An interview with Veggie Prom organizer Jessica Mahady by Dan Mims.
Jessica Mahady is the force behind (cue booming reverb effect) Veggie Conquest. Started as the banner for a series of vegan cooking competitions, VC has struck a different (and, to my personal joy, decidedly dancier and drinkier) chord with its annual themed parties Veg-O-Ween and Veggie Prom.
The latter is particularly beloved by NYC’s vegan-positive socialites, who can relive the best (and pave over the worst) aspects of that unnerving adolescent milestone, only this time as adults who have the benefit of years of serious partying under their belts. And who can legally drink alcohol. And who don’t have to sneak a bag of peanuts in because the local catering company thinks being a vegan means you get the fish option.
Rest assured that Mahady, as a vegan herself (no surprise there), knows the difference between animal and plant. The 2012 Prom is tonight, starting at 8pm, which means you only have a few hours left to buy your ridiculously reasonable $10 advance tickets ($15 at the door; proceeds benefit animal protection org Mercy For Animals). For those of you who are just finding out about this and are thinking that you don’t have time to find a prom date or prom attire, don’t worry—there’s no need to couple up, and, as a New Yorker, you almost certainly already have an outfit that’ll pass muster. What I’m saying is: no excuses!
To help savor this moment of delicious anticipation, we spoke with Mahady about Veggie Prom’s origin story, her own high school prom, and what to expect at tonight’s much-awaited soirée.
Why did you start putting on Veggie Prom, and how long has it been going on?
This is our 3rd Veggie Prom. It started as a fundraiser for Veggie Conquest events. They’re super-expensive to put on, so the prom’s original purpose was to help facilitate that. But it’s really become its own thing.
In fact, Veggie Conquest is on a bit of a hiatus because my time has gotten more limited, but the Prom must go on. It’s such a fun night—it’s my personal favorite event—that I wanted to continue doing it despite being so busy.
What specifically made you go with a “prom” theme?
When we started thinking about it, we were trying to find the right weekend to do it, and it seemed like Veggie Pride Parade would be a great event to coincide with. We thought, ‘Let’s help make it a big weekend-long celebration of being vegan in New York City.’ It turned out the parade was taking place in May, and of course May is prom time. I think it was actually the idea of my friend [and perennially excellent Veggie Prom DJ] Lil Ray to do a prom thing and my immediate reaction was, ‘Love it!’
Do you think she was being self-serving with that?
[laughs] Probably a little. But really it’s just a compelling idea and the timing couldn’t be better. The weather’s changing and people are excited to go out, get dressed up, and let loose.
What was your own prom experience like?
It was interesting. I wasn’t vegan at the time but my date was. For a while it wasn’t clear whether or not he was actually going to be able to attend, because he couldn’t find any prom attire that wasn’t made of wool. Finally he did and we ended up having a really fun time.
I was thinking you probably had either a really great prom or a really bad prom to want to relive the event each year.
To me, it’s just very different. I stayed at my official prom for an hour and a half at most. My group of friends and I then drove up to a rented cabin that night to do our own thing, and I would say that that is what really made my original prom experience so great.
What’s new this time around, compared to past Veggie Proms?
First of all, we’re at Fontana’s Bar, which is a totally awesome place in the Lower East Side. The past two years have been in Brooklyn, and while I love Brooklyn, it’s clear that Manhattan is a more central location and will accommodate more people.
Something else that’s new is that Cinnamon Snail will be parked outside the event from 8-9:30, so people should come early and hungry. And our sponsors this year have been so generous. Tons of delicious, free food. We’re even going to have a Teese [vegan cheese] nacho bar!
How is that going to work?
I’m told it will be old-school pump-style.
[laughs] Whoa! Who else is involved?
So many companies have donated amazing food—Gardein, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Raw Ice Cream Company, Regal Vegan, and many more. Other amazing companies like Lula’s, Vaute Couture, Soft Serve Fruit Company, and Rescue Chocolate have also donated prizes to go with the various awards we’ll be handing out for Prom Queen and King, Best Dressed Individual, Best Dressed Couple, Most Creative Dresser, Best Dancer. Vegan Bodega has donated two awesome gift bags full of hard-to-find vegan items, and Sir Richard’s even donated condoms for everybody so that we’ll all have a fun and safe time.
That’s so perfect.
It is. I mean, we’re not specifically encouraging people to hook up. [laughs] There’s not even any pressure to bring a date! But those condoms will be available just in case.
I have to ask: how does the dancing situation look this year? And is there anything else we should know going into prom?
There will be dancing, thanks to DJ Lil Ray. The main party’s going to be in the Chandelier Room of the bar, which has a pretty good dance floor and, of course, a big chandelier. There will be seating around the perimeter and a photo booth with all sorts of fun props. That’ll be up in the mezzanine, which overlooks the room and is also where Lil Ray will be. We’ll also be projecting 80s prom movies onto the wall, including my personal genre favorite, Pretty in Pink. It’s going to be amazing.