By About Her Culture Team
Jessica Hylton-Leckie is the Jamaican creative behind the super-successful, vegan cooking blog, Jessica in the Kitchen.
Over the last decade, Jessica has amassed over 600 recipes on her blog and an Instagram following of over 250K and growing. She has also worked with many international mega-brands, including Silk, Ghirardelli, Fleischmann’s and Morningstar Farms. Her work has been featured across international media such as Huffington Post, SELF, Country Living and Yahoo! Food, to name a few.
Formerly a lawyer, years ago after she found that vegetarianism transformed her health, Jessica stepped away from her career to devote herself to the blog full-time. Considering the profound change the lifestyle has had on her, elevating her global audience’s physical and mental wellness through simple, easy recipes is core to Jessica’s mission.
In this interview, we talk to Jessica about how she has built a successful global platform, the challenges she has faced along the way, and the advice she’d give other young creatives in the Caribbean.
How has veganism changed your life, both personally and professionally?
Jessica: Wow, in so many ways! Funnily enough, being vegan has allowed me to eat way more variety of foods than I ever did before. I am constantly trying new cuisines, new styles of cooking, both savory and sweet, and I feel like I get an adventure every time I cook or eat out. I find that when I travel it also makes me delve deeper into the culture of where I’m at which has been wonderful. Of course it’s also helped me with feeling better overall, better sleep, more energy and other aspects too. Professionally, the vegan world has so many opportunities, and it feels great doing what I love while knowing I’m doing my best to help the environment and the animals too. It’s also been fun meeting other vegans in the blogging world, and as a result I have friends from all over the world! It has really taken me outside of my box.
What do you enjoy most about your work at Jessica in the Kitchen?
Jessica: Definitely interacting with readers. If I could do that all day, I would! I love learning about my readers, where they’re from, and helping them with cooking.
How do you want to positively impact the lives of women through your work?
Jessica: This is such a great question that I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before! It’s two fold: women I work with, and women who come across my work. I’m trying to live a life where I’m giving myself more grace, which has helped me to give the women I work with more grace. I strongly believe that releasing ourselves from the neverending pressure and expectations thrusted upon women in the work world will help us to do the same with others. Being a “softie” I’ve been criticized for not being “stronger”, but I just feel better this way. So, I try to give love, grace and kindness in my interactions. Regarding the women who come across my work, I also want to show and try to show that living your authentic self is the best way to operate. I try to show it in little ways – I’m a bit goofy, I love anime, and I love a great selfie; all while still being an incredible business woman. By showing both sides I want to show you can do both. You don’t need to lose your personality to succeed. Being you is important, all the time.
Do you think being a Jamaican has strengthened or set your brand apart in the vegan food blogger space?
Jessica: I think being Jamaican has taught me a kind of resilience that no one can take away from me. Doing this job from Jamaica was incredibly difficult, to put it lightly. But, I wanted to show up every single day just like my US counterparts despite the many struggles of operating this business from Jamaica. Everything I’ve gone through to still have made it successful lets me prove to myself time and time again that I’ve got this. In the vegan food space, I’ve just recently started to really embrace the Jamaican side, but I think it’s always shone through. Whether it’s my accent, or colorful approach to dishes, being unique and embracing that uniqueness, has definitely helped too!
What are 3 tips you’d give other Caribbean women creatives who are trying to build businesses beyond the confines of the region?
1. Don’t feel limited to your country. Your work is, and should be, good enough for the entire world! Having that mindset will set you apart and keep your goals in alignment.
2. Surround yourself as best as possible with other women either in your industry or other creatives who inspire you and want the best for you!
3. Just start. Sometimes we focus so much on what we can’t do with our limitations instead of what we can do. Your mindset and perspective will shift once you take a can-do attitude and approach and just start. Starting is the hardest step. It’ll all fall in line after that.
Is there anything new coming up for Jessica in the Kitchen we can look out for?
Jessica: I’m in a season of growing and improving on what I’m already doing, which I’m loving. Focusing on constantly making recipes better or tackling platforms in a new light has allowed me to continue to provide consistently great content and try some fun new ideas too!