A vegan YouTuber and Instagram influencer who has nearly 3 million combined social media followers is being condemned by her foodie fans for faking her lifestyle and making money off of it after she was caught eating fish.
Yovana Mendoza Ayres, 29, is known for her lifestyle brand called Rawvana, which promotes plant-based living through a vegan diet (which means not ingesting any animal-sourced products, whether meat or dairy or eggs) and skincare routines. She even sells meal plans and weight loss programs, including a 21-day raw challenge, that sell for up to $99. But after she made an appearance in a friend's YouTube video eating a plate of fish and trying to hide it, the platform that she's created is falling apart.
According to Ayres' Instagram, the destination of the trip that she was on while the video was taken was "a plant based paradise." However, the fish fiasco that ended up taking place in Bali seemed to tell a different story. Soon after the video was posted and fans started calling her out, Ayres took to her own YouTube channels - one in Spanish and one in English - to post a 33-minute video titled, "This is what is happening."
Throughout the video, she discussed her history of raw and vegan eating over the past six years, which came with some missteps and a number of other trial diets - including a 25-day fast in 2014. Ultimately, she shared that in 2017 it seemed that the way that she was eating, and namely the things that she wasn't eating, was impacting her health to the point where she was nearly anaemic, and even stopped ovulating.
"I wasn't ovulating," she said in the video. "I was basically anaemic and my thyroid levels were low. It was really bad, but it was borderline."
Through trial and error with different doctors and patterns of eating, Ayres said that her body felt like it was back to normal, and her ovulation and menstruation returned. But when she came down with a yeast infection in 2018, she struggled to find a way to heal her body yet again, and turned to fasting to do so. Fast forward to January 2019, when she was diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which can cause malnourishment.
"By this whole time I was starting to feel desperate for my health and to find a solution around the summer time and that's when I started to open up to the possibility of adding some animal product into my diet," Ayres explain in the video. "It was really hard because for so long I saw this food, this animal food, as something that is basically toxic for my body, something that I don't need, that my body doesn't need. And to see it as something that could heal me was really hard for me - it still is hard for me to accept and admit."
So hard to admit, in fact, that she not only kept her intake of fish and eggs a secret from her vegan followers, she also continued to make money off of them while promoting a plant-based lifestyle throughout the three months that she had already stopped living it.
Still, she doesn't see it that way.
"I kept it from my followers because I was still not ready to speak about it and I was still on my trial period for this diet. After being plant-based for a little over 6 years, it was a difficult decision for me to make and an even more difficult decision for me to communicate with everyone," Ayres tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "I have received so much hate on the video where I explain my reasons, and not only in that video but on every social media platform. I understand why the vegan community feels that way but I never expected this reaction from a community I considered my family all these years."
Responses from Ayres's former fans and followers have ranged from those expressing anger toward the influencer to those who feel hurt by her lack of transparency.
Rawvana was really selling a weight loss plan when she wasn't getting her period and was having health issues? That's really NOT okay.- B 🌱 (@theveganparent) March 18, 2019
1. Ate and promoted a 1200 kcal diet.
2. Did 25 day alkaline water fasts.
3. Cut fats out of her diet.
But has the courage to blame a plant based diet for her health issues.
- ����� ��� � (@AndresTheVegan) March 20, 2019
It's not that hard to eat a balanced Vegan diet. People like @Rawvana exploiting Veganism for self-promotion and then abandoning it are damaging to the Vegan movement.
- Veganalysis (@SwoleSprouts) March 16, 2019
@Rawvana I'm not mad at the fact that you're eating fish. I'm mad at the fact that you're lying to all your followers and making money off of them claiming to be a raw vegan. Eat whatever you want, just don't claim to be something you're not. #rawvegan#vegan#liar
- Jessica Rodriguez (@J7Rod29) March 14, 2019
Regardless of the decrease in subscribers that her YouTube channels have already seen, Ayres seems to not be discouraged about the future of her business.
"Right now I have no plans for my platform," she explains to Yahoo Lifestyle, "but I would love to continue growing and sharing my healing process to help other people along the way."
This article first appeared on Yahoo