Multi-hyphenate Kevin Hart welcomed social media sensation Tabitha Brown on a recent episode of his podcast Gold Minds with Kevin Hart, where he picks the brains of successful personalities while sharing insights and laughs.
During the episode, Brown spoke with Hart about her meteoric rise to fame, the bumps she encountered along the way, and how her vision and faith led her to important realizations.
A major hurdle Brown overcame on her path to success was regaining her health. Right before she became a celebrity, she was ill with persistent migraines, chronic fatigue, and other health issues.
“There is nothing more eye-opening than that hospital bed,” Hart said. “That hospital bed puts you in a completely different mindset because you start to look around and realize what is really important.”
She alleviated her health issues by adopting a plant-based diet, initially for 30 days after learning about the benefits of eschewing animal products from Netflix documentary What the Health.
“When we watched this documentary, it was a lightbulb moment when it said that not all diseases are hereditary,” Brown said. “Sometimes when we eat the same thing it causes the same diseases in our family.”
Brown maintained her vegan diet to continue to reap the health benefits and began sharing her journey online to help others, a decision that catapulted her to unprecedented fame.
Tabitha Brown dishes on authenticity, feeling good, and vegan food
One day in 2017, while on a break from driving for Uber, Brown shared a video of herself eating a vegan “TTLA” sandwich she bought at Whole Foods. Within hours, the video went viral, thrusting Brown into stardom—a dream the actress had worked toward for decades.
“The thing that you think you’re preparing for is going to come when you’re least prepared,” Hart said. “But it’s about your mindset during that time.”
Authenticity was a central topic in the conversation between Hart and Brown. The mother-of-two explained how she molded herself to fit into certain norms at the beginning of her career, stifling her authentic self by masking her Southern accent and straightening her hair.
Tabitha Brown/Feed the Soul
“I had to start taking the layers off,” Brown said. “That’s how I realized that I always covered my accent because I was told to; I always wore my hair long and straight because I was told to; I was always a certain size because I was told to; that’s not freedom.”
In embracing authenticity, Brown found that abiding by other people’s notions of who she should be was limiting her success.
“I would code switch and do what was making everyone else comfortable,” Brown said. “Meanwhile, I was suffocating the true me. Which is probably why I was sick.”
One triumph that emerged from this realization was “Donna,” the name of her natural afro, and a personality in her own right, that Brown turned into haircare business Donna’s Recipe. And many more business opportunities have opened up since.
Since that fateful TTLA sandwich, Brown has amassed millions in social media followers; authored several books (with the latest, I Did a New Thing, slated for release in January 2024); starred on multiple television shows (including her own Food Network cooking show); launched four collections with Target (with a line permanently returning to stores next year); and so much more.
One piece of advice that both Hart and Brown agree has helped them achieve their respective success is a commitment to remaining teachable. “I know what I know and I know what I don’t know,” Brown said. “I will always walk in the room and be observant.”
“I think the smartest person in the room is the dumbest person in the room,” Hart added. “Because the dumbest person in the room has no problem with saying, ‘I don’t know” … I’m a firm believer in the hand raise.”
Kevin Hart’s vegan ventures
While Hart dove into Brown’s vegan journey on the podcast episode, the two share a common viewpoint on helping others regain their health by making plant-based food more accessible. For his part, Hart opened the first location of his vegan fast-food chain Hart House in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles last year.
Together with entrepreneur Andy Hooper and chef Michael Salem, Hart developed the concept to put a plant-based take on traditional fast food but with a health-forward lean. The curated menu focuses on burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, milkshakes, and sides, which feature housemade patties and sauces.
Within one year in operation, Hart House has expanded to four Southern California locations, with its third outpost taking over a McDonald’s in Hollywood and its fourth opening near the USC campus.
Last month, a new nonprofit called Black, Brown, and Diverse Plant-Based People for Equity (BBDPPE) initiated its “Do It In A Black And Brown Neighborhood” campaign, focusing on integrating plant-based initiatives into underserved communities.
The campaign is petitioning Hart for a location of his plant-based restaurant in POC neighborhoods, highlighting the positive impact this could have on these areas.
“According to a 2021 Danone North America study titled At the Table: The Multicultural Plant-Based Food Perspective, plant-based eating had the potential to be ‘a real beacon of healthy living’ as recently as 2022, but there are still gaps in the market due to cultural stigmas and accessibility barriers for multicultural consumers,” BBDPPE’s founder Lisa Dumas said in a statement.
“By bringing Hart House restaurants to underserved communities, [Hart] could create a lasting impact in black and brown neighborhoods,” Dumas said.
Since the inception of Hart House, Hart has planned to bring the vegan chain to as many communities as possible to make it ubiquitous with fast-food chains that serve mostly animal products.
“I [wanted] to create a plant-based fast-food chain. Kind of really embrace the generation now … and put that option into the world of fast-food places that we’ve grown to love today,” Hart said last year on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
“The goal is to see Hart Houses right smack dab in the middle of where you would see a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a Chick-Fil-A, [and] a Wendy’s [so] people can have the option for a plant-based taste, as well,” Hart said.