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Activist, author, actress, comedian, vocalist, radio personality and relationship expert are all hats worn by Robbyne Kaamil. Robbyne’s sassy style has landed her appearances on numerous radio & television shows including The Howard Stern Show and Bravo’s, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. As an actress Ms. Kaamil has graced the silver screen in several independent films including: Bear City: The Movie and Violet Tendencies starring Mindy Cohn of “Facts of Life”. Last summer her monthly advice column, “Dear Diva” was launched in Australia’s top gay publication DNA Magazine. She is also the Official Relationship Expert for Playgirl. She was inspired to become an animal rights activist after seeing the PSA “Saving Lolita” which focused on the life of the orca Lolita who has been held at the Miami Seaquarium for over 45 years. She saw the parallels between Lolita’s story and her own family’s history in the Atlantic Slave Trade. She wrote the song “Let the Girl Go: Free Lolita” to help raise awareness about the orca. The music video was recently selected to be screened at the 2015 Wildlife Film Festival. Her latest music video, “Free the Monkeys”, exposes the mistreatment of monkeys being used in lab experiments in Hendry County, Florida. The video was produced & directed by NY Times bestselling author and former HLN television host – Jane Velez Mitchell. PETA co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk, recently enlisted Robbyne to write & narrate several public service announcements to protest animal captivity in marine parks, zoos & circuses. The PSA’s are currently running nationwide on ABC, FOX and Bounce TV affiliates.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody. How are you today? I’m Caryn Hartglass, right, and we’re listening – I’m listening to myself speak. We’re listening to It’s All About Food. It’s all about food, and I told you this last week, this week, today is my 7th year anniversary doing this program, It’s All About Food. Seven years. So let’s have a little party right now, okay? Woohoo, let’s celebrate all the wonderful things we have discovered about food, and I’m so glad you’ve been with me on this discovery. Those of you who joined early in the game and those of you who’ve stuck around and those of you who are new to the party, I am so glad you’re there because we are all needed in this journey to make this planet a better place and every day – I don’t want to talk about the bad stuff. We had bad news this morning. I don’t want to talk about anything bad. I want to talk about good, and if I mention something bad, there’ll be like a silver lining story to it, okay. We have to focus on the good. There’s so much good, and we are all a part of making that good. It’s a balance, and we have to create the good. We have to bring people to the light, and food has so much to do with that. Okay, now let’s – before we get introduced to my first guest, I wanted to talk very briefly about water. Now I’ve talked about this before. The most important thing for human beings is to breathe. When we can’t breathe, a few minutes later, we’re dead. We need to breathe, okay, so air and hopefully cleaner air than dirtier air is what we need to take into our bodies all the time. Breathing is really important, and when I get kind of down and out, I always like to think about breathing and what a wonderful thing that is. And sometimes there are bad smells, but very often, I can discover in those breaths the good smells, and right now, we’re coming into spring here in New York and that means lots of lovely, good smells and fragrances from the lovely things on this planet and this relationship that we have with plants because as humans, we put out all this carbon dioxide. That’s kind of like our waste, and then the plants lovingly take it in and turn it into oxygen. It’s a beautiful exchange, and we really need to take care of our plants a lot better. Okay, so that’s air. The second thing is water, and today I just found out is World Water Day, at least according to the UN. I have a little water story. So I live in an apartment building in Queens, and usually when they’re going to be doing some work, they slip a notice under our door. And we have a lot of leaks in our building. It’s a post-World War II building, but it’s not new, and they, from time to time, have to shut the water down. Well, today we didn’t get a notice under our door, and there was no water. And this is World Water Day. So when I do this show, a lot of times, I do it from home and I work from home, and there are a lot of benefits to that. I can wear whatever I want when I work at home, but when I’m coming into the studio and I’m going to be seeing some lovely guests, I want to look nice. I want to be clean, and there was no water. And I appreciate water very much. I take water very seriously. I talk about how it’s important to drink tap water but to clean that tap water effectively and I promote distillation in a certain kind of distiller. I’m very passionate about water, and we should all have access. It’s a human right to have access to clean, healthy water. So when I was without it and it was for maybe an hour which was not very long, but all of a sudden, it was devastating. All of a sudden because I hadn’t prepared for it. So I didn’t have any extra water lying around. I thought, okay, how am I going to clean myself up? And I had these towelettes, packaged towelettes from Gardein; you know the company that makes the vegan meat, Gardein. They had donated for a fundraiser not too long ago, some coupons and these little packages. They kind of looked like condoms, and they said, ‘lose – something like lose your vegan something or other.’ It was like ‘lose your virginity or something,’ but it had something to do with being vegan. Anyway, I never use these things, and I thought, where are those things? And they came in very handy, and just about when I was finished, the water came on, which is a good thing, but I really realized in that moment how precious water is, how we don’t appreciate it, how we’re running out of it, why we’re running out of it. That’s a whole other show, and unfortunately the UN on World Water Day is not talking about what I think is the most important thing, the most destructive thing to our water which is animal agriculture. Those things need to change. But I’m very grateful to have access to water. Phew, all right. Let’s bring on my guest. This is going to be fun. Robbyne, I hope I say your name right, Robbyne Kaamil.
