After a decade of successfully working as a blogger and collaborating with top fashion and lifestyle brands, Erica Lavelanet was ready for a change. Although she loved sharing her personal style, she felt a lack of purpose and a burning desire to reconnect with her personal wellbeing. So she took initiative. Not only did she switch up her lifestyle to incorporate a healthier regimen, but she also completely rebranded her content to focus primarily on holistic practices, mental health, and nutrition. The lifestyle shift inspired her to co-found Baba Food Truck, a plant-based destination that provides delicious, nourishing food on the go. It's no surprise that the truck incorporates Lavelanet's chic aesthetic and sense of community that she mastered in her time as a fashion influencer.
Whether she's dreaming up vegan recipes that incorporate the flavors of her Haitian heritage, advocating for diversity and inclusion in the wellness industry, or documenting her daily yoga practice for her followers to see, Lavelanet is dedicated to creating more than just pretty pictures, she's creating content with intention and telling us all about it.
I chatted with Lavelanet about how she went from working in the fashion industry to being a part of the wellness world and her wellness essentials. See below.
How she uses Instagram to empower: "Even though I had already spent over a decade collaborating with fashion and lifestyle brands, I wasn't feeling my best and there were moments where I started to hit pause and look at my life from a holistic standpoint. I realized that there was a gap in my own understanding of real health and nourishment. I knew that I needed to make immediate lifestyle changes to make room for this type of healing. In an effort to feel more empowered, I set out to find functional self-care practices to help me show up for work and life with energy, joy, and purpose."
Why providing representation is paramount: "Yoga plus other healing practices like breathwork, sound meditation, therapy, and intermittent fasting help bring a sense of focus and discipline to my life which bring emotional and physical balance, especially during the uncertain times of the pandemic. As my lifestyle, diet, and health improved, I wanted to increase the style of conversation on my channel to reflect my evolving understanding of holistic living and self-care as a radical act within these times."
It was personally important for me to look to POC wellness practitioners and healers for guidance within this experience. I think visibility and representation in wellness spaces does matter because awareness and connectivity are catalysts for change and I'm hopeful that someone else within the community might find this information helpful too."
On her journey to following a plant-based diet: "My motivation to transition to a plant-based diet is linked to my wellness journey and my desire to actively become more mindful in my consumption overall, however, that shift was a slow process. When I started out, I didn't have access to farmers markets the way that I do now. I shopped at the neighborhood market in Queens and did my best to choose mindfully within that particular selection. I did what I could with what I had and slowly changed my habits."
Becoming more mindful of my diet has helped shape the way I think and brings a sense of calm and clarity to my mental state. Overall, it feels physically and mentally grounding."
How she makes her plant-based diet her own: "Now, I have so much more fun with it. My partner Greg and I have found creative ways to adapt our family recipes to be more vegan-friendly and it's something we both look forward to. I grew up eating traditional Haitian food and knowing that there would always be a pot of rice and beans on the stove with plantains readily available at all times. Although I've swapped out the griot (pork) and macaroni au gratin from the mix for something more aligned, the sentiment of having comfort food staples in our household that feed the soul is still there. On a given weekend in our house, you might find veggie Haitian patties or a meatless bolognese, a nod to Greg's Italian heritage."
How she built her business: "I co-founded Baba, a vegan-friendly destination located at The Starlite Motel in Hudson Valley, New York. I call it the lovechild of myself and my partner, Gregory Zizza, who is a chef. We launched it as a food truck to use its mobility to bridge access to 100% seasonally farm-fresh, plant-based cuisine. The Bodega, an extension of Baba, is a community-cultivated space created for our guests to experience first-hand the everyday benefits of plant-powered nutrition."
On the farm-to-food truck mentality: "A big reason why we decided to outpost Baba in Hudson Valley was because of the incredible access to local farms. This affords us the ability to have a mobile menu that changes according to what's in season. In turn, we are able to cut down on food miles, support local farms, and offer our community super fresh ingredients with fruits and veggies still high in nutritional potency."
How she and her partner are forging a community: "Baba's energy and inherent sense of openness is a part of our ethos. The truck is colorful, bright, and an inviting space for vegan and vegan-curious alike. Our guests are at various stages of exploring a plant-based lifestyle and we really enjoy bridging accessibility by partnering with emerging brands within the vegan food and lifestyle space, highlighting Black-owned, women-owned, and local plant-based products."
Shop Erica's Go-To Wellness Essentials
"I wanted to exclusively partner with diverse brands that aligned these values: inclusivity, sustainability, implementing fair trade practices, and are vegan friendly," Lavelanet says.