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Redefining veganism with Milwaukee's Royally Vegan

Royally Vegan
Carvd N Stone and Lily Shea Photography
Owners of Royally Vegan, Tylesha King (left) and Jaleel King (right).

For Lake Effect's COVID Earners Series, we speak with businesses owned and operated by people of color, who are reimagining our city’s future during the pandemic. When you think about vegan food, maybe bland raw vegetables or fruit come to mind, but the owners of Royally Vegan disagree.

"Jaleel was like, you know what? Yes, let's change our diet to vegan and see how it's gonna be," says Tylesha King, who opened Royally Vegan with her husband, Jaleel King.

Tylesha King says that about five years ago, Jaleel was experiencing health issues that affected his day-to-day life and led him to make a lifestyle transformation. He decided to try eating vegan.

"Within six months of him changing his diet, everything that he was experiencing, like came to a full stop," says King.

Since then, their lives have changed, and they're hoping to raise awareness of the potential positive impact that eating vegan can have on our health without giving up flavor.

"We had to really do a lot of research and figure out that there's other seasonings that can help out as vegan friendly. Seasonings that will add that flavor..." says King.

Royally Vegan recently did a catering gig for actor and singer, Omarion. Tylesha King (left) and Omarion (right) pose together backstage.
Tylesha King
Tylesha King
Royally Vegan recently did a catering gig for actor and singer, Omarion. Tylesha King (left) and Omarion (right) pose together backstage.

King says the pandemic was also a challenge for Royally Vegan. At first, the restaurant had to figure out how to weather the storm of cutting hours and losing work.

Then, King says, Royally Vegan turned a corner. She began to see an increase in support and sales. She says when the restaurant started helping with money issues, she realized that this was becoming a career.

One of the highlights in her career has been catering for the singer Omarion who has a vegetarian-based diet.

For the singer, Royally Vegan catered their famous charred vegan soul food, including barbecue meatballs and cornbread.

"I was happy. With me making that [catering order] for [Omarion] and his team, in exchange we got free tickets for the concert that he added to Milwaukee," says King.

King says she's challenging the idea that veganism is only a white person thing through Royally Vegan. At first, she says she received a lot of pushback from her community about not including meats in her food. But now she says, people in the Black community are coming around.

King says that switching to a vegan diet has become more common in her community. However, veganism can be more than tofu and bland vegetables, King says.

"Just hearing stories like that put a tear to my eyes. Not only has the vegan diet helped my husband, but it's also helping other people [too]," says King.

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Updated: January 7, 2022 at 9:12 AM CST
We updated the photo credits to accurately credit Carvd N Stone and Lily Shea Photography of their portrait of Tylesha and Jaleel King.
Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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