We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Waifu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, what makes you happy? Why?
My name is Rachel Waifu (AKA The Vegan Waifu) I am a professional photographer/ photo editor, Comic book artist, vegan foodie, recipe creator, and mental health advocate. I live in Los Angeles
with my ESA kitty Baboo!
Creating art makes me happy because I get to express myself in ways words can’t. I am able to show people what my mental illness looks like to me. I suffer from sleep paralysis, night terrors, anxiety, and CPTSD. Art has been a way for me to explain what or how I am feeling.
Art doesn’t just make me happy it’s also therapy, a creative outlet where I get to take control of something frightening and make it into something beautiful. Maybe even something relatable to someone who might feel like they are the only ones who go through this. I have spent a long time trying to help people not feel alone when it comes to their disabilities or traumas through art and other outlets. I have been transparent about what I go through and how it affects me in hopes someone sees my work and my stories and thinks to themselves maybe I am not the only one who is feeling this way? and maybe knowing that can help them push forward.
Over the years I have had people message me privately on social media thanking me for showcasing mental health. They have said it has helped them better understand themselves and show people what they are going through when words weren’t enough to describe the feelings they had. One person who wrote me said that they were in such a bad place and felt so alone with their feelings. But some of my concepts, especially ones about abuse, or mental illness, or fears had helped them. I had a young adult tell me they had contemplated for a long time about whether or not they wanted to be here anymore. They had told me after watching my work for a couple of months and reading about my own struggles had inspired them to see a therapist and to keep searching for inner peace and happiness.
I cried for a long time when I read that. I felt bad someone had felt so alone that they had felt like they wanted to disappear, I cried because it reminded me of when I would feel so alone that I kept wondering what the point was, I cried tears of happiness knowing this young adult was choosing to keep fighting and to try and find the path to self-love and self-care, I also cried because it felt like all of those years of pain and sadness were not for nothing. Because I was able to turn something painful and traumatizing into something that not only helped me heal but helped others as well.
When the pandemic hit, I wasn’t able to continue my creative concepts. My autoimmune disease put me at risk so I was advised to just be inside. That’s what I did for 14 months. I live in LA so I was lucky enough to get everything I needed to be delivered to my door and didn’t need to ever step outside of my apartment. It was really hard being confined to a studio apt, I was feeling very isolated and alone. I didn’t have anyone come over because I was too afraid to risk myself and others. Like I had mentioned earlier I was advised not to socialize in person by my doctor. I saw people still going to be able to go do simple things like wearing a mask and going shopping or even wearing a mask and going outside for a walk. I started to get anxious and sad that I couldn’t even go for a simple walk with a maks. I also became worried about money because most of my freelance work was no longer available. I was worried about just being ok with being alone for so long and not being able to shoot or create with others to help with my depression and anxiety.
Someone reached out to me to ask if I would like to start streaming. I laughed as soon as I saw the email. “I am a behind-the-scenes kinda gal,” I said to myself. “I don’t go in front of the camera” and as I was about to delete the email, a thought occurred to me. What if I could at least find some cool like-minded people and maybe this could be my answer to feeling so alone and isolated.
At the time I had just become vegan due to my medical condition and had started to really enjoy cooking and creating recipes again (It was hard at first being so new to vegan eating) I decided to start streaming my cooking, I had to cook dinner for myself anyway! Might as well just put my phone in front of me and let people watch what I was doing. I was very nervous and have always been self-conscious, I grew up looking different than others and everyone has always let me know that. But it had gotten to the point where I started to not care so much what others think of my appearance. So, I got the courage and got ready, and decided to try it out. It was quiet my first few streams but wasn’t going to give up because I was actually having fun and enjoying this nice distraction, After a few days people started to come into my stream and they were so curious as to what I was making, even more so when I had mentioned it was all vegan food.
I had already come up with my name “The Vegan Waifu’” a couple of months before because I was going to try and start a cooking channel on Youtube. But then the pandemic happened and I was unable to start because I couldn’t have anyone here to help me film. So, I made The Vegan Waifu my username and started to cook! It became a big hit! To the point where I had started a cooking side to the streaming app! I was trying to teach people how to cook with dietary restrictions and just get to know them and have a good time.
After a while, my illness got to be a bit much and it was hard to do 4-hour long cook streams every single day. I had a friend who lent me an old PC setup they had, and I started my gaming and mental health/advice streams. It was amazing to see a community forming and everyone was about helping one another and being there for each other.
I ended up moving my streams over to Twitch in February this year and found that a lot of my previous viewers had kindly followed me over to Twitch!
