Never Underestimate a Vegan Hippie Chick with a Race Car; Fighting for a Better Future with Leilani
Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?
Leilani Münter: Waking up and fighting for a better future for our planet and the incredible animals we share it with. Clean energy, electric cars, animal rights, and plant-based diet are some of the issues I fight for.
MP: You are a badass in a male-dominated field. What is it like breaking boundaries in your field?
LM: I don’t know what it’s like to be anything other than a woman in my sport, so I’m not sure how it is for the guys coming in, but I definitely faced a lot of sexism when I came into this sport, from both the fans and people within the sport. Female racers develop a very thick skin very early on, otherwise you would never survive here. It’s much better than it was, and there are some people in racing who are very kind to me, but overall the sport certainly doesn’t roll out the red carpet for female drivers when we first arrive in the garage area. But I think that is to be expected in a male-dominated sport like racing. I didn’t expect it to be easy.
MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
LM: Please make your next car electric, put solar panels up on your roof, and go vegan.
MP: Your EffOil license plate on your Tesla has become pretty famous. What's the most important thing we should know about clean energy?
LM: Clean energy is our future and there is no turning back. The price of solar has dropped by 80% in the last five years and currently every 2.5 minutes a solar array is going up on a home or business in the United States. I have driven over 27,000 miles in my Tesla, and with the solar panels on my roof, I am driving on sunshine. It doesn't get any better than that!
MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?
LM: You have to find an inner peace that stays with you even among the chaos all around you. I think that racing has taught me how to do that, even when I am going 190 mph into a corner with racecars all around me. I feel a deep sense of calm in the racecar. I think there might be something about that, that I am able to take with me when I climb out of the car. When I am home, which these days is rare, I like to do hot yoga.
MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?
LM: I started a bucket list in high school, and some people have told me they think that’s morbid, but I think I just realized from a young age that our time on Earth is limited, so I have always lived with that in the back of my mind. I still have a bucket list, and as I check things off, I add more. It’s never ending!
MP: What truth do you know for sure?
LM: That animals feel as deeply as we do and that is why I will fight for the animals who don’t have a voice to fight for themselves.
MP: Any health tips for staying in optimum shape?
LM: Go vegan! Listen to what your body craves. It’s always worked for me.
MP: Tell me if you have a yoga or mindfulness practice. What influence has it had on your life?
LM: I love doing hot yoga and it prepares me for the stamina I need to be in a race car for long periods of time. I have driven in races where it was 155 degrees in my race car and I am in a fireproof racing suit and a full face helmet, so believe me I need all the help to be as prepared as I can for that kind of heat!
MP: What is love for you?
LM: Love is having compassion for others, including other species. This is my favorite quote about compassion. It’s by Andrew Boyd and I think it sums up what every animal rights activist feels inside: “Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for every - thing. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”
MP: Causes or organizations that you're passionate about?
LM: I am on the board of the Oceanic Preservation Society, the makers of the Academy Award-winning film The Cove and the upcoming documentary Racing Extinction. I also sit on the advisory board of The Solutions Project, which is a nonprofit working to accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy across the United States. I also volunteer for Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, and I am passionate about any organization fighting for animal rights and the vegan diet.
MP: Tell me about your latest projects.
LM: I am working on launching a vegan clothing line called VegNation. The clothes are sustainable, 100% made in the USA in a facility powered by 100% solar power! I have been working with the Oceanic Preservation Society on Racing Extinction, and we just had an amazing event in New York City where we lit up the Empire State Building with endangered species. It was magical to see New York City stop and gaze up to the sky and see the beauty of all these amazing creatures we are losing. We just finished filming Racing Extinction which I have been working on for three and a half years now, and I hope it will have a big impact. It will have a theatrical release in September and will air worldwide on Discovery Channel on December 2.
MP: Why are these important to you?
LM: This is what I live for. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning: fighting for our planet and the beautiful creatures we share it with. It gives purpose to my life.