With so many blogs today dedicated to healthy eating and better lifestyle choices, it’s difficult to find one that’s the best for you. Enter Yoli Ouiya and her blog “Yoli’s Green Living,” which is dedicated to healthy recipes, sustainable fashion and beauty, and frugal tips for living a more fulfilling life on a budget.
Ouiya has been featured in Black Enterprise, Blavity, the Huffington Post and more, and has been a guest on The Dr. Oz Show, where she discussed probiotic foods. As a chef with a certification in Plant Based nutrition, she tours the country as a guest speaker who focuses on self-care, health, nutrition and more.
During the DMV area’s Broccoli City Festival, Ouiya served as a coalition member for the Toyota-Green Initiative, which focuses on sustainability and healthy living tactics geared towards resonating with young people in the black community. VIBE sat down with Ouiya to hear more about her brand and the rewards of an eco-friendly lifestyle.
VIBE: How did you begin to develop your brand as the “Queen Of Green”?
Yoli Ouiya: Great question. I lost weight, not on purpose. I changed my diet. I was dating someone who was vegan at the time, and he was like ‘I bet you can’t be vegan for a week.’ I was like…you don’t challenge a Leo!
I know that’s right.
That week turned into two weeks, turned into three weeks, turned into months, years. As I was doing it, I realized that when you’re a vegan, you need to know about food. You need to know how to read labels and look at food and decide what is vegan and what isn’t. So, I started cooking. I come from a family that knows how to cook, so I had to take all of the foods that I love and learn how to turn them vegan, how to make them healthier. I started working as an apprentice for different chefs, and I wound up having a catering company for 10 years.
In the process of having the diet change and the weight loss and being healthier, I kept looking at how much waste is being created from just being in that space alone, and looking at how the environment continues to evolve. I said ‘you know what? Let me start a site that’s not just a resource for others, but a resource for myself.’ There’s so much information that I want to keep learning. Even though I know so much now, I always want to keep learning.
I always used to say when I was in college that I want to be a lifelong student, no matter where I went. A life-living, lifelong student. I started the site as a resource for not only myself, but others, so they could hopefully benefit. Within two years of me starting the blog, I got recognized by Black Enterprise. It worked out.
If you could, can you give a short blurb about what people can find on your site?
The site is an evergreen resource of healthy living tips, sustainable living, recipes. I’m starting up again when the season really warms up, because right now it’s kind of just there. Every season, to culminate with the seasons, we upload a series of new recipes, articles about sustainability. I’m also moving into a new space where I’m working on a sustainable product line called African Hippie. I want to take some of my indigenous culture, and also create a space for all women of color to have that free Bohemian spirit. There’s a lot of things out there that are marketed to the Bohemian look, but they’re not for us. I go into certain stores, and I’m like “oh this is cute,” but they’re not sustainable, there’s no women of color. I want to create something for us, and I wanted to do something that was good for the earth by using recycled materials.
What are some of your favorite eco-friendly clothing lines?
Eileen Fisher. They’re a little bit higher in price point, but the reason they are is because they try to make quality clothing that’ll last. If you’re gonna buy something, you need to make sure it lasts for a long time. That’s one thing my father taught me. He would go and buy one pair of shoes, good shoes. He would wear them all year. Threads for Thought is another one. They make a lot of natural and organic stuff that’s affordable, not “break the bank.” Then, I’m working on African Hippie, it’s more sustainably-sourced.
Do you have any advice on how to become the boss of your own brand?
Start by doing something that’s authentic to you. If you try to do a cookie cutter of something else, it comes across as fake and bullsh*t. Do something that you can stand behind, even when you’re tired and you think about it, you’re excited about it. There’s always that ebb-and-flow of excitement. There’s days when I’m working on my product line and I don’t want to do it, but I see the end result. I think about what the end result is and what that’s gonna create for me and my family and my friends and the universe and the planet.
Choose something that’s authentic to you and not something that’s gonna give you fame or quick money. Money comes and goes. All that stuff happens, fame, money, all of it comes when you’re doing the work. Put your head down and do the work, don’t just sit back and be like, ‘I have this idea!’ It doesn’t matter who does it first, it matters who does it first and best. If you have an idea, make sure you’re doing it excellently. Make sure it’s aesthetically-pleasing, and don’t half-a** it. That’s the worst. So I say authenticity, a commitment and being passionate about it, then make sure it’s on point.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of living a healthy, eco-friendly life?
Oh, everything. You see things clearer, you attract the people you want to attract. I notice when I’m not eating the way I’m supposed to be eating, my experiences are not the same. You experiences are not in alignment. That’s one of the biggest benefits, manifesting the things I want in my life. Literally, I was like “no sugar, this isn’t for me.” Within two weeks, anything I could think of that I wanted in my life would come, and I wouldn’t have to try. It’s having that commitment to yourself and being healthy that the universe responds, and then you’re like ‘okay, I see where you’re going.’ The universe helps support you to keep going in all directions, not just with food!
I see a lot of people read the blog, so what does it feel like to know that people can go to you and they trust you with certain things that have to do with a healthier lifestyle?
It feels good to be a resource, because I can keep learning. Not just from research, but learning from the people who read it. They bring information to me like ‘Yoli, did you know about such-and-such?’ and I’m like ‘no, but I’m gonna find out!’ I like having that as a place, even using that resource as a reminder to myself.
I don’t preach because I don’t know everything, I’m still learning like everyone else. I appreciate having a platform that I’m able to educate our community, and being discovered by people who are like ‘I really wanna be healthy, but I just don’t know how.’ For me, I’ve been doing it long enough where I’m able to help. You don’t have to go to Whole Foods to be healthy, you can go to Aldis. I love being thrifty. There’s ways to be healthy without spending all your money, and it doesn’t have to be high-end. It can be just where your income lays. For instance, there’s a store in New York in Chinatown where it’s all avocados. They wholesale it for a dollar.
That’s a dream come true!
It’s avocado heaven! One summer, I was called “Yoli Guacamole” for an entire summer, because all I’d make is guacamole, and I make good a** guacamole [Laughs].
What do you put in it?
I do variants! The simple recipe is just mashed avocado, lime and sea salt. Then, you wanna go a little fancier, you’ll put Roma tomatoes, some red onions, then if you wanna go completely fancy, you’ll put some pickled red onions, jalapeño…there’s so many variants. Once, I made some with sauteed plantain. Diced, sauteé it, mix it so you get a little bit of that savory and sweet. I’m telling you, man. That’s why they called me “Yoli Guacamole”!