Robbyne Kaamil: There you go, girl. You got it.
Caryn Hartglass: Robbyne Kaamil, well, you got a lot of extra consonants in there and vowels and everything. It’s beautiful.
Robbyne Kaamil: Thank you, dear.
Caryn Hartglass: I like any name that has a Y in it because my name has a Y in it too. Well, she’s an activist, an author, actress, comedian, vocalist, radio personality and relationship expert, and we’re going to hear her sassy style I believe in a moment. But it landed her appearances on numerous radio and television shows including the Howard Stern Show and Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. As an actress, Miss Kaamil has graced the silver screen in several independent films, including BearCity, the movie and Violet Tendencies starring Mindy Cohn of Facts of Life. Last summer her monthly advice column, Dear Diva, was launched in Australia’s top gay publication, DNA magazine. She’s also the official relationship expert for Playgirl. She was inspired to become an animal rights activist, and we’re going to be talking quite a bit about that right now. After seeing the PSA Saving Lolita which focused on the life of the Orca, Lolita who has been held at the Miami Seaquarium for over 45 years. She saw the parallels between Lolita’s story and her own family history in the Atlantic slave trade, and she wrote the song “Let the Girl Go Free, Lolita.” “Let the Girl Go Free, Lolita.” There we go. To help raise awareness about the orca. Now welcome to It’s All About Food, Robbyne. I’m so happy that we’ve made this happen.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, how are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Good. You’re all pink and sparkly.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, it’s spring, dear. It’s spring.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s spring. I got some bright blue on.
Robbyne Kaamil: It works, honey. It works.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s got to be – color’s really important.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And in New York especially because New York, everybody seems to like to wear black everywhere. And I sit on the subway, and it’s very dark. I didn’t take the subway too. I took the train. It was a treat, but I love wearing bright colors, especially in springtime.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Now we met, if you remember, at the Anti-Fur Society Cruelty-Free fashion show.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, with John Bartlett, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. That reminds me. I got to contact John.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, that was a while ago.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m making a note.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, make a note, girl. Make a note. Now that was a lot of fun. That was a lot of fun.
Caryn Hartglass: The evening was a lot of fun. The fashion show was definitely a lot of fun, and you and Jane Velez-Mitchell were…
Robbyne Kaamil: Doing our thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Doing your thing.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, yes and that was actually the debut of our song, Vegan Sexy. So that’s why that – we had so much fun there. That was the first time that we had presented it live in public.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s talk about Vegan Sexy.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you talk about – as the official relationship expert to Playgirl, do you have an opportunity to talk about Vegan Sexy?
Robbyne Kaamil: Well, you know something, when my writers – I mean when my readers send me relationship questions in regards to Playgirl, they never discuss whether they’re vegans or not. And that’s something maybe I could bring up because I mean that can be a contentious point in a relationship if you have – if you’re dating a non-vegan or you’re trying to convert a vegan, someone into – show them the light, so to speak, because I know one of my friends, she had gone to brunch with a couple of friends. One was a vegan. His girlfriend was a vegetarian, and she ate some eggs at brunch, and he flipped out on her in the middle of brunch. I mean he reduced her to tears. So yeah, honey, so I don’t know how that relationship worked out, but it can be a little contentious but yeah, you have to handle it – you have to lead people to the light gently, honey. You can’t bash them over the head.
Caryn Hartglass: No, and that’s a hard lesson for a lot of people.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: I was on the Geraldo Live show back in 2007, so there was somebody in Australia had come up – was getting a lot of press saying that vegans didn’t want to date meat eaters because they don’t like the way they taste. They didn’t want to kiss them, and so they kind of wanted to play on this theme, and they were looking for a vegan to talk about it, and I was the lucky one who got interviewed. And there was some science to eating animal products and creating an odor.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: There are a few plant foods that do it too, but it’s mostly animal foods. And so there was something to it, and if you aren’t eating animal foods, you can really smell it on people who are.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, and you feel different because I remember a friend of mine in Brooklyn, she had been a vegan for years, and well, her boyfriend, he was eating healthier. I mean she was trying to steer him in the right direction, and she told me when they had sex, she could tell when he was eating – she could tell. She could tell. Her body felt different because she had been a vegan for so many years that any little thing, she could tell.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I haven’t watched or listened to Howard Stern. Just on occasion, but I remember him bringing on some – I think maybe it was one or two. I don’t remember but these women who were raw foodists, and he did whatever was necessary in the testing department to say that they were indeed – they tasted better than meat eaters.
