together. You have any like dream projects that you're like, Oh, I would love to create this someday, huh?

Jasmine Leyva

It's great. Hi. Oh, I'm trying to think what will my magnum opus be? Yes, yes. No, you know what I kind of like life has always been like, I'm not a person that has a bucket list per se. Okay. It's like, I'll get inspired in the moment. And then I'll just go with like, oh, in this moment, this is what's calling to me. So in this moment, eating disorders is in my heart.

Carly Puch

Yeah. Did becoming vegan change like your like or dislike for cooking or like, were you a big fan of cooking before? Like I know, before, I didn't appreciate cooking as much and then I went vegan. I was like, Oh, this is a little more exciting. Like I'm a little more excited about this now.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah, it was it was almost like learning a new language and you know, Learning about foods and which we should just learn anyway. Right? Exactly, exactly. Like a bunch of stuff that I thought I didn't like. It was just like, Oh no, I actually did like this stuff. I just didn't know how to prepare it like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and kale. Like they were all on my list. Yeah. And then I got a pair of them and like, Whoa, these are delicious. And I can eat them every day.

Carly Puch

Yeah, I remember somebody in the game changers film, saying that, like, once he went deep, like he didn't even know the majority of the vegetables that exist existed. Yeah, he was like, I didn't even know these were a thing.

Jasmine Leyva

Yeah, yeah. And now like, I'll even go to you know, there's a exotic little Santa exotic fruit shop, but they have like a lot of exotic fruits. This is marking and you know, they have like the summer stop. And what is it like the they look like mangoes, I forget. I mean, it tastes like mangoes, I forgot the name of them. But I'll just go and get like a bunch of exotic fruits and have little you know,