Prince: Not vegan, still awesome.

I was as shocked as everyone else yesterday to learn of the death of the legendary musician Prince, at the untimely age of 57. While I was growing up in the 80s, Prince’s music and music videos were in constant rotation on the radio and MTV. Although I only bought a couple of his albums myself,  I appreciated his amazing musicianship and fierce individuality.

So it is with some trepidation that I must point out one “fact” about Prince that many of my friends on social media are sharing is actually false. Prince was not a vegan. He was a vegetarian. Hear the man say this in his own words in a 2011 interview with George Lopez:

Despite not being vegan, there’s no doubt that Prince definitely spoke up for non-human animals. As the link notes, he openly shunned wool and leather in addition to flesh and cheese. But he was not opposed to all dairy products; he drank yak milk with the reasoning that “It is given freely by the yak, so U can truly enjoy it.” He also enjoyed snacking on cookies that contained milk and honey. [Update: See note on this below, under Edit, 4/24.]

Some will decry my words as excessive “vegan purity,” but I feel it’s important to point out that drinking animal milk isn’t vegan regardless of what animal it comes from (with the exception of human breast milk for human children, which can indeed be “given freely”). Besides, as shown above, Prince didn’t even describe himself as vegan, so it really isn’t appropriate to put that label on him, post-mortem.

Another danger of describing someone as vegan when they aren’t is that people who are convinced vegan diets are deficient or dangerous will latch onto any disease or early death as an excuse to bash veganism, independent of the actual composition of the diet or other factors. (See also: Steve Jobs.) Veganism is not a diet, and vegans can and do get sick. But most people in the USA do see veganism as just another dietary choice at this time, so it is not helpful to give conflicting information regarding what vegans eat.

Again, being non-vegan does not diminish Prince’s legacy, either as a musician or as a spokesman for the animals. Regardless, we should not be looking to celebrities as role models for veganism anyway, even in the black community. There are plenty of black vegans from all walks of life to connect with, including struggling artists who could use your support. We don’t need to falsely or mistakenly attribute veganism to black folks like Prince or Alice Walker (whose oft-repeated quote about animal rights is taken out of context) to convince others to go vegan.

As an aside, Prince also did not publicly label himself as genderqueer, genderfluid, or otherwise non-binary. By all accounts, he never openly identified as anything but a straight cisgender man. A man who gave no fucks about conventional masculinity (whatever that is), but a man nonetheless, song lyrics and clothing style notwithstanding. (Non-binary bloggers on The Orbit and Medium also wrote on this subject.)

Let’s celebrate Prince for what he was: An amazingly talented, passionate, groundbreaking musician, who deeply cared about animals in his own way.

Edit, 4/24: A commenter pointed out what I failed to notice, that the “What’s in Prince’s Fridge?” article linked to in the paragraph about yak milk was posted on April 1. Whether that was an April Fool or not, my point still stands based on the 2011 video of Prince being asked “You’re a vegan?” and responding “Vegetarian.” As I noted in response to comments below, if anyone finds a more recent statement from Prince himself saying that he is a vegan, please post a link to it here.

Edit, 6/3: Since this post keeps getting hits: Prince did describe himself as a “complete vegan” in a 1997 Vegetarian Times interview. So as I suspected, it appears that he was indeed vegan for part of his life, but not in the years immediately prior to his death.

20 thoughts on “Prince: Not vegan, still awesome.”

  1. I can understand people claiming the word genderqueer for Prince when he said “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something you will never understand.” He also chose a symbol for himself that blended the Mars and Venus symbols for man and woman. However, reflecting on this has made me realise how white all the words we have around gender and sexuality are, and how much I can understand an individual, unshackled person of colour like Prince not claiming them. However, I disagree that it’s appropriate to call him a straight cisgender man either – we should probably not label him at all, but rather experience who he was with only the labels he gave himself.

    1. Thanks for weighing in. I just really don’t like anyone who strays from the (nonexistent) boundaries of gender being labeled as non-binary without their explicit consent. It’s true that he probably never explicitly described himself as cisgender either though (especially as that word is relatively new).

    2. I totally agree!!! I don’t think he’d dig any type of labels…

    3. The song I would die 4U: That is him speaking as Jesus. He also says he’s not human. Read the book I would die 4u by Touré. You’ll understand better.

  2. I heard that like many people he was vegie then became vegan. His friends seem to think he was vegan at his death.

    1. I’d be more inclined to believe that if I saw a recent quote in a credible source of Prince referring to himself as vegan.

    2. HIs personal chef said he wasn’t vegan, although I think he ate vegan most of the time. Also there is a photo on his instagram of him face down on the floor with “muncha crunch” chocolates and “chocolate overdose” as the caption! Haha those certainly aren’t vegan

  3. Hey that “What’s in Prince’s fridge?” article was written on April 1st, as in it seems like an April Fool’s joke. So the yak milk, dunkaroos and sausage referenced in that article might just be a joke.

    1. Good catch on the date. But even if that story was an April Fool’s joke, Prince himself said he was vegetarian, not vegan, in the 2011 interview linked above. If a more recent video or quote in a reliable source shows him calling himself a vegan, point me to it…

      1. If you look at that fridge page, they do say it is a joke on another page. I saw a variety of vegan sites trying to invalidate things Prince has said due to that article. I mostly say I am vegetarian myself for my own personal reasons rather than say vegan but I am not touching honey, eggs, dairy or using products that have animal ingredients/tested on animals.

        But yes he was truly awesome.

        1. I realize some people refer to themselves as vegetarian even if their diets contain no animal products. But George Lopez specifically asked Prince if he was vegan, and Prince specifically responded “Vegetarian.” That and not the “frig” page is why I say that he was not vegan, though he might have been for some period of time before that 2011 interview.

          Agreed that Prince was awesome regardless.

  4. And also nog vegetarian … A famous belgian cook told that Prince’s favoriet dish in his restaurant was pasta with caviar …..

      1. Furthermore, one of the most reliable sources & close friends of his recently said one of his favorite dishes was SPEGHETTI & “MEATBALLS” so I call B.S. on the entire vegan &/or vegetarian claims he made of himself.

        Though I can understand as most celebrities fake/brand themselves various ways publicly for various reasons. Whether it be an image thing or endorsement thing.

        1. Do you have a link for that? I really don’t want to repeat unsourced rumors here. I have no problem believing that Prince was vegetarian, or even that he was vegan for some period of time prior to that 2011 interview (or possibly after it).

        2. A lot of places serve meatless meatballs, so you have to take that into account. Also, many vegans start off being vegetarian, and slowly evolve to being vegan.

  5. On the Arsenio Hall show in 2014, Prince says that he cooks omelets. He did not appear to be joking, nor did he mention using any type of vegan egg substitutes.

      1. Your link got cut off, but I found the episode and edited the link into your comment above. From his subsequent (semi-joking) comment that “all my friends have high cholesterol,” he does appear to be talking about chicken (or other bird) eggs.

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