Robbyne Kaamil: Okay, oh dear. Wow, that’s Howard for you.
Caryn Hartglass: But there’s something to it.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, there is.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so let’s back up a little. Let’s talk about Saving Lolita and how it changed your life.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, well, one of my friends, Dan Azarian actually produced that, that public service announcement. And he also produced the film, starring Dr. Ingrid Visser, A Day in the Life of Lolita, and he and I had been friends for years, and I had been familiar with his other film work, but this was the first time that I’d saw the PSA at a film festival, and when I saw it, I’m sitting there, and I’m like, oh my god. This is unreal, and I immediately saw the parallels. “Amazing Grace” was playing underneath it all. I’m like, oh my god, am I the only one seeing this? And no, I’m not the only one seeing it and who saw the parallels, but when other people would bring it up; they would immediately be shouted down and called racist. But you can’t call me a racist when my great, great grandmother was a slave. You can’t throw that argument at me. We can agree to disagree, but you can’t – that’s one argument you can’t throw at Miss Robbyne Kaamil. Yeah, so and what I find is that when people listen, they can see things too. When someone is taken from their home, they’re sold for the profit, the sole profit of someone else, they’re held captive that, that’s a form of slavery. It is what it is. It is what it is. As we have white slavery where you have young girls and boys being kidnapped and forced into prostitution, you call that white slavery. It is what it is. Of course, you don’t downplay the Atlantic slave trade and the cruelty and brutality of that, but slavery can come in different forms.
Caryn Hartglass: And it still goes on today.
Robbyne Kaamil: It still goes on.
Caryn Hartglass: Even in the United States of America.
Robbyne Kaamil: Oh, it goes on all over the place. It goes on all over the place.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, humans exploit.
Robbyne Kaamil: Of course.
Caryn Hartglass: And there are many different shades of exploitation. None of it is acceptable.
Robbyne Kaamil: No, and it’s never pretty, honey.
Caryn Hartglass: And I think when you stop eating animals and when you realize where we’ve been exploiting animals, it opens your eyes to all the other exploitation that’s going on. Not just to animals but to our fellow human being, to all life on earth, our planet that we’ve been raping and abusing.
Robbyne Kaamil: Oh, preach, girl. I should have brought my tambourine. [Laughs] Yes, yes, yes. This abuse, abuse, abuse.
Caryn Hartglass: How come you didn’t see it before? What was it in Lolita that was a trigger?
Robbyne Kaamil: I don’t know. You know something, I don’t know. I had that ah-hah moment, and I guess we all come to that a-hah moment at different times in our lives. And it doesn’t matter how much information you get on a subject or where you are, but everyone has to have that particular ah-hah moment in their own time and place. And no one can force it on you. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say too. It’s the same thing with an alcoholic. You can give them brochures for AA, honey, but if they ain’t ready to go, they ain’t going. So everyone has to come to that point in their own time, and that was my time.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m glad it was your time. The question is how do we get all seven million of us?
Robbyne Kaamil: Well, I think it’s – well, you know something, I think it’s important.
Caryn Hartglass: Because it’s time!
Robbyne Kaamil: I know, girl. It’s time, but I think it’s important for me to continue to do projects like Save Lolita and other projects and get it out there, so people can see. So me, a layman, can have an ah-hah moment. I think it’s important. I think Blackfish was very important and other projects, just to let people know what’s going on. Letting them know the backstory, letting them know what these animals go through after they leave that marine park and how they got there in the first place. So those things are important, and that – we are breaking down some barriers and opening some eyes and ears.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so what do you think about the changes that have been happening at Sea World?
Robbyne Kaamil: Well, I mean they’re changes. They’re positive changes. They had so much backlash, the stock was in the toilet, honey. It was…
Caryn Hartglass: And that is where change is made.
