Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Angelena Bonet of Crystal Heart Productions Is Helping To Change Our World
I think the most important thing is to surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people, including family members. Many women become very jealous of beauty, talent and someone in the limelight and can become very toxic and vindictive. I wish someone had really instilled this message in me as a young woman because I have a tendency to see the best in people and make excuses for their bad behaviour.
As part of my series about â€œindividuals and organizations making an important social impactâ€, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angelena Bonet.
Angelena Bonet is an Australian multi-award winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, singer-songwriter and inspirational speaker based in Toronto. She is a former international model and actress who has hosted the FIFA World Cup Show in Canada and then created Crystal Heart Productions eight years ago. She has created five documentary films, their original soundtracks/music videos, and two web series Heart Of The Matter and The Angelena Bonet Show. She writes, directs, edits and produces her work in their entirety, including co-writing and singing the soundtracks and describes it “purely as a labor of love”! Her documentary short film Change The World recently screened in Hollywood, Europe, South America and Japan and is now available on YouTube.
Angelena is the recipient of over 300 film festival awards worldwide, including the ‘Humanitarian Award’ at the Jane Austen International Film Festival in the U.K. and the ‘Human Spirit Award’ at the DOCS Without Borders Film Festival in The Bahamas. Her online talk show Heart Of The Matter has also won the Social Awareness Award (Award of Excellence) at the Vegas Movie Awards and it was her interviews that inspired the VMAs to create that specific category. She interviews inspiring women all around the world and from all walks of life and is dedicated to having women’s voices heard. She also reports on the red carpet of film premieres and award shows. Angelena has been a Jury member of The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA) for the past four years. Angelena is a regular keynote inspirational speaker and her films feature many of her public speeches. A natural and confident communicator, Angelena speaks from personal experience and the heart, whilst shedding light on human rights issues that generally get swept under the carpet. From Australian international model to multi-award winning singer-songwriter, documentary filmmaker and humanitarian she is devoted to shining a light on violence against women and her message is one of peace, love and unity. Angelena is a regular keynote speaker and her films feature many of her public speeches. A natural and confident communicator, Angelena speaks from the heart, whilst shedding light on human rights issues that generally get swept under the carpet.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia first appeared on national television at the age of four on a preschool show called Romper Room with my twin brother. It was filmed at Channel 7 Television Studios near where I lived and I remember having such a magical day. It no doubt had an impact on me. I began ballet lessons that same year and piano lessons at six. Dancing was my passion and I studied jazz and tap from the age of ten. I then continued my dance studies as well as singing and drama at The Australian College of Entertainment during high school. I loved school, particularly music and English classes and was a social butterfly! I then went to Business College at eighteen to study a Secretarial and Travel & Tourism course and was discovered at a hair salon that year and asked to model for a shoot that appeared in Vogue Australia. I then modeled part-time while studying and got my first office job as a secretary the following year. I signed with a top Sydney modelling agency at twenty and things just took off from there. The very next day I was booked on a television soap opera “Breakers” where they wrote me into the script and I was on that show, which aired in 50 countries, for the next two years. I was then on the cover with a ten page spread of the three biggest selling issues of ‘Inside Sport’ magazine and was named ‘The New Australian Supermodel’ on national news when I returned to Sydney after modeling in Milan.
In early 2010 I then signed with a talent agent in New York and moved to Toronto, Canada. I fell in love with the city, the people and loved working in their TV and Film industry. I hosted the FIFA World Cup Show that year and was on an episode of the TV Series ‘Ghostly Encounters’. I came home in 2012 for a visit and six days later I was a victim of a horrific violent crime in Melbourne. Once again my life was turned upside down and I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the crime and had to also deal with the police investigation. This experience changed my life and today I can say for the better. It completely opened my eyes to the pain of this world and the cruelty that some human beings are capable of inflicting and also opened my heart with a feeling of immense compassion for all of us women who have suffered. To say I was disgusted with my perpetrators is an understatement and I’d never felt such rage. Once again I was suicidal and this time I really didn’t think I could go on. I also lost loved ones afterwards because of their denial as they too had been manipulated by the main perpetrator and that was when I decided enough was enough and I was going to go public with this injustice. I was told by one of my case workers at the time that sexual violence against women is a silent global epidemic and that 1 in 3 women and girls will experience some kind of abuse in their lifetime. I couldn’t bear to think of another woman going through the suffering I was experiencing and I felt a very strong desire in my heart to help other people. This was before the #MeToo movement began and no-one was talking about rape but I found my courage and made the commitment that I would not be silenced, nor would I own any shame for their behaviour. I then began my humanitarian work in 2013 by aligning myself with ethical non-profit organizations that support women and girls. I believe that when we come together, with united voices, we can change the world. I started my production company Crystal Heart Productions when I returned to Toronto in September 2014 and I put all my energy into this. I was tired of the vacuous shows I kept seeing on television and wanted to channel my skills in front and behind the cameras into a show for women that had purpose and meaning. And that is how my vision for my talk show Heart Of The Matter was born. It was created from my heart to allow women to not just be seen but heard and in turn inspire each other. When I won the Social Awareness Award, the category that Vegas Movie Awards created after watching my show, I was truly touched because this project means so much to me. To contribute positively to society is what is really important to me. My journey has been very challenging and painful but also really beautiful and magical. I have gone with the flow and always followed my heart and woven my life into my art and I am very proud of what I’ve been able to overcome.