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Career

Suzy Amis Cameron and James Cameron's organic Kiwi business venture

Suzy met her Hollywood director husband James on the set of his movie Titanic. Their amazing journey together has led them to an eco-friendly business right here in New Zealand.

By Nicky Pellegrino
She has been a top international model and a Hollywood star, is married to a movie mogul and is a mother-of-five. But at 56, Suzy Amis Cameron feels like she has found her true purpose in life.
"My personal mission statement is to make the world a better place for all our children," she explains.
Suzy has appeared in hit movies like Titanic, where she played Lizzy Calvert, the granddaughter of Rose, and The Usual Suspects.
She and her husband, Avatar director James Cameron, now own a 5000-hectare farm in the South Wairarapa, where they grow organic fruit, nuts and vegetables. Nearby in Greytown, they run a café and grocery store, Forest Food Organics, selling produce from their land.
Suzy and James met on the set of Titanic.
Both have been devotees of plant-based eating ever since they watched documentary Forks Over Knives six years ago. It told of the impact, on the wellness of our bodies and the planet, of diets high in meat and other animal products.
"I was blindsided by the whole thing," recalls Suzy. "And I was angry. I felt like I'd been lied to my whole life."
James was just as strongly affected. Within 24 hours, they had cleared every bit of meat and dairy out of the kitchen of their Malibu home, including the organic goat cheese from their own herd.
With Titanic co-stars Bill Paxton and Gloria Stuart.
They closed down the dairying operations on their farm, even though everyone told them they were mad, and went instantly 100% plant-based.
"That's kind of how we roll," admits Suzy with a laugh. "We have a motto we joke about – 'Go big or go home.' We don't go halfway on anything."
The whole family felt more healthy and youngest daughter Rose stopped complaining of stomach aches. "There was even a day when I said to Jim, 'This is going to sound weird, but do colours look brighter to you?'" recalls Suzy.
As she learned more about plant-based diets, she became convinced they are the answer to preventing heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and reducing inflammation in the body.
Even more important is the impact what we put on our plates can have on the planet.
"My personal journey is all about the environment," Suzy tells. "It's what wakes me up in the morning with a pit in my stomach – what kind of planet are our children going to grow up in?"
She worries about the amount of water and land that farming animals requires, and about how it contributes to deforestation and global warming.
However, Suzy learned early on that no-one wants to be preached at and most of us aren't prepared to switch instantly to a plant-based lifestyle the way she and James did.
So she has come up with a clever concept, described in her new book OMD: Change the World by Changing One Meal a Day.
"Just one person eating one plant-based meal per day for a year saves 200,000 gallons of water and the carbon equivalent of driving from Los Angeles to New York," she explains.
"If enough people did it, we could help shift the needle on climate change. You don't have to be perfect – you can have your eggs in the morning or your burger at night. It's very doable and easy, and it's a way everyone can help to make a difference."
Her book is packed full of recipes, ideas and eating plans. Of course, Suzy's hope is that one meal a day will become two and eventually we will transition to being fully vegan.
She has already convinced other people to make the change, including New Zealand's Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and her husband David Gascoigne.
"When we bought our farm, they were our next-door neighbours and they were the first people who invited us over," recalls Suzy. "She's become my girlfriend. When we went plant-based, they were curious about it."
Suzy and James have a gift they like to give. Known as "the bag", it is stuffed with DVDs, books and vegan snacks. They gave one to Patsy as a Christmas present.
"Immediately they switched the way they were cooking and eating."
Having retired from acting 22 years ago to focus on her children – Jasper (now 28), Josa (25), Claire (17), Quinn (15) and Rose (11) – Suzy never expected to be back in the limelight. As a young girl growing up in Oklahoma, she had no clue she had star potential.
"I was painfully, horribly shy," she recalls. "I knew I had a brain, but I didn't have any confidence about the way I looked. All my girlfriends had beautiful dark lashes and brows, and skin that tanned easily. I was as fair as could be, with long red hair and white eyelashes."
Suzy's plan was to be a flying vet. She only started modelling to earn the money to buy a saddle for her horse. But then her modelling coach sent shots of her to the legendary agent Eileen Ford and at 17, Suzy found herself being hailed as "the face of the '80s" and living in Paris.
She met James when he cast her in his hit 1997 film Titanic. "People always ask if it was love at first sight. It wasn't, but he was really cool. We're both thrill-seekers, and love scuba diving and flying planes."
Suzy's cafe and grocery store focuses on plant-based produce.
The family now has NZ residency and is looking forward to living here next year once shooting on the two Avatar sequels begins. "I'm really excited we'll be here during the winter months so I can go skiing."
There won't be much time for relaxing, however. Suzy is the co-founder of alternative school Muse.
She is also working on a range of OMD food products and is promoting the one-meal-a-day movement all around the world.
"The kids are always saying, 'Mom, you work so hard,' but I don't think of it as work," declares Suzy. "I want to spread this message and do everything possible to make a difference. And since I'm plant-based, I have lots of energy!"

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