What's The Meat Suit In Bad Vegan?

The Netflix series "Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives." is a true crime documentary and the latest project from Chris Smith, who executive produced the wildly popular "Tiger King" series. As detailed in the trailer, "Bad Vegan" explores the bizarre story behind the downfall of restaurateur Sarma Melngailis, once dubbed "the raw vegan queen" for her landmark New York City restaurant, Pure Food and Wine. But after she and her husband, Anthony Strangis, became fugitives and were then arrested and convicted for embezzlement and fraud, that moniker changed to "the vegan Bernie Madoff." 

The entire story behind the crimes and relationship of Melngailis and Strangis is packed with odd details, like promises of literal immortality, an alleged former life as a black ops soldier, and a belief in alternate realities. However, one of the more eyebrow-raising terms heard in the trailer and series is "meat suit" — a phrase that conjures up strange mental images no matter what the context, but especially while watching a documentary about a vegan restaurant owner. 

In one of the series' interviews, a narrator says to a former Pure Food and Wine employee, "You know about the meat suit?" And her response is priceless.     

It's strange, but not nearly as bad as it sounds

In the "Bad Vegan" interview with former restaurant manager Bonnie Crocker, when asked about the meat suit, Crocker's first response is an almost hopeful, "Lady Gaga's meat suit?" (Crocker was referring to the singer's raw meat dress worn at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.) She then apprehensively asks, "What is the meat suit? Oh no ... what's the meat suit?" Crocker tells the interviewer that she's "going to need a minute" as she drops her head in her hands and starts laughing.

Vanity Fair journalist Allen Salkin shares in the series that "meat suit" was a term used by Anthony Strangis referring to the weight he put on during his marriage to Sarma Melngailis. Melngailis says that Strangis claimed the meat suit (the excess weight) was intentional, one of a series of "tests" he'd created so she could prove her loyalty to him. In a text message shared in the show, Strangis writes, "I am fat for you." 

The series reveals that tests like these were present at the very beginning when Melngailis met Strangis for the first time and discovered that his appearance didn't match the "big, strong guy" persona he had painted of himself online, that he was using a false name, and had an arrest record. Though Melngailis chose to overlook these, the series demonstrates that they were just the tip of the iceberg of Strangis' long con.