Sometimes it seems vegans and vegetarians have an identity crisis on their hands. They can be looked at as frail. Rory Freedman is trying to change that. It’s true she promotes the concept of being “skinny” in her book Skinny Bitch. I mean, it’s right there in the title.
But she’s not talking about the passive, twiggy kind of skinny. It’s a healthy, in your face, be the best you can be kind of skinny; a bitchy skinny.
Rory and her co-author Kim Barnouin did what many vegans have been trying to do for years; they took that wimpy vegan image and gave it an extreme makeover. As a result, their Skinny Bitch book became a NY Times bestseller. That, my friends, is not an easy task.
There are plenty of books that serve as the foundation for veganism, but very few of them have made it into the hands and minds of the mainstream.
Skinny Bitch has now sold over 2 million copies and has been translated into 27 languages. The authors now have other books in the Skinny Bitch series, such as Skinny Bitch in the Kitch; Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven, an eating guide for pregnant women; and Skinny Bastard for men.
John Robbins, author of the book Diet for a New America, had this to say about the book, “Skinny Bitch is outrageous, wickedly irreverent, and right on the mark. Any young woman who pays attention to this book will become healthier, thinner, and more powerful.”
Needless to say, this caught my attention. And then I became infatuated by the author’s name. Some names just hit me and I find myself mulling on them for days at a time. Rory. What an interesting name. Predominately a male name until only a few years ago, it now has followed the way of other names and become more androgynous. Roy Feinson, author of the book Secret Universe of Names, suggests that people with the name Rory “subscribe to the dictum that if you’re not making waves, you’re not paddling…”
That certainly seems to be a theme in Rory Freedman’s life. She’s counseled models, actors, athletes and other professionals on how to use the Skinny Bitch method. Rory was also voted VegNews magazine’s first-ever “Person of the Year.”
So it was understandable that I was a bit nervous as I proceeded into this interview with the notorious Skinny Bitch, Rory Freedman. Was the book named after her? If so, I was hoping to come out of it unscathed. Or was it merely a catchy title to a provocative read? Take a look at this interview with Rory and you see for yourself.
Name Interview: Rory Freedman
What did your parents name you when you were born?
They named me Rory.
Did your parents tell you why they picked the name Rory?
They told me they wanted an “R” because they wanted to name me after my grandfather Robert, but they wanted something different. Someone that my father worked with suggested Rory; I think he got it from a baby name book.
As a child, what did you think about the name Rory?
As a child I hated my name. I wanted to be Nancy, or Jennifer or Jessica. Desperately! When you’re younger and you’re in one of those stores that sell magnets with rainbows on them with names of kids, I had never, ever, ever once seen any of those things with a Rory. I resented the name when I was younger.
So how about as an adult?
Now I’m really happy I have the name I have. I feel like I’ve grown into it and I like it. I appreciate it now because it’s different.
Although I’d probably still be happy with Jennifer or Nancy or Jessica; I still really like those names. But I appreciate that my name is unique. One of the things that I really hated when I was younger, was that it was a boy’s name. But now I think it’s really cool to have a name that could be for a boy or a girl. I think it’s kinda mysterious.
I’ve read that women with names that are more traditionally masculine are more successful.
I had heard something like that, too. And then I heard something else about personality types of people with unique names. That was very comforting to hear.
I actually have this book about the psychology of sound and names. The premis is the sound of your name can impact who you are. The letter R is very passionate, but the “y” ending diminishes it some.
I love language and I love names. When I heard you were doing interviews like these I thought, “Wow, what a cool thing to do, to talk about names and what they mean.” And I think it’s so cool that that book exists. Very cool. Do they ever say bad things about any names? “Names like these will end up a failure in life!”?
Sometimes. He also gives interesting tidbits, for example, people with names that begin with a “J” make more money.
I love names with “J”. I had a boyfriend with a “J” name and I used to think if we had kids I was going to want “J” named kids. I guess it started with my love of Jennifer and Jessica in my childhood. I always thought “J” was a pretty letter.
Speaking of letters in names, I’ve found that the letter “R” can be difficult for some people to pronounce and you’ve got two of them in your name. Do people have trouble pronouncing your name?
Oh yes! It’s awful. When I was little everyone called me “Wahwee” to the extent that it’s now my mom’s nickname for me.
And now, even when I’m introducing myself to people, the one thing I do really hate is I feel like I have to over-enunciate my name. Otherwise they won’t know what I’m saying or they’ll think I said Lori or Marie. So I have to really get it out there and make a big-mouthed Rory.
Where did you come up with the name for your book series, “Skinny Bitches”? Were you trying to give crunchy vegans a little bit more of an edge?
Yeah, I had an understanding of what the problem was. The information is really compelling to lead people towards a vegan diet because animals are being confined and tortured and slaughtered in ways that people would absolutely be devastated to learn. Eating the flesh and products of animals is bad for our health and its terrible for our environment. And when people learn about all this they want to make a step in the right direction. That said, nobody wants to read about any of those things because it’s miserable and boring.
