Interview with Karen Jacobsen
Karen Jacobsen is a Keynote Speaker, Author, Concert Performer, Voice-Over Artist, Media Personality and the friendly voice on your GPS or Device. Most importantly, she is vegan.
We got the opportunity to chat with her recently from her home in New York.
When’s your veganaversary?
It was five years ago in March and it started with watching some documentaries, I didn’t have any terrible diagnosis or anything. My husband and I were relatively conscious human being and very clean eaters. But we weren’t vegan. We had taken steps over time, taking out cows milk, we moved to an alternative butter. I love watching documentaries and up cam these food documentaries on Netflix. So we watched, Fat sick and nearly dead, then forks over lives and then hungry for change. We watched 5 docos in 5 days. Each night we put our son, Hayden, to bed and then set ourselves up to watch a documentary.
After the 3rd doco, my husband turned to me and said, why don’t we give this a go?. I was like what?? What have we got to lose? I was like what should we eat, how do we get our protein. What if I’m hungry?
When my husband wants to do something transformational, how could I possibly say no? So he went to the natural supermarket and bought a bunch of things. And we talked it through and we started on Monday. And when the week was up, he asked if I wanted eggs, and I really didn’t want to. So we kept going, and it was 2 weeks and then a month and then 3 months. We really like this, we like how we feel. We like how our digestion is, we like the clarity of thinking, we just really like it. So that became nearly 5 years.
What anything tough at the beginning?
I was nostalgic about eggs for a long time. I wasn’t craving them, But I couldn’t even imagine eating them now. But eggs were a big part of my life. I had them every day. But there was nothing saying I couldn’t do this. Sometimes the social aspect, I am extremely confident, I have a lot of communication skills, But it can sometimes be uncomfortable with others. I do everything I can to make it simple for everyone in my life. We take food, we carry food, but there are still moments when I am at a group event or dinner event and I am answering questions the whole time and I had no clue that all of that came with it. You end up being a walking talking encyclopedia of knowledge.
Do you find it strange that we don’t question the fact that people eat meat?
I do dream of the day where the science, the conversation, the options in restaurants, where we come to a turning point. I do think one day we will get to the point where eating animals will be something we look back at and think, I can’t believe we used to do that.
What do you think will be the biggest catalyst for that?
I think there will need to be some huge shockwave, some buy-in by a huge corporation or group of celebrities, the irrefutable science and someone like Oprah saying you need to go vegan. I am still not sure if that would even be enough but something large needs to happen.
Is your son also vegan?
Our son rejected meat when he was younger. He did like milk, and I would like him to have none but he is vegetarian. We watched what the health last year, and he gave up milk on his own, at the age of 9. And that was tough for him, but he really got it.
Do you think it was important that he was able to make that decision?
Well, no, but probably. The tricky thing is how do you guide your child. Isn’t good parenting, teaching your child good habits, good manners, good studying habits, being polite. To know right from wrong, to not run out into the middle of the road even if you want to because a car might hit them. There are certain things we are responsible for as parents to keep your children safe. We use this word a lot at home, asking Hayden what is our number one job? To keep me safe. That’s right, so by that definition maybe it’s not. But that is how it evolved for us.
I find it really interesting the topic, whether it is right, I think its right to deprive my son of alcohol and smoking and red meat. Because they are all known to do damage, certainly in excess.
Does this venture into other areas, like plastics, cleaning products?
Absolutely, in 2011 we switched all our cleaning products over to clean products, getting all the toxins out of our home that way. I am still a big fan of vinegar and water and the super basics. Even though we have the other products. Also a couple years ago an area I found challenging was skincare and makeup. I had replaced just about everything but I couldn’t find a hairspray that had no animal products in them or testing that actually worked. I am on stage and performing a lot and I need makeup and hairspray that works.
I was introduced to Arbonne and I feel freakishly in love with the product. I am quite an evangelist for reading every label in your home and everything you put on your skin. And their products are vegan and gluten-free and no parabens. I learned an enormous amount through them and it is extraordinary to be able to learn that for myself and share it with other people. Because a lot of people don’t know and it’s all about the education.
You are a coach, you sing, you are a public speaker, how do you do it all?
I do a lot of things that I love, that’s a huge part of it. I was a singer and songwriter forever. That was a huge part of my business. What adds a degree of difficulty is becoming a parent. Our son is about to turn 10, which is a huge milestone for him and also for us as parents. We have been figuring this out for 10 years. How do I do it all though? I have an extraordinary partner in my husband and we are a really great team. Not sure how people function without it. But I want a lot out of life, I love life. I create my year each year and I get really detailed about what I want to experience and how I’m going to go about it. I know what you focus on expands and that’s how it happens. So that’s what I focus on. It’s getting nuttier with my travel schedule and my husband’s travel schedule and juggling that world, but we keep figuring it out. I am very vigilant about self-care, It’s my number one priority. I must get enough rest, I must be hydrated, I must eat cleanly, I wrote a whole book about it called recalculate- directions for driving performance and success. I have to do these things or I am no good to anyone. I get very clear and intentional about what I want to accomplish and spend most of my time doing the things I love. Which includes going on a field trip with my sons class on Thursday on one of the busiest and first weeks back. But I put what is important first, but I am recalculating and figuring it out all the time.
How did you end up in New York?
I left Mackay in north Queensland where I was raised when I was 17 and I moved to Brisbane. I went to the Queensland Conservatorium of music and studied music, then to Sydney and then to New York. But I saw Olivia Newton-John when I was 7 and when I saw her, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. It was crystal clear. It took me longer than I thought but I’m here now.
With your busy travel schedule, what are your top tips for vegans who travel?
I have plenty to say on this topic. I think being able to be vegan and travel with ease, is a metaphor for life really, it’s all in the planning. I do carry food, I make sure my airlines know I’m vegan. And I was thrilled when I was in Australia recently when I was on a Qantas flight and they had my profile and they gave me a vegan meal. It was this beautiful vegan burger and I was so impressed.
I carry these fizz sticks that are a bit like Berocca have guarana b12 green tea, they are my secret weapon. I carry them everywhere and they are just fantastic. For travel especially. I also carry nutrition bars that are vegan which I carry everywhere too.
In terms of travel and hotels and restaurants. I know the right questions to ask, but sometimes it’s easier just to find something on the menu and ask them to remove things and add some avocado. Otherwise, it can be challenging for them to start from scratch.
If you can make peace with the fact that it is 100% your responsibility for your own health and well being. That is the biggest thing.
How did you come to be the GPS Girl?
Shortly after I got to American, I got an audition where the client was looking for a native Australian female voice-over artist living in the northeast of the united states and I got the job. I ended up recording for 50 hours to create a text to speech voice system that has ultimately ended up in over a billion devices, GPS, smartphones, cruise ships and elevators around the world telling people where to go and what to do. It was completely unexpected in my singer-songwriter career.
Do you like telling people where to go?
I find it really fun, I love when people tell me their GPS stories like we took this road trip and you were with us and thanks for helping us and sorry for yelling at you.
What’s your one take out?
Anyone can do this. If I can do it with my travel schedule, literally anyone can do this.