Last July, Jordan Younger, ‘09, woke up one morning to discover that she had acquired 4,000 new Instagram followers.
But this wasn’t her personal Instagram; this was her public account, @theblondevegan.
Younger uses the Instagram account, which now has over 36,000 followers, to share her vegan lifestyle, including recipes, inspirational quotes and her new five-day vegan cleanse.
The account directs viewers to Younger’s blog, also called “The Blonde Vegan.”
“The blog is kind of like my baby,” Younger said.
Younger tries to post every day on the blog, which currently gets 70,000-80,000 views a month. In it she shares recipes, vegan restaurant and product reviews, and tips for leading a vegan lifestyle, such as her recent post on vegan travel tips.
Despite her success, Younger’s Instagram account and blog are less than seven months old. And Younger became a vegan only a year ago, as a result of a New Year’s plant-based vegan cleanse as a healthy start to the year.
“I had no intention of going vegan permanently while I was on the cleanse,” she said, “but I felt so incredible that I decided to continue it for as long as I could.”
After the cleanse, Younger slowly added beans and grains back into her diet.
The transition to veganism was easy for Younger, she said, because she was largely vegetarian before.
Younger had cut red meat out of her diet in sophomore year of high school because eating oily or heavy foods irritated her stomach. She ate fish and chicken several times a week until she started her vegancleanse.
Younger said her vegan lifestyle makes her feel lighter and more energized, as she has lost 15 pounds. She also sleeps better and her stomach is “calm and content.”
After becoming vegan, Younger researched veganism and discovered its health and environmental benefits.
She also started following about 50 vegan bloggers, though in the beginning she had no intention of blogging herself.
“After following vegan Instagram accounts, I started realizing that the food I made was as photogenic as the accounts that I followed,” she said. “So I made my own vegan food Instagram in June.”
Younger spent last summer cooking and photographing her food, she said.
For example, Younger makes “tie-dye jars,” which are mason jars layered with fruit, oats, and pureed fruits and vegetables. The layers are arranged to create a tie-dye color gradient.
The Blonde Vegan Instagram page gained about 20 followers a day, which surprised Younger and her mother Jane.
But then an established vegan blogger sent a message to his followers, asking them to follow The Blonde Vegan on Instagram.
That’s when Younger woke up to find out that she had 4,000 new followers.
Younger’s mom, Jane, said that this lifestyle was entirely new for Younger and that it’s funny to see the change it has brought. “Jordan had completely no interest in (cooking) whatsoever,” Jane Younger said.
About five weeks after she started her Instagram account, Younger created her blog. “I’m a writer, so my goal is to write as much as possible,” she said.
She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing from The New School in New York City. While an undergraduate at Loyola Marymount University, she majored in English with a minor in journalism.
English teacher Brooke Wells remembers Younger’s passion for writing. He said she always enjoyed even the lengthy assignments.
“I think she really thought through writing,” he said.
Although in school Younger has written mostly fiction, she believes she has a future in nonfiction.
“I definitely want to publish a cookbook,” Younger said. “But I’d rather be approached (by publishers) than do the approaching.”
Junior Micaela Bennett-Smith, a non-vegan regular reader, hopes that Younger will publish a book soon.
“Even though I’m not a vegan, I love trying her recipes,” she said. “They always look so cool.”
Currently Younger is promoting her own five-day cleanse program. Viewers can purchase the 56-page booklet with 25 recipes for $25.
The cleanse program includes recipes for one smoothie, two juices, one lunch and one dinner per day—all of which are plant-based.
For example, a cleanser will have kale-avocado soup for dinner on one night, followed by a strawberry smoothie the next morning.
Besides selling the cleanse, Younger receives income from vegan product reviews.
On average, she receives five products in the mail each week for which she is asked to write reviews.
“I get tons of (vegan) protein powders!” she said. If Younger really likes the product, she’ll write a review and get paid for promoting it.
While Younger’s parents currently support her financially, she hopes to earn a living off of blogging, food writing and yoga instruction.
Younger was a certified yoga instructor in Los Angeles, but decided not to teach yoga during her first semester of graduate school.
She finds herself plenty busy with her blog, she said, as she receives 50-150 blog-related emails every day, and responds to about 40.
“Some people have questions about eating healthy; others just want to say ‘Hey, I like what you’re doing.’ Often I get emails from people that say my recipes have changed the way they eat,” she said.
Despite her rapid success, Younger has also received opposition on her blog. Most comes from fellow vegans.
One time Younger posted a recipe containing honey, which usually isn’t considered a vegan food.
“I got such a backlash from people,” she said. “Someone said to me, ‘A vegan who eats honey is like a vegetarian who eats beef.’
“People were commenting novels back and forth to each other on Instagram.”
She responded with an impromptu blog entry on “non-judgement.”
While Younger appreciates veganism for its eco- and animal-friendliness, her major reason for being vegan is for health, she said.
“That was the first day I realized that my blog was not only for strict vegans,” Younger said, “but also for people who are looking to adopt a healthier outlook on life. A lot of my followers aren’t vegan.
“What I try to promote on The Blonde Vegan isn’t any specific or rigid way of eating. It’s about looking within and finding the healthiest, happiest version of yourself.”
One of her most recent blog posts talked about her struggle with veganism in the fall, which she kept secret from her readers to keep from discouraging them.
In the post she confessed that she started to feel sluggish in the fall and her stomach problems returned.
In October, Younger ate a few bites of shrimp, and a few months later, a piece of salmon. She hoped adding extra protein would give her a kickstart.
“I didn’t feel particularly awful about it,” Younger wrote, “but I didn’t feel great about it either. Both times trying fish reaffirmed to me that it wasn’t what I was missing in my life, and instead I needed to search inward to find the root of the problem.”
In retrospect, she realizes that her vegan diet in the fall became too high in sugar and included too many non-plant-based foods.
“The truth is that we as people are ever-evolving individuals, physically, mentally and spiritually,” she wrote, “and the best thing we can do for ourselves is pay attention to our bodies to learn how they function best.”