Crystal Pang, a Queens native gone Manhattanite, is the mastermind behind the mega-successful Vegan Eats NYC (a delicious vegan food guide for the Big Apple). Despite the tremendous following, Crystal has been a loyal vegan for half her life, which she does primarily for the animals. Her Vegan Eats Instagram started back in her college days, beginning as just a personal account where she posted about meals and life. As veganism gained recognition, she gradually gained followers and became a bigger source for vegan dining recommendations. At that point, Crystal realized the platform gave her the opportunity to grow her VEGAN EATS NYC brand, prove how easy veganism was, and show that it isn’t just salad. Crystal then expanded her Instagram into a blog and continues to share all of the hidden gems in which she finds vegan options. This summer, Crystal took the time to speak with us on her background and current life as a huge vegan influencer.
When did an animal free diet begin for you?
When I was an angsty pre-teen, I saw PETA’s video, “Meet your meat” The short documentary was about the exploitation of animals in the meat industry, and when I saw this, I was like “Oh no the world- I have to fix it!” I went up to my mom and declared that I was vegan now. She laughed at me and thought it was a phase, so she went along with it (little does she know, the phase will never end). On my vegan journey, I’ve learned so much about factory farming, agricultural industry, and how unsustainable the food industry is.
That was over ten years ago. I’m really proud of helping the animals, being vegan, and promoting that for other people.
Did anyone or anything encourage you to maintain an animal free lifestyle?
I interned for Vaute Couture and LAIKA magazine back in high school, and seeing both Leanne Hilgart (Vaute) and Julie Gueraseva (LAIKA) dedicate their lives to the welfare of animals really inspired me to continue being vegan. I was encouraged by these badass ladies who were changing the world in unconventional ways, and I wanted to be part of that. Another badass lady, my mom, loves animals and made me an animal lover since I was a kid. Of course, the boom of vegan restaurants and options at the supermarket made it super easy for me to continue being vegan because I never felt limited.
You’ve created an extremely successful Instagram, along with a blog on vegan food options while you travel (nom!) When did you begin both of these and how did you manage to generate such a large following?
My Instagram developed from my personal account back in college, where I just posted about my daily life, which happened to involve a lot of vegan food because I loved eating. Slowly people started to find my Instagram, and I realized I should probably post more consistent and higher quality content if people were going to be constantly using my posts as a guide. As Instagram grew, more people got accounts, so I started to reach out and connect with fellow Instagrammers/bloggers I liked because I wanted vegan friends, which also helped my reputation/following. In college, I also studied food marketing and design at NYU Gallatin, so I knew how important it was to use good marketing to get a message across. I created the blog about a year ago because people kept asking me for guides for NYC, and I thought it would be easier to have it all in one place. As more and more people turn to a plant-based lifestyle, I hope I can continue to help them!
How do you stay up to date on vegan food options, both here in the city and overseas? We imagine it is necessary for you and your readers at this point.
I follow non-vegan food publications like Eater and The Infatuation and follow non-vegan Instagram accounts to see what’s popular among my omnivore friends. Once I see what popular restaurants are trending, I check their menus to see if there are any vegan options. Most of the time, there is at least one awesome vegan option that I would then try out. I enjoy promoting vegan options at these trendy restaurants because it shows that being vegan isn’t limiting. I also use Foursquare to see what’s popular, HappyCow, Yelp, and VegNews for new restaurant openings.
Outside of your awesome blogs, we know you’re also involved in marketing and design. What’s a typical day like for you, considering you are a master of many trades?
My day job is at a management consultant. The work I do is really project dependent, but these days it’s more about customer experience research. I love my day-job outside of Instagram and people always ask me if I would quit to become a full time blogger, and I always say no. I really enjoy the variety my job gives me and that I’m able to do my blogging for fun rather than for work.
We love that you worked with Vaute Couture, including assisting with their first all-vegan fashion show! How did you get involved and what sort of work did you do?
In high school, I wanted to do work that let me help the animals. I saw a posting about how Vaute Couture needed interns, so I emailed the founder, Leanne, and asked her if she ever accepted high schoolers for internships. She said she never hired a high schooler before but was willing to give me a shot. I did a lot of marketing work at Vaute, which was awesome because that meant I got to spread the word out about how awesome it is to be cruelty-free and vegan.
Do eateries ever invite you over for a test tasting?
I do get invited to taste test, and I get super excited when mainstream restaurants start incorporating vegan options because it means that our community is growing!
What are some of the best spots you’ve come across so far?
Your “Vegan Eats” currently has 31.9k followers (woot!) What do you hope to accomplish with the influence you have? Can you let us in on any future projects or collaborations?
I hope that people see how being vegan doesn’t have to be just all about cooking at home or eating salad. It’s easy to go out with your friends to “regular” restaurants and still have a good time. I generally want to be a positive and friendly voice for the vegan community because I want others to see how awesome it is to be vegan! I lowkey also hope to show how amazing Asian food is to the vegan community (I love posting noodle photos!) I think intersectionality and representation of all types of food and people in the media is incredibly important, especially in the vegan community because we should love and respect everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, gender, etc. Vegans often get a bad reputation for being too “extreme” or elitist, and I want my Instagram to negate that stereotype. In terms of other projects, I keep saying I want to do more YouTube videos about vegan news, but I’ve been saying that for months now, so we’ll see!
What’s your best advice for traveling vegan? Has it become more or less challenging over time?
Do your research beforehand! I use HappyCow and Instagram a lot when I’m looking for restaurants abroad. I often use Google Maps to map what tourist locations I’m going to, the location of my accommodation, and the vegan restaurants I want to visit. It helps get an understanding of the layout of the city and where to go. I actually plan a lot of vacations based on what I want to eat, so it’s been easy for me to be vegan. I can’t say it’s been more or less challenging because I haven’t traveled to a lot of the same places twice, but I think it’s gotten easier as I know what I’m looking for and because of the well-traveled Instagram community who provide a lot of tips.
Do you embrace a cruelty free style in your wardrobe as well?
Yes, I try to buy everything vegan (no leather, wool, silk, etc.), avoid fast fashion, and when I do shop, I try to shop at sustainable brands. I own a lot of my stuff for years and try not to buy anything unless I really need it. My friends judge me for it, but I can go a year without shopping just because I usually have everything I need. I think it’s important to remember that just because something is vegan or sustainable, it doesn’t mean you need more in your wardrobe.
What’s your favourite piece from the GUNAS collection?
I love the Naomi, mostly because I always have way too much stuff to carry around.
Fellow #GUNASGIRLS would say I’m…
A little weird, but in a good way.
What words of wisdom do you live by?
“The success of others doesn’t diminish your own” and “kill them with kindness.”
What began as a personal blog quickly morphed into a colossal vegan food resource. Crystal has exploited this opportunity by using her hard work discipline and resources to create one of NYC’s most helpful cruelty free dining out guides. We’re in awe of Crystal’s devotion to veganism and her embrace of a minimal lifestyle; as she stated so eloquently, the fact that something is vegan or sustainable doesn’t mean you need more in your wardrobe. Thank you, Crystal!