Twitch opened the door for more amazing people to join the community and I was and still am thrilled to be apart of the platform! We call it Waifu Crew/ Squish Squad! Our community is a genuinely safe space for people to come in, relax and feel heard and get cozy! We have had some incredible streams filled with people talking about their past, their disabilities, their mental illness, and what their life is like.
I am transparent and open and honest with my community. If I am having a bad day, or if my disability is weighing heavily on me that day, I know I can come in and tell them about it. Our community is all about helping each other. I wanted to create a safe space for people to feel like they are coming to hang with their friends on the couch to play games and talk about what’s on their minds, maybe get some advice and just have some fun.
Like I always tell everyone, I know what it is like to come home and feel unappreciated, alone, misunderstood. I am open and honest with my past experiences because I understand what it’s like to feel like you are going through something alone. I understand what it’s like to come home and feel like you have no one in your corner, no one to turn to. But we are your corner, we are your shoulder to cry on, we are your support system. I know that might sound silly to others considering a lot of people in the community haven’t met one another. But I have met some of the most supportive and kindest people online and have only recently met in real life. You don’t have to physically be there in person to let someone know you care and want the best for them.
What makes me happy is knowing that we have been able to make this community a safe and genuinely kind place. We have fun, we share the victories with each other and the failures. I have had people tell me the community and my streams are like therapy for them. I was told it has helped inspire them to keep going and to be their true selves because they have a place to do so in my streams. I have people from all walks of life coming into this community. Learning about different disabilities, struggles, and cultures. No one judging or saying backhanded comments. It’s just simply love for one another and it’s all real.
THAT is what makes me happy. Knowing that people feel like they have a place to go and people to talk with. I am not a professional on any mental health topics by no means. But I do understand my experiences and troubles and I have learned from them and have been able to help myself. I can only hope that maybe if I shared the way I helped myself it can help others too. If I can give someone any kind of feeling of hope and support and feeling like they have someone, then that is what truly matters to me, that is what makes me happy. I have a dream to create a mental health facility for people who can’t afford mental health services. I know some call me silly and say it’s not possible, but I won’t give up. I will not stop using my platform to try and help others, to try and make them feel the love and support they deserve. to try and help them get the help they deserve.
I had come out as pansexual this June and I was afraid to do it. I know we live in a time where it is a little more accepted. But I was still scared, I know people don’t always like nontraditional views and thinking, and from years of being different already I know how cruel the world can be to people and things it doesn’t understand. I woke up the next day to a message from a young adult. They had told me that after watching many of my streams especially my coming out-stream that they felt comfortable enough to come out to their parents. They also said their headspace had improved since attending streams and being a part of the community.
I have tried so many different things in life that bring me joy and happiness, food, art, streaming, and no matter what outlet I am trying or participating in, it’s clear that my true passion and what makes me happy is helping others.
If you would like to join our community I stream Monday-Fridays 4 pm pst on Twitch
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
A lot of my art is based on my own experiences with mental illness and my struggles. Not every concept is based on my mental health or some kind of emotion. But the ones that arent are definitely unique with a lot of surreal and fantasy aspects. I think that’s because I spent so much time as a kid with my head in the clouds daydreaming of magical places. Places like the Secret Garden or the movie Never Ending Story or the mermaid lagoon from Peter Pan. Small little escapes I was able to imagine for myself as a kid when people weren’t always so kind the daydreams would comfort me and I would tell myself I will find someplace beautiful just like that. But as an adult, I was able to create those little worlds and fantasies and turn them into some kind of reality.
I have had night terrors and sleep paralysis since I was in kindergarten. My mom and dad would usually be awoken to a little girl screaming at 4 in the morning and would be sometimes almost inconsolable. Usually the next day I would tell my mom what happened and what I had experienced and seen. It usually left my mom with nightmares for a few days just to give you an idea of how intense they were. When I got older I was always told I should be a writer and create horror stories. I tried but I have dyslexia and sometimes my thoughts would race with excitement and I was unable to keep up with myself and it overwhelmed me.
when I was 21 I had a brief 2-year college experience and went as a creative writer. I was thrilled and was so excited, but sadly I wasn’t doing well in my core writing classes. However, I was doing really well in my film class. I was talking film photography classes and we also had to develop our own film. I spent way too many countless hours in that photo lab. I got this feeling I had never had before, this excitement when I was shooting. Nothing could match the amazing feeling I would get from grabbing my camera and just taking photos of whatever I wanted, and how I saw it, with no one to tell me it was being done wrong or my disability getting in the way. I switched majors and majored in photography and fine arts.
