Venus A Vegan, Williams Explains She’s Shunning Meat Due To Illness

Venus Williams is a vegan now, the tennis star dished to the New York Times, but the stylish athlete also admits that the dietary choice is not all that ideological in nature — and she dubs herself a “cheagan.”

Now that Venus is a vegan, she says, it hasn’t translated to some automatic rejection of tasty, tasty animal flesh — and while “cheagan” may sound like a new club feature from Saturday Night Live‘s Stefon, the tennis pro parses the portmanteau she created to explain snatching bites of steak off fellow diners’ plates. (“Cheagan” is a mashup of “cheating vegan.”)

Venus as a vegan is definitely not of the “I lost my taste for prime rib immediately, tofu is where it’s at” crown, and the one half of the Serena and Venus power duo describes her personal veganism as a bit more flexible.

Sure to annoy purer vegans, Venus explains:

“If it’s on your plate, I might get to cheat. If you’re sitting next to me, good luck. You turn your head once and your food might be gone.”

The tennis star, fresh off an Australian Open campaign win against Galina Voskoboeva, joked about a Venus vegan diet:

“I think it’s pretty well known I’m a cheagan … I’m not perfect, but I try.”

Luxembourg Open winner Venus Williams
So if rejecting meat isn’t the reason, why is Venus a vegan? It goes back to her diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome a while back and a desire to help her body deal with the illness through diet as well as other treatment. Eschewing animal products can help the athlete reduce inflammation, she says, and in turn lessen the symptoms of the disease and their effect on her life.