Tabitha Brown

Illustration by Matt Chessco

    On a platform where Gen Z reigns supreme and some of the biggest names are typically of the thin, white, and dubiously talented twentysomething variety, Tabitha Brown is a breath of fresh air. Her journey to viral stardom doesn’t follow the typical track; by contrast, she’s a study in resilience. In 2004, the North Carolina native moved to Los Angeles with the goal of launching a career in acting and stand-up comedy. It didn’t quite take off. Between auditions, she spent five years working at a Macy’s warehouse instead. Brown’s mother was diagnosed with ALS shortly after Tabitha moved across the country, and the aspiring actor regularly traveled between coasts to care for her; she passed away in 2007. Brown later developed chronic pain and fatigue that left her unable to work, forcing her to take a hiatus from her burgeoning career acting in indie films. When her disability funds ran out in 2017, she resorted to driving for Uber, hoping she might one day pick up a Hollywood director or executive and consequently be discovered.

    Her big break ultimately came in the form of a vegan BLT from Whole Foods. Brown—whose daughter, Choyce, had suggested she try out veganism to aid her recovery from her ongoing health issues—posted a glowing video review of the sandwich that went viral. Almost immediately thereafter, the grocer offered her a job as a brand ambassador. Choyce also encouraged her to join TikTok in March 2020, thinking her mother could provide comfort and entertainment during lockdown. Within a mere five weeks, her vegan recipes and motivational videos—ranging from humorous to soothing, and sometimes both at once—garnered her over 2 million followers; at present, she has 4.9 million, and another 3.8 million on Instagram. The 42-year-old’s rising star shows no signs of slowing down either: She hosts her own show, All Love, on the Ellen Digital Network, has appeared in episodes of Will & Grace and The Chi, and just released a memoir titled Feeding the Soul (Because It’s My Business), a reference to one of her popular catchphrases.