Jamaican American Businesswoman Surprises Atlanta High School and Sponsors Their Prom

Jamaican American Pinky Cole Hayes, the founder of the Slutty Vegan, a plant-based burger restaurant chain, surprised the students at Benjamin E. Mays High School in Atlanta, Georgia, by announcing that her foundation will sponsor this year’s school prom, which is scheduled for April 27, 2024. Through the Pinky Cole Foundation, Cole Hayes is a strong supporter of the communities where her businesses are located. She said she was “thrilled” to support Mays High School and its goal of inspiring and challenging students toward attaining their academic, social, and future goals.

Former prom queen

Cole Hayes shared that she had been the prom queen at her high school and has cherished memories of the event. She added that it was important to her to contribute to community support by helping its members have positive and memorable experiences. Her foundation will cover the costs of catering, attired, deejay entertainment, decorations, and souvenirs for Mays students. She visited the school on April 22, 2024, to talk with students and announce her prom sponsorship.

Gratitude from the school

Dr. Lizzette Kenly, chair of the ELA department and the school’s prom coordinator, thanked the Pinky Cole Foundation for its sponsorship and noted how important it was for sponsors to inspire students through their support. Mays High serves some 1,300 minority students and has a graduation rate of about 71 percent. Among its notable alumni are Atlanta’s mayor, Andre Dickens; Representative Mesha Mainor; NFL players Tyrell Adams, Reggie Wilkes, and Natrez Patrick; singer Rozonda Thomas of TLC; NBA players DeAngelo Yancey and Gerald Wilkins; MLB player, Xzavion Curry; actress Adrienne C. Moore; and Walter Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University. The school is named for  Benjamin E. Mays, who served as the president of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967, an advisor to US presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, and was a member of the Board of Education in Atlanta for nine years. He was also its first Black president.

Jamaican American Owner of Vegan Restaurant on Cover of Essence - Aisha Pinky Cole

About Pinky Cole

Aisha “Pinky” Cole was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Her parents are Jamaican immigrants and Rastafarians. Ichelle Cole, her mother, is a musician with Strykers’ Posse, a reggae group. Her father was in prison for the first two decades of Cole Hayes’ life and then deported to Jamaica. A vegetarian since 2007, she became a vegan in 2014. Cole Hayes earned a BA from Clark Atlanta University, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. She then traveled to New York to work in television production. Pinky’s Jamaican and American Restaurant, her first, opened in Harlem but closed in 2016 following a fire that prompted her return to Atlanta where she served as casting director for programs like “Iyania: Fix My Life.”

Evolution of the Slutty Vegan

Cole Hayes started her vegan burger business via delivery applications in 2018 and opened her Slutty Vegan food truck later in the year. She launched the first Slutty Vegan restaurant in 2019, and by 2023, had expanded to 11 locations throughout Georgia, New York City, Birmingham, and Dallas. Her inspiration for the restaurant stemmed from her desire to find vegan “junk food.” She wrote her cookbook, “Eat Plants, B*tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat-Loving Mind,” in 2022. Several recipes from the book were published on “Oprah Daily,” and VegNews named it among the top 100 vegan cookbooks of all time in 2024. In 2023, she was named to the Time magazine “100 Next” list, which described her work as reinventing how people perceive a vegan restaurant and transforming classic burgers into “a rollicking party.”

Cole’s philanthropy

Cole Hayes has also pursued an active philanthropic career, With Stacy Lee, who had attended Clark Atlanta University with the restauranteur, Cole Hayes paid the tuition costs for 30 of the university’s senior students in 2019. In 2022, she donated an LLC to each graduating student at the university’s commencement ceremony. The Pinky Cole Foundation’s mission is to provide financial support and educational programs for children of color.