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting story that has happened to me since leading my company is how over the course of my filmmaking career is how organic it has been. I began what I thought was to be a seven minute short film in early 2016 and that turned into a feature film, which turned into a sequel, which turned into a short film, which then turned into a trilogy then a tetralogy, two web series’, seven music videos and my non-profit volunteer work. Needless to say it has been so much work but had I known from the get go that this was the creative journey I was embarking on and would give birth to so many projects I would have run! I may have been daunted by the enormity of what I was doing but I have to say it has been so magical because I love expressing what is in my heart and seeing my vision come to life. The awards have been icing on the cake for me and that has been surprising also. I never thought about accolades and statuettes so to win over 300 so far around the world is something very difficult to describe and I am beyond grateful for this wonderful support.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the early stages of my career when I first started my modelling career and shooting with different photographers, I was doing a lot of beauty campaigns and fashion editorial. To fit those sample sizes you have been so thin and I tried to diet to reach that unhealthy weight and I realised that I wasn’t prepared to starve myself or jeopardise my health to fit some warped idea of beauty. I stayed my naturally slim shape and my modeling agent discovered that the swimsuit and lingerie clients loved my look and they are the markets I really excelled at. It was wonderful for me because I could do what I love but still eat hamburgers and pasta and live without constantly eating lettuce leaves and counting calories. I was not prepared to give up carbs because the body needs them. I do not advocate for size 0 and encourage women of all ages to embrace their natural body type and be the healthiest you can be while enjoying foods they love in moderation. There is no way I could have made four feature films, one documentary short film, seven music videos, two web series and everything else I have achieved without nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Food is medicine and fuel and restricting calories can negatively impact our healthy and beauty.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Creating Change The World and inspiring people around the world and touching their hearts is a wonderful gift that I am very grateful for. I have deep compassion for myself and every other woman who has suffered sexual violence and I am honored to use my voice for good and speak for those who can’t. My spirit couldn’t be silenced and to now be heard in every country is something so special and is very hard to describe. When I look back at what I have endured and the miracle of surviving the murder attempt to now winning these special awards is something I could never have imagined would happen! I vowed to make a stand and leave this world a better place than I found it and I am committed. Women are now finding their voice and self-worth and it is fabulous to see. I feel future generations will look back at this point in time with fascination, shock, and dismay and also awe at the courage women have shown by standing up and speaking out about the injustices and violence they have suffered since time immemorial. The social fabric is changing and I’m hopeful the momentum will continue and begin to move more quickly. I see the future in a positive light. I believe change is possible and that we are at the dawn of a new day. As more and more women are in leadership positions, the world will naturally become a more inclusive one and love will become the focus again. Violence will no longer be a silent global epidemic, all girls will receive an education, and helping others will become our primary goal. We have set the wheels in motion to ensure future generations have a safer and more equal world. By creating more social awareness and speaking out about violence against women is how I love to bring goodness to the world. I refuse to own any shame or be a victim and instead feel empowered. My message is one of peace, love and unity and being an example of how to turn tragic into magic is the legacy I am creating.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I had a great friend, Steve, in Toronto whom I met in 2010. He was a very talented musician and a lovely, gentle man who suffered mental health issues. He sadly passed away last April from an unrelated cause and I miss our friendship very much. He always told me that I inspired him and how my positivity and ability to overcome adversity had given him so much strength. He said I had a light around me and a sweet spirit that he found refreshing and inspirational. Knowing that I made a difference in his life really touched my heart. I have also met women at non-profit events that have come up to me after I have given a speech and said that they too were a victim of a violent crime and had never told anyone before but hearing me speak had given them the courage to speak about it and now report if to police. It is very difficult for many people to talk about their traumatic experiences but I am honored to be a voice for them and a friend who understands their pain and suffering. My message is all about standing up and speaking out and to not own any shame or let your perpetrators ruin the rest of your life. They are the cowards and you are a strong survivor who can thrive if you only make that choice for yourself. No one deserves any form of abuse. Period.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Violence against women is a worldwide emergency and needs to be treated as such. It’s also important to keep in mind that until one of us is free, none of us are free. When you look at the statistics of gender based violence it indicates that it this is a community, political and societal issue that desperately needs solving. I believe this problem can be solved from grassroots. It’s about people attending their local community events for non-profit organizations that stand up for women’s rights. People an also organize or attend local rallies that allow them to use their voice and demand change. We have never been more connected that now with our technology and social media so get involved with groups that align with your values and share their posts and even volunteer. We need government policies and laws changed to reflect our society today and that support victims not the criminals. I think we are all tired of leniency being shown to perpetrators for heinous crimes. The whole justice system urgently needs reform and corruption stamped out. It’s time for change and to put people’s lives above money and power. I envisage a world where people couldn’t conceive of hurting another individual or any life for that matter. We have a way to go but I feel we are on the right track if women keep using their voices to stand up for their rights. Why should we have to live in a world where this is accepted and ignored. It’s very simple — enough is enough!
