What's your food's journey, what are the myths and activism that are taking place in the industry? We talked with international investigative journalist and documentarian, Nelufar Hedayat that explored these areas within her new show, Food Exposed on FUSION. This season she tackles issues alongside an array of celeb guests that include Nicole Richie, Moby, Jordana Brewster and more.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us about how you got into journalism and the various shows/positions you took that eventually led you to your current show?
NELUFAR HEDAYAT: I should really attach my CV, which would be boring so let me give you the abridged highlights version. I started out in journalism when I was 20, so ten years ago now. I was fascinated by how the War in Afghanistan was being presented. I was watching a lot of Afghan coverage and it was so different to what I was seeing in the Western News. This got me going and I made a tester tape with my friend Reva and submitted it to BBC Three under the extremely brave commissioner at the time, Danny Cohen. He decided to allow me to make a one-hour documentary about what life was like for young Afghan girls my age so off we went. That was basically the start. The doc did very well for BBC Three and was winning awards, so I was asked what more do I want to make. Boom/flash! Here I am today with Food Exposed. A series I have been dreaming to make for 5 years at least.
AM: What is 'Food Exposed' and what is the purpose behind this show?
NH: A: It’s a doc series that investigated the hidden, darker side of food production. I traveled the world to go to where the issue was and speak to people first hand allowing the story to dictate where we went in order to present what we found. A lot of it was quite shocking even to me! From Palm Oil and Pork to water and the dairy industry we tackle all the issues we saw as being on the brink of changing the outcome for people and the planet.
AM: You have a number of celebrities that are in each episode. What was the process like in creating the theme of each show and attaching the topics/celebs to each one?
NH: This one’s easy. We really tried to find people who can amplify the issue and really be a beacon for people to discuss the topics we covered for Food Exposed. Nicole really cares about making sure she has a zero waste household and campaigns for the issue too. Jordana, a Yale graduate, was passionate about understanding GMOs and Moby has been an advocate for animal rights for thirty years. It wasn’t that we had to find spaces for them—they fit very effortlessly into the discussions we are trying to have.
AM: There seems to be an interesting mix of food, activism as well as pop culture within this show, what topics would you like to tackle that you have yet to do in this season?
NH: Oh my goodness so so many. I want to understand where the future of our food productions lie. How will we feed the earth with the planetary space we have. It would be great to look into insect proteins, sustainable farms and clean meat too. So so many—you’re making me think about season two already...
AM: What celebs would you like to see in upcoming episodes?
NH: I think the issues and subjects drive the celeb interviews but I’d love to chat to Miley Cyrus and Chris Hemsworth about plant based eating, Mayim Bailik about the world's class based food production and I'd shoot for Leonardo DiCaprio or Vice President Al Gore about the environmental impact of food production. I can think of so many more, but what's interesting here is that these guys are using their talent gotten celebrity to drive discussions and issues. I have a lot of respect for that.
AM: What is your favorite episode in this season?
NH: You’re making me choose between my children. So hard to say! There are ones that have special places in my heart like the Dairy episode directed by Will West. I expected to see dairy cows treated horrifically by an industrial system rife in misinformation, but when I saw people treated as collateral damage I was shocked. Then there’s the Waste episode for which I teamed up with the folks at the World Food Program to launch the #recipefordisaster campaign. Together we are trying to nudge people to think differently about food and food waste, and a scene from the Waste episode of Food Exposed with Nelufar Hedayat (I eat a very brown banana) has become the symbol for the campaign, which is excellent. This is the kind of impact I would hope the films have.
AM: What have you learned about foods that you wouldn't have learned via this show?
NH: I think the one thing that I was really not expecting to find out was how interconnected we all are around the globe. You only have to look at where your strawberries and asparagus and beef jerky comes from, or know that our food system is an illiterate one that isn’t always efficient for the planet, but works towards the bottom line of corporations and the global commodities market. Whether we like it or not, a drought in west or South America is as important to us as whether the produce we are buying is in good shape or organic and so on. We have been purposefully and systematically removed from knowing where our food comes from and this allows those who want to make a profit at any cost to do so unscrupulously. We have to arm ourselves with information and knowledge in order to make choices we are comfortable with and not let them be made on our behalf as we are kept in the dark.
AM: What is the takeaway that you want viewers to have in watching your show?
NH: I think the takeaway would be to inform and engage people with how the food we eat is produced. There’s a very famous saying by Paul McCartney that "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” I think the same can be said for dairy farms in Wisconsin through to palm oil fields in Indonesia and GMO farms in Uganda. It’s easier to do something once we know. What I really don’t want to do is to prescribe a type of lifestyle to anyone. It’s absolutely not my intention to convert anyone to a certain type of diet. I think people make the best decisions for themselves and their communities when they know the truth about what’s going on and I’m trying to do that in one small way.
AM: Where are you based and in your area, where can we find you eating, shopping and going to work out?
NH: I’m based in London Town and you will always find me loitering near a Mildred or a good coffee shop. I tend to shop around East London, keeping it quirky, independent and local. I practically live online so Susi Studios is one of my favorite online stores. I’m also massively into Matt and Nat and other brands that are trying to bring new luxury design and innovative materials to the Fashion industry. It’s only now that I've turned thirty that I seem to have found my work out mojo and you will always find me running around Hampstead Heath Park or walking all over town!