You probably know that vegans don't eat animal products, eschewing not only meat, but dairy products, eggs, and (for some) honey, and leather/wool/animal-derived clothing too. You might also know that it's easier than ever to be vegan (perhaps you've noticed that many food chains now label dishes as such, and that vegan recipes abound) and that veganism is linked to long-term health.

There are vegan ironmen and athletes, scholars, mothers and children; they come from all walks of life. I'll let one of the most well-known vegans, Ellen DeGeneres, explain why veganism matters to her in the video below.

Even if you knew all of this already, you might not know about these other accomplished folks who are vegans.

Venus Williams

Photo: Justin Hoch for the Hudson Union Society/Wikimedia Commons

Venus Williams switched to a plant-based diet in 2011 after she was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an auto-immune disease. Her comeback post-diagnosis (and the fact that she has said she feels great), sounds like it can be attributed to her new way of eating.

Betty WhiteBetty White can be called a national treasure at this point without hyperbole. And the hilarious 92-year-old has long been passionate about animals. She talked to the hosts of "The View" about why she feels so strongly about non-human life: "They never lie to you. You know when they tell you something, they mean it. They love you unconditionally." Her animal love extends to not eating them and she's been vegan for years.

Jessica ChastainJessica Chastain is not only a vegan (for the last five or so years; before that she was vegetarian for 15 years), she has a three-legged rescue dog named Chaplin. She was named PETA's "Sexiest Vegetarian" in 2012, the same year she was added to the Time 100 list of most influential people in the world. 

Mike Tyson

Photo: Brian Birzer/Wikimedia Commons

Mike Tyson told Ann Curry that he made a clean-living change,and became vegan at the same time, losing 100 pounds in the process: "I just threw up the white flag. Too many prison cells, jail, too many lawsuits, too many bankruptcies, too many women, too many venereal diseases, too many everything. I got tired."

Jonas von EssenJonas von Essen is the World Memory Champion, and a vegan. The Swedish-born competitor beat out contestants from throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas to walk away with the title. 

Carl Lewis

Photo: Manfred Werner-Tsui/Wikimedia Commons 

Carl Lewis has won 10 Olympic medals (nine of them gold!) and has credited his vegan diet with his successes in track and field. “I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete ... if you nourish [your body] properly, it will be good to you and you will increase its longevity,” he has said. 

Olivia Wilde

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons 

Olivia Wilde is thoughtful about her impact — so much so that she has founded Conscious Commerce, a website that highlights all manner of ethically made products. While she was on-and-off vegan during her pregnancy, she said she was jumping back on again post-baby (her son, Otis, was born in April 2014). She told,  “[Being vegan] is not always easy and accessible. But it’s a way of life and makes me as a person feel really good and physically look better.” 

Al Gore

Photo: stocklight/Shutterstock

Former President Bill Clinton is well-known for embracing the vegan life, but former Vice President Al Gore is also a vegan now, too. According to the Washington Post, he is investing in the up-and-coming animal-free foods company Hampton Foods.

Cesar ChavezCesar Chavez, the famous labor leader and civil rights advocate, was a vegan because he believed in rights for animals, too. His neice, Camila Chavez (who has followed in his footsteps and is vegetarian) said of her uncle, "Cesar was a vegan. He didn’t eat any animal products. He was a vegan because he believed in animal rights but also for his health." 

UsherUsher went vegan in 2012 and a source told RadarOnline that the crooner "... frequents a few vegan restaurants in New York City and not only loves the food, but feels like it's the healthiest way to live." 

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Photo credits for smaller photos:

Betty White:  David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

Jessica Chastain: gdcgraphics/Wikimedia Commons

Cesar Chavez: Joel Levine/Wikimedia Commons

Usher: Ames Friedman/Flickr

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

10 unexpected vegans
Do you think you know what a vegan looks like? If so, this list of folks who eschew animal products might surprise you.