I wanted to write something easy to read and compelling and the idea for it just came to me. Once I started to figure out the problem then I wanted to be a part of the solution. Then the title was just there waiting in the ether for me and it just sort of got streamlined into my brain. I almost feel like it has nothing to do with me, you know? I give myself credit for coming up with the angle to take as far as making it look hip and cool and disguising the veganism. But the title? Yes, I came up with it but it really just came to me.
I do feel I was meant to have this name and meant to be doing the work that I’m doing and that it all fits perfectly.
I’ve known people that I never expected in a million years would be interested in a vegan diet, but they read your book and they were actually trying it.
I was never interested in a vegan diet either. I used to eat Burger King seven days a week. The day that I learned what was happening on factory farms and slaughterhouses was the day my life changed forever. It was just through circumstance that I got a magazine in the mail. I just happened to be leafing through it and that article and those pictures caught my eye and changed my life. And since that time 17 years ago I’ve read so many books on the subject and I’ve thought, “Why don’t more people know about this? Why aren’t more people out of their minds knowing that this goes on?” I realized that a lot of people will never pick up these books. They just won’t. And I thought, “I’m going to do something about that.”
I’m curious what your thoughts are about people who decide to change their name?
I definitely think that if you don’t resonate with your name then you should go ahead and change it. It would be such a shame to spend your whole life not identifying with your name and how the rest of the world knows you. I just was in Peru and I met someone who changed her name. She was given a spiritual name in a ceremony and she was describing how it felt at the beginning of the process to tell people that she changed her name. She realized that on FaceBook she would have this new name and she thought, “Oh god, what are people going to think? Who is this hippy-dippy, entitled idiot going by a new name?”
She said she just felt like she had grown so much, had learned so much and had really evolved and transformed in a lot of ways. She said she really liked and embraced her old name and who she was but she also felt like she was stepping into this new name and this new life and this is how she was identifying herself now. She said she was okay with people thinking she was crazy and indulgent. That in this new name, she had enough confidence and courage to not care what people thought. I think she summed it up really beautifully.
We’re used to the idea of people changing their names, just not the first one.
Yeah, and I think it’s sad for your whole life to feel like you’re not your name or to hate your name. I’ve met some people with some really freaky names and sometimes I’ll ask them where they got their name. I really appreciate anybody who sort of steps into a really crazy wild name, whether it was given or chosen. I think it does take a certain personality. I don’t think my name falls into that category. I think my name is certainly unique but not wild and crazy. But I’d like to think that if I did have a totally outrageous name, I’d step right into it.
Have you ever thought about changing your name?
I was in a relationship and I considered the idea of changing to my boyfriend’s last name. I wondered how I would feel not being Rory Freedman anymore. It occurred to me that I didn’t like my last name–that I didn’t really identify with it at all. But I think now having had some success professionally with this name, I’ve sort of really grown to like it. In a way I really have made a name for myself. It’s not to say that if I happen to meet a man whose name I happen to like better that I might trade up. But for now I’m sticking with it and I like it.
Do you think your name has had an impact on your success?
Well, maybe. I think everything in the world has an impact on everything. And I do think that words have distinct and strong energies to them. And that there is something strong about my name. I don’t know what came first, you know? The chicken or the egg. Was I already going to be this way anyway even if my name were Jennifer, Jessica or Nancy? And certainly when we look around there are people with all sorts of successes with all sorts of names. But I do feel I was meant to have this name and meant to be doing the work that I’m doing and that it all fits perfectly.
That’s so nice! I’d like to ask one last question. What’s your favorite vegan dish?
Let’s see. I like a lot of the recipes in Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. The Macaroni and Four Cheeses is one of my favorites. The green goddess is another one of my favorites. The Dream Bars are also crazy good. I like it all. I like food! I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about veganism–that they’ll be deprived in some way. But nothing is further than the truth. All my group of friends that are vegans, we love eating more than anyone on the planet and we indulge ourselves all over the place.
That’s one point I try to address with my site. Everyone thinks vegans are so deprived. I actually just posted a recipe for vegan 3 Musketeers Bars.
I’m going on your website immediately to see those! We are so lucky here in Los Angeles, we have a restaurant called Madeline Bistro and the chef, Dave Anderson, is a true genius and he makes peanut butter cups, Twix, and Butterfingers that would make your eyebrows fall out they are so friggin’ good!
Imagine my relief to learn that Rory herself is a delightful person who came up with a catchy name for her book. And as a recovering people pleaser, I think learning to love the bitching side of life doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I thank Rory for introducing that concept to my life.
So watch out Bill Cosby and the rest of the world. Today’s vegan has a little more vim and verve than before and we’ve got the Skinny Bitch handbook to prove it!
Now, a trip to Madeline Bistro sounds like a good next step. Mr. Anderson? You might want to make a few more of those vegan peanut butter cups!