I was able to finally explore the concepts I had so badly wanted to describe when I was writing but could never find the right words. I loved shooting film even to this day I would prefer to shoot film and develop my own roles again, something almost magical about being in the dark alone and creating something from nothing.
Sadly the next semester I was invited to a party and some really traumatizing things happened to me. I once again started to experience night terrors and sleep paralysis again heavily like when I was a kid. I didn’t want to leave school and my friends but I was STRUGGLING whenever I closed my eyes I could see my attackers face, I could smell him and I would be thrown into some kind of surreal version of what happened to me but it was so intense it’s like I kept reliving it over and over again. My body would feel all of that every time. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I stopped hanging out with friends and people kept wondering why I was so depressed and eventually lost a lot of friends. I did end up going home for a week but all I could think about was the photo lab and how I wished I was there instead. I returned and basically ditched most of my classes and spent almost all of my time developing photos. Some might not think that wasn’t healthy but it is what saved me. I started to remember what I was told as a teen when someone said I should write about my dreams. I started to wonder what if I photographed my dreams, or how I feel after?
I started to ask friends if I could shoot with them. I came up with small and easy concepts that still portrayed that one feeling I couldn’t seem to describe. After looking at a few of the shoots it was clear to see I felt scared, alone, and vulnerable but I was still here and I wasn’t going to give up on this new love I had just found. It actually felt good to get that out. I remember just looking at the photos and smiling knowing that for once I was able to express the pain was feeling. It made me feel stronger and like things would eventually be ok.
I started working with a friend of mine a lot, we did so many concepts. She was always down to let me try makeup concepts, even ones that took 6 hours because all I had was cheap white face cream from Halloween when in reality, I needed body paint lol. I was able to try so many different things with her and because of that, I felt confident enough to reach out to other people to work with. I found some really cool people who helped me create some of the most beautiful versions of my struggles. I know a lot of the topics I touch on are dark and intense and frightening. But I think it’s important for them to be seen. I think it’s important for any artist to express how they feel, or how they see the world. You never know who might see it and who it might impact and help.
My art has become a version of therapy for me. Being able to create an image that depicts a certain emotion or event that has happened to me has helped me start the healing process from a lot of things that happened to me. I think my art stands out because I am not afraid to show people my mind, I am not afraid to show my trauma or my emotions. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their trauma and that is ok. We are all different and process and cope with things differently. But for me showing a look into my thoughts, trauma, or scary times gives me hope. Hope that it will reach someone, ANYONE who may not know how to explain how they feel or feel like no one else could possibly understand them at that moment.
Creating art and understanding and trying to heal over the years has taught me how to explain and express my emotions and experiences better when it comes to talking or writing about them. I think that is how I am able to talk so freely about them when I stream. Like with my art, If any of my experiences, feelings, or point of view is able to help someone then that’s what matters to me. It can be hard but usually, when we get on serious topics nothing is ever planned. So it’s usually unexpected and I just go with it and don’t really think twice when it comes to talking about my past traumas or experiences. I want to share them and I hope it can somehow help someone else.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, most of my friends are spooky babes so depending on what time of the year I would plan some kind of trip to a Halloween-themed event. if nothing was going on then I would take them to some cool spots like Coolsville USA its a really cool gothy kind of store with custom-designed furniture and art.
I would take them to all of my favorite vegan hot spots! some of my favorites right now are Gokoku Vegetarian ramen shop, Sage Bistro, Monty’s Good Burger!
We would most definitely hit up little Tokyo and go to Sanrio Japanese village, Pop Little Tokyo – Popkiller Flagship, Somi Somi (sadly they aren’t vegan so I can’t have any but most of my friends aren’t strict vegan eaters, and before I went vegan these where always great)
After that, I would want to take her to Santa Monica pier! I have been here for 4 years and still haven’t found the time sadly so that would be a fun adventure!
I would also take us to some museums like the Getty, The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, California Science Center, and the museum of death.
at night I would take them to The Dresden Restaurant & Lounge for some live jazz and drinks.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I can’t name them all but my Waifu Crew/Squish Squad! These people have become friends, supporters, and genuine people I am lucky enough to have in my life. They make me a better person and have shown me that I have many people who are rooting for me and who want to help. I am trying to get surgery for my autoimmune disease and it’s been a battle trying to come up with the funds for it and they have been nothing but uplifting, kind and supportive, and patient with me. You guys hype me up and comfort me on days where I feel like I am drowning in myself. You guys help pull me up and help me keep on going. Thank you for the laughs, the honesty, the love, and the genuine support like I always say, Yall are top-notch!!
Other: TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@theveganwaifu