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Vegan Strength Athletes at Mr. America 2022

This October, the Vegan Strong PlantBuilt team of 25 athletes will take the stage to compete at the 2022 Mr. America competition. They will be representing the sports of bodybuilding, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, kettlebell sport, and CrossFit. We had an opportunity to talk with the founders of PlantBuilt, Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese. Here’s what they shared.

Interview with the founders of PlantBuilt, Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese

What inspired you to create PlantBuilt?

Dani: We were inspired to create PlantBuilt in 2012. We were traveling the country and going to different VegFests, and it seemed that every city we were in, we would meet another amazing vegan bodybuilder that we had never heard of. Giacomo had this crazy idea, what if we got all the vegan bodybuilders together to compete at the same huge show and prove to people that on the whole vegans could do really well in bodybuilding competitions? So in 2013, we did just that!

Giacomo: Our first year we had a team of 14 bodybuilders. Fast forward to now where we have had well over 100 athletes from all over the world compete with us in various strength-based sports. It has also become a movement.

What inspires you about this event? 

Dani: This is a highly competitive and prestigious event. The Mr. America bodybuilding competition specifically has roots going back over 80 years!  Just having our vegan team be a part of that is an honor in and of itself.

Giacomo: There is something magical about being with your vegan family and like-minded individuals. You can feel the ethos of the Vegan Strong PlantBuilt team in the air on day one when we have our first huddle. You go out there with your personal performance on the field.  However, you also know that there is a purpose far greater than yourself or the team and that drives you. It is to be a voice for the voiceless, to speak out for mother earth, and to show that even when taking yourself to an extreme to compete, you can do it in a way that is healthy. A plant-based vegan lifestyle not only keeps you in the game, it protects you from the stress-filled, unhealthy world you live in better than any other diet. All while having a chance to leave less of a carbon footprint while you are here. 

What are your goals for your team’s participation in this event?

Dani: Our main goal is to continue to dispel the myth that vegans are scrawny and weak. We know times are changing rapidly, but this is still a pretty widely held belief. At the Mr. America competition, we hope to change even more minds about what is possible on a vegan diet.  

Giacomo: We are there for one reason only: to show up as our most competitive selves and through that, prove that plants have all the proteins you need. I do also feel that our belief system drives us to work just as hard as anyone out there. Some have faith in god, their family, some sort of personal thing like being in remission from disease. For the Vegan Strong PlantBuilt team, our belief is that you can compete at the highest levels while being compassionate to animals and the planet. Preparing for and then walking onto the competition floor with this in mind is what drives us to be at our best, all of the time. We want to be shining examples of what kind and compassionate bodies can do and lead by example.  

What impact do you hope to have competing as a vegan team?

Dani: Many of the other non-vegan competitors are either coaches themselves, or highly influential in their social spheres. For every person we inspire to investigate veganism more, there could be a huge ripple effect into other communities. Our goal is to pique as much interest as possible by impressing folks with feats of vegan strength and muscle.

Giacomo: I want to pique the curiosity of other athletes, those attending the event, and beyond. When Mr. America is televised to 90 million people and is covered throughout the media worldwide, I want our athletes to have strength in numbers and to be covered as a team.  Together, we can be a resource for those who are looking for a healthier way of life that not only doesn’t compromise their performance as either a fitness enthusiast or professional, it stands to enhance it. 

Join Dani & Giacomo at the 2023 HHAS Cruise

Both Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese will be on board the MSC Divina for our 2023 HHAS cruise. We proudly curate a dynamic roster of plant-based speakers who span the realms of nutrition, wellness, and animal welfare. Check out our full list of presenters for 2023.