Chicago's a city not exactly known for its healthy eating habits, something Edgewater resident Annie Fosnacht is hoping to change.
"You don't ever come across a vegan that goes ‘oh dude, this sucks,' " the 35-year-old said. "We want to share that it makes you feel so good."
Fosnacht, a public health professional at UIC, finds herself among the leading vote-getters in PETA's Sexiest Vegan Next Door competition.
With a trip to Hawaii going to the winner, Fosnacht said she knew she had to raise some eyebrows if she was going to be among the finalists.
Her entry, which features her topless in a red plaid skirt with her back turned toward the camera, has certainly gotten some attention, even if it wasn't entirely intentional.
"We took a whole bunch of pictures, and that one just happened to be the one where my face looked the best," she said. "I didn't mean for it to be as risqué as it was, but PETA kinda goes for shock value. As long as there was nothing actually showing, I figured it was OK."
Fosnacht, who has been a vegan since 2008, said she took up the lifestyle while training for her first Chicago Marathon.
"I was doing it for fitness, and I just had so much energy that I never looked back," she said.
She's not the only Chicagoan vying for votes though.
LaQuesha McClain, a 32-year-old Woodlawn resident, said she decided to enter the competition for a simple reason.
"I'm a personal trainer (at XSport in the South Loop), and I think that I'm pretty hot," she said. "It was just kind of a no-brainer."
McClain, who has been a vegan since October 2011, said she decided to enter the competition to show the world that vegans are not one-size-fits-all when it comes to body type.
"I'm actually quite muscular and curvy," she said. "I'm different. If you look at my picture and look at me, I'm not the stereotypical vegan."
PETA will select two winners--one male and one female--from 20 finalists comprised of 10 men and women chosen by the popular vote as well as 10 "judges' picks."
With voting set to close Friday, both say they're pulling out all the stops to make sure they're among the finalists.
"I need to be creative and think up some new ways for votes," Fosnacht said. "I keep posting on Twitter and Facebook. I have a friend who works at (WTMX-FM) 101.9, so he's gonna try and send out some tweets when he's DJ-ing."
McClain is opting for a different tactic.
"I'm asking people at my job, and I'm definitely asking clients," she said. "Even my favorite spots that I go to like Starbucks and Panera, if they have their computers out, I'm helping them get to the site as well as talking to the people that I know."
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.
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