Meet Natalie Prabha, a model and proud vegan who cares deeply about being kind to the planet. The Kuala Lumpur-based environment champ is also one of the faces you may have seen featured in this year’s Ramadan campaign. We caught up with Natalie as she talks about doing her best for the environment, her United Nations-backed project championing local produce, as well as rethinking sustainable style.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a vegan and eco-enthusiast.
I started about six years ago while I was studying in Australia. At that time, the movement was starting to get a bit more popular, so I decided to try it. And then I liked how it felt, how it gave me a lot more energy and cleared my skin problems. Later in uni, I took a few environmental electives and found out that I had actually lowered my carbon footprint a lot more through this diet. So the more I learnt, the more I got invested in this and six years later, I’m still vegan and figuring out what else I can do with my lifestyle.
What other practices do you do for the environment?
From my day to day, just lowering my electricity consumption, and trying to use less plastic and eating a vegan diet. Also, by choosing more sustainable materials that are ethically produced. When I was on an episode of the “Sustainably Speaking” series with Levi’s®, it made me rethink why when we spend so little on clothes, the garments don’t last. So the tagline “Buy Better Wear Longer” makes sense, as buying better quality products and taking care of them properly makes clothes last longer.
What’s a common misconception about being an eco-enthusiast?
It being expensive. It can be, if you eat mainly imported food like vegan cheese or meat substitutes that cost five times more. Some people think that’s what we eat everyday, but that’s definitely not our natural diet! Our source of protein is mostly tempeh and tofu. So if you shop locally and plan your meals properly, it’s not expensive at all.
What about the benefits?
An eco life is beneficial for the planet, of course. The planet, the environment, us as a community, we gain a whole lot if we collectively do our part together. Personally, I feel it’s a form of self-fulfilment where we search for what is fulfilling within ourselves to find a purpose in life. Shifting my thoughts to this kind of life led me to be happier. It really gives us a positive headspace to go on with our lives.
“SHIFTING MY THOUGHTS TO THIS KIND OF LIFE LED ME TO BE HAPPIER. IT REALLY GIVES US A POSITIVE HEADSPACE TO GO ON WITH OUR LIVES.”
What projects do you have lined up?
I’m currently working with the World Food Forum. It’s under the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. I’ll be creating some recipes that champion local produce, especially in Kadazan cultures. I’ll also be creating more food content for sure. I feel like ever since the pandemic restrictions loosened, I haven’t had any time to do it, so I want to focus on that soon.
What do you think your purpose is and how do you go about it?
I’m still waiting to find out what my purpose is! I think I’m doing the best I can for the environment, for the community. I think everything happens for a reason, because modelling wasn’t actually my plan. Even getting into social media wasn’t my plan, as it was something I did for fun and then progressed into something a lot larger. Then I realised, maybe this could be my purpose? I was given this platform to talk about environmental issues and veganism.
How would you describe your personal style?
I like vintage pieces and basics like jeans, T-shirts, crop tops. I also like wearing my culture; I’m from Sabah and I feel like the culture is slowly dying and it’s very sad because our heritage is full of art and so interesting. I’m also constantly trying to find designers and creators that champion Sabahan heritage because I do want to preserve it. Other than that, my style is really simple. I recently bought a pair of 501® men’s jeans. I actually like wearing men’sclothes a lot for the more baggy fit. They’re also more comfortable, and comfort is everything.
Do you have any personalities who inspire you?
I’m very inspired by Emma Watson, from how she transitioned as an actor to now using her platform to talk about issues like sustainability. Now that she’s gone into directing films, I feel like that transition is something I want to also see myself doing. I love modelling, but I want to move forward and see what I can do from there.