Robbyne Kaamil: Of course, of course, honey, in the pocketbook. I mean with the – during the Civil Rights movement, the whole bus boycott, the only reason they changed the stance in regards to coloreds sitting in the back is because for that 18-month boycott, the buses went bankrupt. So it was like, oh okay, I guess we can let them sit where they want, okay, because we’re about go under here. So it’s always about the money. You always hit them in the pocketbook because if you try to go for the heartstrings, honey, they have none.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so how do we get everybody to just stop? Stop spending money and saying, okay, we’re ready. We want major change. Just so many people aren’t ready to give up their convenience and their comfort.
Robbyne Kaamil: No, no, people are not ready to. It’s a very difficult time, Caryn, too because people are bombarded with so many things in their lives right now. When you don’t know where your next dollar is coming from, the mortgage is due, you can’t feed your children, you really don’t have the mental capacity to focus on Lolita and I get that. That doesn’t make you a bad person. That just means you’re overwhelmed, and like I said, people have to come into things in their own time. And when your back is up against the wall and you’re fighting for your own survival, it’s very difficult for you to look outside of that and fight for someone else’s survival. It’s difficult, so I don’t really berate people because like I said, this is a very difficult time, and even with all that is going on and everything that people are going through, change is still occurring so that’s a good thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, change is still occurring. More people are struggling than ever.
Robbyne Kaamil: That’s right.
Caryn Hartglass: With the economy and the lack of opportunity.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, exactly, but with that…
Caryn Hartglass: But good change is happening.
Robbyne Kaamil: That’s right. So can you imagine once this economy picks up, honey, we’ll enlighten everybody in a minute, girl.
Caryn Hartglass: But sometimes we have to reach that bottom, that low place in order to really see what’s going on and see how you can make a difference and not only survive but live with integrity.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, yes. Well, it’s very difficult too because not only are people overwhelmed with issues in terms of employment, the economy, trying to survive, the media, the television, Hollywood, these people, what they put out there, I mean people are just – their minds are so saturated with crap like these reality shows, the Kardashians, all of that, and don’t get me started on all this overmedication, honey, okay? I mean everybody’s got a prescription for Xanax, lithium, Adderall or something, honey. Everybody wants everything.
Caryn Hartglass: Everybody’s depressed.
Robbyne Kaamil: Everybody’s depressed. Well, honey, listen. Life is flow of ebbs and flows. You’re never going to be happy all the time, but we’ve gotten into this pattern of wanting a quick fix every day. We want to be up all the time. You’re not going to be up all the time, honey. You’re not. That’s life. But you deal with it and you move on. I mean life is you’re up, you’re down, you’re up and down. That’s fine. But there’s not – you can’t look for a pill to fix everything that’s wrong with life. There was actually – they were doing – I don’t know which drug company it was because they’re always coming out with something, that was trying to do some research on a pill for shyness. Now okay, some people are shy. Some people are shy. It is what it is. That’s just them. So now we have a pill for this and a pill for that. So girl, it’s just too many things. It’s too many things, so people are overmedicated. They’re stressed out and overmedicated, and basically we’ve had the dummying down of our society. That’s another reason why people are not aware of what’s going on because when you’re medicated, honey, you’re taking four Xanax a day, honey, you don’t see [inaudible] or anything unless you see one crawling in your living room, and it’s because of all the damn medication and the glass of wine you drunk. So it’s difficult.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s difficult but let’s talk anybody Vegan Sexy because I think a lot of people like looking sexy and feeling sexy. So what is Vegan Sexy all about?
Robbyne Kaamil: Well, you know something, Jane came to me and she’s like, “Robbyne, we need to write a song. We need to get a song together because you go to have a song.” And that’s the thing with even Lolita, a lot of people have told me they showed this to their friends who didn’t want to hear it before. When they saw the song – I mean heard the song and saw the video, it kind of got to them. Music has a way of being able to knock down doors that you wouldn’t ordinarily get knocked down if you stood on a soapbox and preached because prior to the song, I Ain’t Going to Play Sun City that was shown on MTV, no one knew what apartheid was. No one knew who Nelson Mandela was, but when that music video was shown on MTV and the song started being played on the radio and you had Bruce Springsteen and other stars being a part of that, that’s when apartheid came to the forefront. People – no one knew that that system even existed, and that was – that helped create the movement or it…
Caryn Hartglass: Has MTV been around that long?
Robbyne Kaamil: That’s right, darling. That’s right. So yeah, it was a result of that. So music has a way. So back to Vegan Sexy, Jane says, “Listen, we need a song.” Put it in a song. People can dance to it, and somehow or another, the words and the lyrics will start getting in their head. So it was a feel good song for people who had already made that conversion and are currently vegans and others who are possibly thinking about it or those who may not be but hey, when you’re a vegan, honey, you shine.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, you glow, girl. Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now when was – when did this happen for you? Your vegan epiphany?
