Interview with Mimi Kirk for Get Fresh! Magazine (Nov 2011)
Young at Heart
In 2009, Mimi Kirk caused a media sensation by winning PETA’s ‘Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50’ contest at the ripe old age of 70. Watching a Fox News clip of Mimi assuring viewers she’d had no plastic surgery, I was gobsmacked. “Seventy?” I gasped. “No way!” But Mimi was the real deal. A raw vegan, with a passion for food and a lust for life. And what a life! She’s been a Las Vegas showgirl, an actress, a jewellery and clothes designer to the stars, magazine editor, board game inventor, and even appeared in Star Trek. Scottie wasn’t able to beam me over to California, but Mimi did kindly grant me an email interview:
LW: How old are you now?
MK: I’ll be 73 on Sept. 23rd 2011.
LW: Where did you grow up, and have you always had an interest in food / health / animals?
MK: I grew up in Hollywood, California. My mom was an average cook and we rarely ate out in restaurants. My interest in food started after I married at 17 and my husband took me to a French restaurant. Tasting gourmet food for the first time, really set me off. I went out the next day and bought a couple of cookbooks and started experimenting. Since then, I’ve always loved good food. The health part came after my children were born, and I wanted to learn more about eating healthy for their benefit.
LW: You’ve been on quite a journey food-wise. When did you become a vegetarian and why?
MK: The early 70s. One day I realized I was eating animal flesh. I came home and told my children we were not going to eat animals any more and that we would be what was called vegetarians. They all agreed to start our compassionate path. When I realized the inhumane treatment of animals, I realized I could not continue eating animal by-products as these include the same cruelty. I can’t bear the thought of eating cheese. I make fantastic raw cheeses from nuts now, and I love the taste, and the feeling that I did not kill or harm an animal only makes it taste better.
LW: When did you become raw? Was it a gradual transition or did you find it easy to adapt?
MK: I was 69 and started getting small arthritic pains in my hands and knees. I had also seen my doctor and he told me my blood pressure and cholesterol were high and wanted to give me a prescription for drugs. I took the prescription put it in my purse and went home to research. I thought I’d try raw food, it didn’t sound appealing, but it would be better than drugs. Wow, was I surprised, I went on a juice detox and within a week, I knew I something good was going on. I continued for a few more days then started eating raw food and never looked back. I’ve never had an arthritic pain again, my blood pressure and cholesterol are normal and I’m crazy about the delicious food I get to eat.
LW: Are you high raw or fully raw?
MK: I’m fully raw, with a bite occasionally when fixing my boyfriend some vegan food. He is mostly raw, but eats some cooked, I taste for seasonings. I truly love raw food and it makes me feel great. At my age, I don’t have time to fool around not eating the best way I can. A raw vegan plant-based diet is perfect for me.
LW: What changes have you noticed since becoming raw?
MK: My energy level is amazing. No aches and pains, I look better, my hair and skin improved. I feel a satisfaction knowing I’m not only doing the best for myself, but for the planet as well. I shop at local farmers markets and purchase almost all organic food. I have many new friends I would have never known if I were not eating raw food. An amazing group of people I must say.
LW: You’ve just written a book called ‘Live Raw’. In a nutshell, what’s the book about?
MK: It’s a lifestyle book about health and how to maintain it. It includes over 120 great recipes and fantastic photos. All recipes are raw, but not only for raw foodists. It’s for everyone who wants to replace some unhealthy meals with healthy meals. There are full meals that even a non-vegetarian would love.
LW: What are the downsides of being a raw vegan?
MK: I believe to continue eating this way you must make a commitment and learn how to fix food you crave in a raw form. For me there is no downside. I can eat out, I can travel, so nothing holds me back. You can find a salad and fruit anywhere.
LW: Do you feel spoilt living in California?
MK: Yes, definitely. We have access to fresh veggies and fruit of some kind all year round. Sunshine for vitamin D and we can grow our own most all year round. We are also lucky to have raw restaurants mostly in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
LW: On an average day, what do you eat?
MK: That is so difficult to answer as it varies daily. I have my green drink in the morning. A giant salad, or a veggie pattie with tomato, sweet red onion slice, avocado, sprouts between two pieces of romaine lettuce or wrapped in a nori sheet. Dinner could be zucchini pasta, or zucchini lasagna, stuffed sweet red peppers, soup, or other dishes from my LIVE RAW book. Some days I’m hungry, and other days not so much. I do love to eat so I make and dehydrate raw bread and crackers for snacking. I also just love cut up raw veggies like carrots, celery, sweet red pepper, and cucumber.
