What has become crystal clear over the past several years is that audiences have an obsession with con artist dramas. The now infamous Netflix series Bad Vegan tells the sordid story of Sarma Melngailis, owner of the successful vegan, raw food restaurant — Pure Food and Wine. However, Sarma rocked the NYC culinary scene once she met (and married) ex-con turned skilled con artist, Anthony Strangis — aka Shane Fox.
The series is packed full of bizarre and — at times — implausible promises and actions by both Melngailis and Strangis as they collectively run her restaurant (and reputation) to the ground, pocket millions from investors, and effectively go on the run. Sarma’s reasoning? Anthony promised her both unbridled fortune for her and eternal life for her beloved pitbull, Leon. While there is already a lot to take in from the series, there is more to Netflix’s recent hit than director/executive producer Chris Smith (Fyre, Tiger King) touched upon. Given Smith’s success in fueling a demand for more con artist stories, it may come as a surprise that he chose to leave several juicy tidbits out of the final cut.
She Paid Her Employees With Netflix Money
There are many ethics surrounding the making of documentaries, and one such ethical practice is to not pay either the participants or subjects. In the case of Bad Vegan‘s Sarma, however, this unwritten rule was simply not the case.
When Sarma and Anthony went on the run, they left behind a mass of angry, jilted employees, who were left high-and-dry without payment. However once the docuseries was finalized, Netflix execs decided to pay the balance of Sarma’s substantial debt. As she states on her website, Sarma Raw, “the producers made an exception so that I could pay the total amount my former employees were owed — amounts that accrued after my disappearance in 2015.” It seems her former employees have at least one reason to celebrate the series.
She Is “Not In Touch With Anthony Strangis”
Arguably, one of the most unsettling parts of Bad Vegan is its closing, in which Sarma has a phone call with Strangis — clearly after all the prison drama ensued. Audiences were left feeling that she had, in fact, learned nothing and that she was in danger of rejoining her estranged husband. According to Sarma, however, that wasn’t how it all went down.
The way Sarma tells it on her website, the infamous call(s) occurred while the documentary was being shot. She goes on to claim that “the call at the end was a staged call, recorded for the documentary, a small slice of which was misused to represent something that’s the opposite of true.” Though this partially explains why the conversation was included, she then goes on to say, “The reasons were related to my and Leon’s safety, and they were strategic. Later, it was specifically to gather material for Bad Vegan. Those calls were difficult to make.” Whatever her official reasoning, she refers to Netflix’s handling of the ending as “disturbingly misleading.”
Sarma Didn’t Want To Get Married
Not unlike Sarma’s employees and friends, audiences were left feeling confused about her quick and “romantic” wedding to Mr. Fox. Despite her lack of romantic feelings toward him, she chose to tie the knot in an impromptu wedding ceremony, and she invited no one.
In her blog entry entitled “ABOUT BAD VEGAN – PART ONE“, Sarma states, “The idea that I would do all of that only to then run away with a man I hated and feared makes no sense. I didn’t want to marry him, and that part of the story was inaccurately condensed.” She further explains that she only married him after he “badgered” her about it for months, but that particular level of justification seems to generate more questions than answers.
Anthony Forbade His “TBH” From Taking Public Transportation.
Among all the bizarre means of control and general mind-trickery used by serial con artist Anthony (or Shane, depending on the day), not being able to take the subway is an added weird tidbit not mentioned in the series.
According to Sarma, Anthony didn’t allow her to take the NYC subway, as doing so would compromise her life, somehow. In 2016, she wrote a letter to “Mr. Fox”, as she so often referred to him, bemoaning her lack of underground freedom due to her being his “precious and valuable tiny blonde human” (TBH). She also tries her hand at comedy, explaining another reason for Anthony’s control of her metro habits when she says, “I was not allowed to take the subway. As if it was beneath me (pun!).” Now, of course, she doesn’t have many other options.
She Has Written A Book About The Whole Ordeal
Nowadays, it’s like everyone writes a book about their well-known experiences, capitalizing on fame and infamy, alike. Sarma, it appears, is no different. Though, seeing as she journals habitually, it should come as no surprise.
On her website, Sarma mentions that while she has not yet secured a publisher (it isn’t clear whether she has tried), she has nearly completed her written account of her experience. Her reasoning for the tell-all (she claims) is one of benevolence: “What I want now is just to put my own words out there—words that I hope will help some people feel less alone with their own nightmares, or even maybe help someone gather the strength to escape one. And for me, these words may help some people better understand the truth of what happened, how things were, and how I feel about that man.” Fans of the series will surely love to hear what else she has to say.
Several Unmentioned Celebrities Frequented The Restaurant
Located in Manhattan, the restaurant was a popular one among A-list celebrities, but Alec Baldwin was not the only regular to visit the NYC hotspot. As highlighted in the series, Baldwin, a swing-and-miss love interest for Melngalis, would go on to meet his future wife, Hilaria Baldwin, at that very establishment.
Netflix compiled a list of A-list celebrity patrons on their clever, phonetically-named site, Tudum, and some names may come as a surprise. Couples Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady and Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri visited the eatery. Others named include Katie Holmes, Woody Harrelson, Jimmy Fallon, Alicia Silverstone, Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Howard Stern, and even Bill Nye. Also listed are stars such as Stevie Wonder, Daryl Hannah, and former American president, Bill Clinton. Unfortunately for these celebs, they would have to find another trendy, must-try restaurant to get their vegan on.
She Had A Romantic Relationship With Her (Married) Attorney
After ditching her lawyer in 2017, Sarma hired defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, and the two of them reportedly went on to have a romantic relationship before her trial — despite the father of two being married for years. To note, Sarma was still wed to Strangis at the time, so it was a messy situation all around.
Luckily for Sarma, Smith did not include the sordid affair in the film, though the New York Post did manage to get ahold of “100s of text messages” between the two, publishing some of the NSFW material on their site. Sarma, understandably, has never addressed the affair publicly.
She Is Really Unhappy With How The Docuseries Turned Out
According to Sarma’s Instagram, Netflix (aside from paying her debts), mislead the public by sensationalizing her life experiences. It is an ongoing theme throughout her social media — one that speaks to her desired need to vindicate herself and justify her actions.
The main issue for her is the idea that she was portrayed as both negligent and culpable, rather than as the victim she believes herself to be. While it is clear that she recognizes the pain and embarrassment she caused, her understanding of her situation clashes with that of Smith’s, as she sees herself solely as the victim of “psychological abuse.”
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