Robbyne Kaamil: Well, you know something, after I wrote the song for Lolita and we did the video and I started being very active in freeing her and participating in a lot of marches and things surrounding her freedom, I said to myself, I said, “Girl, now you know” – I had another ah-hah moment. I said, “Now girl, you can’t sit up here and call her captors slave owners and talk about all of this, and you still have a dead animal on your plate.” So I had to take a look in the mirror.
Caryn Hartglass: So it didn’t happen…
Robbyne Kaamil: No, not immediately, but I just – another ah-hah moment, honey. Sometimes you have to have those because like I said…
Caryn Hartglass: So how long ago was that?
Robbyne Kaamil: That was… It’s been a year now.
Caryn Hartglass: Good for you.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yeah, it’s been a year, and it’s been a gradual thing. I let the chicken and the pork chops go first. I come from a long line of pork eating, ham hock, collard green eating folks. I still eat my collard greens, but I gave up the ham hocks and no longer putting meat in my greens. So it was an evolution, but I gave up the chicken and the pork first. Well, I didn’t eat beef too much anyway, but the chicken and the pork went first. The last issue was dairy, honey. I was still putting half-and-half in my milk – I mean in my tea until before Christmas. So it was an evolution.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good for you. And how are you feeling now that you’ve made all these changes?
Robbyne Kaamil: Oh, I feel great. I mean I’ve lost a lot of weight.
Caryn Hartglass: How nice is that?
Robbyne Kaamil: How nice is that? You can be sexier as a slim vegan, a slimmer vegan, and I feel better. But the weight loss was really, really, really important because I had been struggling with my weight forever. Forever.
Caryn Hartglass: All right. Let’s just go back to relationships because you are a relationship expert, and I think our food choices bring out some of our challenges with relationships. I mean everybody has challenges with relationships. When you’re sitting at a table with someone at every meal or at least one meal a day or something, if you’re not in agreement with what’s on the menu, it brings out all the issues that you have. All the communication issues and tension and stress, it’s important. I mean I commend people that don’t eat the same that manage to have a loving relationship or people who have different philosophies or religions that manage to celebrate life together. I can’t do that. [Laughs]
Robbyne Kaamil: And that’s your thing. Everybody – everyone doesn’t have to do that. It is what it is. We all have our deal breakers, and that’s okay. That’s okay. That’s okay. It works for some people. Interfaith relationships, relationships where you have a vegan and somebody who loves going down to the steakhouse and getting the steak. But exactly, it works for them. And they do say love conquers all, honey. And if it’s working for them, then that’s fine. Every relationship is different.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so we just have like a couple more minutes, and so before you go, what are the most important animal activist kind of issues that are on your radar right now?
Robbyne Kaamil: Well, freeing Lolita because she is still in that tank, that sub-standard tank, the smallest in the country, which is actually illegal. And with this 24-hour news cycle we have, it’s very difficult to keep her story in the forefront. People have the attention spans of gnats, so you constantly have to keep her story and her plight out there, which is very difficult. For the last ten years, you’ve had people every weekend in Florida, in Miami that go down and protest and turn away cars, and they have been diehards in that. So it’s still a struggle because she’s still not free. So it’s very difficult and the struggle continues, but as my grandmother used to say, “A steady drop of water will wear a hole in the rocks.” So we’ll get there. We will get there.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so how can people find out more about Lolita and what can they do?
Robbyne Kaamil: Well, I think one of the things that they can do is to donate to the Orca Network, which actually has her retirement plan.
Caryn Hartglass: The Orca Network.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, they have her retirement plan because once she gets out of the tank, they actually have a home for her back in Washington state because it’s important – once you get her out, then you’ve got to have a plan, and they have a plan, her retirement plan. You can find that on their website, the OrcaNetwork.org.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Robbyne, it’s so good to see you. I hope to see you again really soon because this was really crazy short.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, that’s fine, honey. And listen, if anyone has any drama, any relationship drama, they can email me at playgirladvice@gmail.
Caryn Hartglass: Playgirladvice@gmail. Okay, that’s fine.
Robbyne Kaamil: Yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And can we find any of it online or we have to get the print magazine?
Robbyne Kaamil: Of course, at playgirl.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Ooh, okay, good. Thank you. Well, happy spring.
Robbyne Kaamil: Thank you, dear. Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great. That was Robbyne Kaamil, and again, firstname.lastname@example.org. I say take advantage of that.
Transcribed by Alison Rutledge, 6/1/2016