Tabitha Auntie Tab Brown, Vegan Influencer And Now NY Times Best Seller Visits Houston

The 42-year-old vegan influencer emerged as a social-media superstar after her first TikTok went viral at the start of the pandemic. But her fame began with her 2018 video review of Whole Foods’ tempeh bacon sandwich, while she was working as an Uber driver; it had more than 4 million views.

Her Southern lilt, which she peppers with “honey” and “baby,” is endearing, and her vegan recipes, which almost always use garlic powder, may tempt the even most devout carnivore. But it’s Brown’s wisdom, which comes from years of heartbreak and adversity, that has helped soothe a restless world.

Millions have been captivated by her warm spirit. Time magazine has called her the “gentlest person on the Internet.”

Honestly, Brown makes you feel like you could do anything.

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At The Fountain of Praise Church in southwest Houston, she entered the pastor’s room with her enviable signature afro and a bright smile. She was wearing a denim duster by Houston fashion designer LaSonja Polk and vegan boots made of animal-print fabric; a look created by Dallas celebrity stylist J. Bolin. She even did a twirl to show off the outfit. Her happiness filled the room.

Brown was set to go on stage before an audience of 700 — mostly women who were clinging to her book as if it were sacred. The event was sponsored by Kindred Stories, a new Third Ward bookstore owned by Terri Hamm, and the Metamorphosis Conference, founded by church Pastor Mia Wright.

“Honey, I like Houston. I say, ‘Come on Houston.’ It’s amazing, honey,” she said.

It was Brown’s first time here, she said. The night before, she visited Mo’ Better Brews, a vegan breakfast and coffee shop, and raved on Instagram about the hot-honey oyster mushrooms, grits and donut burger. For small, Black-owned businesses, any shout-out by “Auntie Tab,” as fans call her, is like gold. Brown and her daughter, Choyce, have showcased fashion, beauty and food products by small businesses through her “Very Good Mondays” video segments.

When I had the opportunity to talk to Brown about her book, I had so much I wanted to tell her. Like how watching her TikTok videos late at night calmed me when I was overwhelmed with parenting and working at home during the pandemic. Or how her ”don’t give up” messages made me — and, I’m sure, others — feel not so alone. I just love her catchy phrases, “Like so like that,” “That’s my business,” and ”Very good.” 

For me, no celebrity since Oprah has had that influence.

“I like to handle people with care and be gentle with people,” she said. “I think that we all need love and compassion more than anything else in the world.”

Brown, who has also been dubbed “America’s mom,” for her nurturing ways, has reminded many of us that real joy isn’t lost in this troubled world. Like magic, joy comes if you believe and if you look in right places.

“I think that the main issue comes from seeking joy from the world, right?” she said. “I always tell people, ‘Honey, there’s an old song that says the world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away. My joy comes from within. I feel that, and I choose it. I think a lot of times we search for things outside of ourselves. But if we look within, we find what we're looking for. And so that’s where joy is.”

Though many assume she’s an overnight success, Brown’s journey didn’t start with a viral video about a sandwich. She spent 23 years working to find success and fame in Hollywood, she said.

She grew up in Eden, N.C., a small town north of Greensboro. She loved the “The Cosby Show” and dreamed of being the on-screen friend of Rudy Huxtable, played by Keshia Knight Pulliam. She studied fashion design at a Miami college for a semester, then decided to move to Los Angeles to focus on acting. She could barely make a living there and soon returned home, joining her now husband, Chance Brown, in Greensboro, where they decided to save money before returning to Los Angeles the next year.

That year turned into five, during which time the couple had a daughter, got married and had to pay bills.

She became co-host of an entertainment show at a local TV station, while also working a day job. In 2004, she and the family moved to Los Angeles, so she could pursue her acting dreams. She got some small parts — while at working Macy’s and later Uber. Often the roles required her to tone down her accent, straighten her big, natural hair and lose weight.

Then the pandemic changed her fate. Finally, she could be herself, she said.

Brown joined TikTok in March 2020 at the prompting of her teenage daughter. Her first video was of her doing the Renegade dance challenge. She followed that with videos about vegan recipes and inspiring words, and, in a way, found her voice.

“The major lesson was that I was always enough,” Brown said. “I didn’t have to try to fit in because that’s what I always did for a very long time, and it didn’t get me nowhere. I had a lot of small victories, but I had to learn I was always enough, just to be me. Showing up as me was enough. And it worked. So, that’s what I learned.”

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Brown’s book, which she wrote during the pandemic, tells her life’s journey, interspersed with recipes, such as Vegan Carne Asada Jackfruit Tacos and Vegan Pulled Pork. She shared her feelings of heartbreak after her mother died of ALS and the challenge of dealing with her own painful injuries after a car accident. She said she found relief from the pain and inflammation through a vegan diet.

“The time was right for the book,” she said. “It was easy to tell the stories because I was telling the truth. It was easy to inspire. It was easy to be vulnerable because I’m free.” .

Freedom, she said, is showing up as yourself and never apologizing for it. That’s how her afro, which she calls “Donna,” came to be one of her signature characteristics.

“So many women say, ‘I would never wear my natural hair. Now I do. I wear it to work, and I’m not ashamed. I’m not afraid.’ Then a lot of women just say they have chosen themselves and show up as themselves. And that right there, honey, is the biggest compliment in the world.”

At the Houston event, women cheered as Brown ended her talk with an “I love y’all,” then she posed for a selfie with the audience.

“It's so incredible to watch how she inspires people,” Hamm said. “It’s important for us to use the space we have to bring people together to experience joy and share their stories. She has a story to share that she continues to share in such an honest way.”

Brown now is working on a cookbook and children’s TV show, “Tab Time.” She continues to review acting scripts and is constantly trying to spread joy and love and all that good stuff, she said.

It’s a life beyond her dreams.

“Honey, this is more than I could have imagined. Listen, everyday I wake up and I expect the unexpected because I just don’t know. But I think the best thing is that I just get to show up as me. I ain’t got to put on nothing but Tab. And there’s no better feeling.”

joy.sewing@chron.com

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Source : https://www.houstonchronicle.com/lifestyle/article/Tabitha-Auntie-Tab-Brown-vegan-influencer-16533363.php

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