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Everybody knows sex sells, but can it convince beer-guzzling, charcoal-grilling American males to give up burgers and steaks? For the Vegan Vixens, it's worth a try.
Showing lots of leg and more than a little cleavage, this troupe of buxom broccoli-eaters wants to convince men that they can live without meat. Their primary weapon � beyond their bodies, that is � is the "Vegan Vixen Show," a West Coast public-access TV series that is dishing out its vegetable-flavored variety shtick on a handful of Eastern stations.
Shot in Los Angeles, the Vegan Vixens' campy half-hour mashup plays like Elvira with an animal-rights message � and, of course, a recipe for bean dip.
Vegans are different from vegetarians in that they won't eat any animals � not even fish � and they won't use any animal products, like leather. Ironically, these vegans ham it up while dressing up in low-cut tank tops and short skirts, cooking snacks for burly football fans, chatting up vegetarian celebrities, modeling hemp clothing, hanging out in a van that runs on vegetable oil and making plenty of bad jokes comparing male anatomy to produce.
The Vegan Vixen concept � think of them as low-budget Charlie's Angels of the animal-rights circuit � is the creation of Sky Valencia, the show's chief Vixen and co-producer.
A longtime supporter of groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Valencia also runs the St. Martin's Animal Foundation, a Los Angeles animal shelter and outreach organization she founded in 1998.
It was while working on educational videos for the group that the former Frederick's of Hollywood model thought up the show: a lighthearted program for those least likely to pay attention to anti-meat, anti-animal products lectures. "The beer-drinking, Howard Stern-watching type guys," says Valencia.
With her friend Dan Anderson, a freelance television producer, Valencia started with a casting call for sexy ladies who preferred salad to steak. Nearly 60 aspiring Vixens showed up, says Anderson, who co-produces the show and serves as a behind-the scenes spokesman.
Paring the group down to nine multicultural beauties "with something on the plate besides being vegan," says Valencia, Anderson bankrolled the first five shows, which began running last year. In the spring, they aired in Manhattan, and Anderson hopes to get them onto a Queens public-access station by mid-September.
And while it's hard to believe there's enough cleavage in the world to keep men watching through Ed Begley talking about, say, pleather shoes, Anderson claims males both vegetarian and carnivorous have been E-mailing their support. He also notes that it's not just men who are fans: Preteen girls visit Vixen tables at events, while women around the globe beg to join the group.
In fact, says Anderson, the Vixens are now "quite well-known" around their California hometown, and the ladies are waiting to hear about a possible series on testosterone-friendly Spike TV. Meanwhile, they take part in animal-rights events and protests, have self-published a cookbook (with glamorous pictures of the girls rather than the recipes, natch) and raise funds by selling Vegan Vixen merchandise from their fan site at veganvixen.org.
But not everyone is on-board the Vixens' vegetable oil-powered van. Jennifer Whitman, a spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association � who hadn't heard of the Vixens before she was contacted by this reporter � disagrees with the notion that American meat is unhealthy, bad for the environment or abusive to livestock. And when it comes to sex, she notes that meat should be on the menu. "Think of a romantic dinner," says Whitman, "and it's a tenderloin on the plate. Men crave beef."
And the Vixens' behavior may be diluting the seriousness of their message � especially after the ladies showed off their panties on the Howard Stern show last year.
But that's exactly the point, says Valencia: To get regular guys to see that veganism is both racy and cool � not just the province of aging hippies without deodorant and fashion sense.
"The people we're trying to reach would never, ever watch a teacher or somebody in a tie talking about this," she says.
"When you do it in a sexy way, they listen."
Link to short video on YouTube: