PETA's Sexiest Vegan Next Door contest is in full swing, and two of South Florida's own made the finalist cut.
Mom, model, actress and part-time teacher, Aisha Thalia of Pembroke Pines beat out hundreds of entrants to earn a spot in the final round along with nine other ladies. On the male side, Korin Sutton of Delray Beach also made it to the top ten.
One guy and one gal will take home the Sexiest title, and each will win a free vacation for two to Maui, Hawaii, courtesy of Humane Travel.
"I am so excited to be a finalist and I have always been a huge fan of PETA's efforts to bring awareness to animal suffering," says Thalia of the honor. "Being a vegan is something I am very passionate about. Animal rights are so important to me. I entered the contest because I saw it as a great opportunity to spread the word about veganism."
"I want people to realize how easy it is to be vegan!" she adds. "There is vegan chicken, vegan sausage, vegan cheese and now it's easier than ever to find vegan restaurants and restaurants that may not be fully vegan but carry vegan options. Even Johnny Rockets has a vegan burger!"
Previously, Thalia suffered from anemia, low energy, and had early signs of cervical cancer, all of which vanished after she opted into a vegan lifestyle six years ago. Her waist size also dropped from 28 to 23 inches.
"I don't think people are aware that becoming a vegan can actually make you feel better as well. I used to suffer heavily from depression and I took mood stabilizers. I have not taken them since becoming vegan. My body feels balanced."
She frequently extolls the virtues of a plant-based diet to her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. Plus, Thalia volunteers at local women's groups and helps moms choose healthy, vegan snacks for their kids. Her daughter is also vegan, and schools her classmates on why they shouldn't eat meat.
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"Many people don't know what being a vegan means, they don't know what we eat, nor do they know about the insanely cruelties of factory farming. They aren't aware that the animals they eat were maimed and slaughtered with no anesthesia or that baby chicks are being ground alive. They aren't aware that pigs and cows are being punched and shot in the head or that chickens are in cramped cages - living in their own waste, hormones, steroids and antibiotics being pumped into these barely alive, tortured animals all to drive up profit. I need people to know where their food is coming from," she explains.
"I believe that my mission in life is to be a voice for the voiceless and I look at cow cruelty as the same as cat or dog cruelty. A dog's life is just as valuable as a pig's. They both have feelings. Every vegan saves about 100 animal lives a year. I am proud that vegans save lives," Thalia adds.
As far as Sutton, he's into going to the gym, surfing, practicing yoga, and meditating, according to his PETA profile. He's also a personal trainer with an all-vegan competitive muscle team, PlantBuilt. Clearly, he's shooting down stereotypes about plant-based protein.
Voting ends at noon EST on May 1. PETA will select the winners based on vote count in addition to other factors. You can cast your vote for our sexy locals at PETA.org.