LW: What’s your top kitchen tip?
MK: Shop weekly and store your food properly so it last. I spend the time when I come home from the farmers market to wrap food in paper towels and place in a closed container. Not only does it keep it fresh, but it is easy to grab for juicing in the morning. I have a youtube video with a peek into my refrigerator. You can see it all there.
LW: You haven’t had plastic surgery. Do you hope that other women will follow your lead and choose to age naturally?
MK: No I haven’t had plastic surgery or botox or any other fillers. I do hope more women will opt to be natural. I’ve seen some bad plastic surgery and I feel it’s not healthy for the body to go through that trauma. I’d rather live longer than possibly cut my life short just for looks.
LW: Why is it important to look your best?
MK: I think it’s important to feel your best, then it shows on the outside and you look your best because of it. I color my hair to match how I feel inside. Maybe someday I won’t anymore, but for now, I like it.
LW: What do you think has kept you looking so young? (Diet, outlook on life, family, serenity, the love of a good man?)
MK: All the above, including the blond hair. I do place diet first, but outlook on life is certainly important. My family is my first love and we are very close. I certainly have a good man by my side and I feel so lucky for this special guy in my life.
LW: Do you exercise and if so what do you do and how often?
MK: I knew you’d get around to this question! I walk and hike, a little qigong, stretching and kettlebells, but I really could improve in this area. I would like to do more strength training, although I’m very active. Our home is on different levels, as is our garden, so I’m up and down stairs all day, and some days I feel like a mountain goat.
LW: You have become an inspiration for those wishing to age gracefully. What does it feel like to be a role model?
MK: I do hope to change the face of aging and if anyone thinks of me as a role model I am humbled and delighted. I know people look up to me and it inspires me more to do my best to lead the way and stay healthy.
LW: Many people struggle with aging, especially women. What advice do you have for those who worry that life is all downhill from here?
MK: You just stated one of the problems: “worry that life is all downhill from here”. I see it as uphill. I really don’t focus on the outside, how many lines I have on my face, how my neck looks, or my breast for that matter. I do my best to eat right and love myself just the way I am. I get ready in the morning and that is about the only time I look in the mirror. When I’m out and about with people all I see is their face, not mine, so I go on how I feel inside, which is happy to be alive and grateful for my life. I do think women in their forties start to see signs of aging and freak out, get depressed and anxious, but are they all doing their best to eat healthy, stop drinking coffee, stop smoking or drinking alcohol? Do they still eat white flour, sugar, and not enough fresh plant-based food? That is the first thing to ask oneself. Are they taking life by the horns and making it the way they want. Are they coming from love or from fear? I have lines on my face, but my spirit, smile and inner contentment gives me a younger look. I do not worry about the aging. We all age, we all die, that is life’s cycle. I would say, make the most of it, have fun, and don’t let fear stop you from having the life you want. Be bold and love yourself.
LW: Which episode of Star Trek were you in, what character did you play, and did you snog Captain Kirk?
MK: The episode was called The Paradise Syndrome. I was an Indian Hand Maiden and funnily enough I handed Captain Kirk a tray of fruit. I’ve never heard the word snog before so I looked it up – and no, I did not have any kind of romantic moment with the good Captain on camera. We did have some laughs on the set … but no snogging!
LW: You’ve done so much with your life. Career-wise which has been the most fulfilling?
MK: I can’t imagine anything being more fulfilling than what I’m doing now. Every day I receive emails telling me how I’ve changed someone’s life and the life of their whole family. The stories I hear are so heartwarming. I don’t take this all lightly and I don’t take it personal if you know what I mean. I think we are all born with gifts, and as instruments for the betterment of mankind. When we use these gifts for the good of others surprisingly good things happen to us. All this attention I’ve received since winning the Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50 Contest is almost surreal. I don’t think I’m really doing anything, I am just an example of how one can be as we age. All I am doing is taking the best care of my health as possible, and living a full and happy passionate life. People are attracted to this because we have seen how the media portrays older people, and we have seen older people buying into an image of old age. If you eat healthy and take your health into your own hands, think positive thoughts, be compassionate and non-judgmental, you can age and still feel youthful. So all this means is that life can be fulfilling at any age.
© Louise Wallis