How do you define Leadership? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. Many people get confused as to what leadership is. Many people think that being manager automatically makes you a leader but this is not so. It’s not about a title or seniority either. Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power. Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports”. There is no mention of personality traits, attributes, or even a title; there are many styles, many paths, to effective leadership. And it includes a goal, not influence with no intended outcome. Technically a leader could use social influence to just organize the efforts of others, but I think leadership is about maximizing the effort. An example of this is a new CEO is put in the position of overseeing 1000 employees. He never leaves his room, or utters a word to the men and women in his company. Perhaps routine orders are given through a Senior Executive. By default his employees have to “follow” orders. Is the CEO really a leader? Commander yes, leader no. Leadership is about being inspirational and leading others by example and I am proud to be a leader for women empowerment.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
If I knew just how hard my path was going to be and how much hard work I had ahead of me I would have been so daunted! So not knowing was my biggest blessing but here are my 5 things I wish someone told me when I first started…
1. I think the most important thing is to surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people, including family members. Many women become very jealous of beauty, talent and someone in the limelight and can become very toxic and vindictive. I wish someone had really instilled this message in me as a young woman because I have a tendency to see the best in people and make excuses for their bad behaviour.
2. Learning your craft is so important if you want to able to bring your vision to fruition yourself. I wanted to express my creativity myself so teaching myself to edit film was vital to making this happen. There are no short cuts to success or greatness and being passionate and doing the work is key.
3. Keep practising your instrument daily. I learned classical piano as a child and had a piano in my bedroom. When I got older and busier I wasn’t as diligent with my practice as I once was. I wish someone had told me that no matter what, make time each day to practice and keep your dexterity.
4. Learn the business. I think this is a hard one for many artists because we would rather put our energy out being creative, not dealing with the business side of things. I wish someone had told me the ugly side to the beautiful business. I lost many a modelling job because I wouldn’t sleep with the client but that is what I am most proud of. I never sold my soul and can look myself in the eye and got my jobs on merit alone.
5. Become self sufficient. I wish I had someone tell me years ago to hone skills behind the scenes as well as in the front of the cameras. I found this out later in my career and it has been a magical experience to grow as an artist and teach myself to edit film. I just didn’t know in the beginning of my career how important it was to be in control of your art and destiny and not rely on anyone else.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Creating Change The World and inspiring people around the world and touching their hearts is a wonderful gift that I am very grateful for. I have deep compassion for myself and every other woman who has suffered sexual violence and I am honored to use my voice for good and speak for those who can’t. My spirit couldn’t be silenced and to now be heard in every country is something so special and is very hard to describe. When I look back at what I have endured and the miracle of surviving the murder attempt to now winning these special awards is something I could never have imagined would happen! I vowed to make a stand and leave this world a better place than I found it and I am committed. Women are now finding their voice and self-worth and it is fabulous to see. I feel future generations will look back at this point in time with fascination, shock, and dismay and also awe at the courage women have shown by standing up and speaking out about the injustices and violence they have suffered since time immemorial. The social fabric is changing and I’m hopeful the momentum will continue and begin to move more quickly. I see the future in a positive light. I believe change is possible and that we are at the dawn of a new day. As more and more women are in leadership positions, the world will naturally become a more inclusive one and love will become the focus again. Violence will no longer be a silent global epidemic, all girls will receive an education, and helping others will become our primary goal. We have set the wheels in motion to ensure future generations have a safer and more equal world. My message is one of peace, love and unity and being an example of how to turn tragic into magic is the legacy I am creating.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is one by Audrey Hepburn:-
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”
I think those words of hers are magical, wise and true. And this came from one of the world’s most naturally beautiful women and it really touches a chord in my heart. If everyone lived by this mantra, could you imagine humanity’s potential? Inner beauty is what shines through and kindness and love is what makes the world go round. Being in the entertainment industry, physical beauty is vital but I really feel it’s important to remember that beauty is only skin deep and it’s what is on the inside that really counts.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Malala Yousafzai. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, born in Pakistan in 1997 and at a young age started speaking out about young girls’ rights to an education. She was shot by the Taliban in 2012 because of her efforts but survived, and she has since created the Malala Fund to help girls find educational opportunities. I love her courage and conviction in fighting for justice and giving girls all around the world a voice. I would love to congratulate her on her humanitarian efforts and discuss the possibility of collaborating on human rights events and public awareness campaigns.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can connect with me on the following socials:-
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/angelenabonetofficial/
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/angelenabonet/
Twitter — https://twitter.com/angelena_bonet1
Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/in/angelena-bonet-692a397a/
YouTube — @Angelena_Bonet
Website — https://www.angelenabonet.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you very much, I really appreciate it!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Angelena Bonet of Crystal Heart Productions Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.