Angelena Bonet was a world-class supermodel. She spent years working in television as an actress and TV show host, and she modelled for top brands known around the world. However, Angelena’s life changed forever in 2012. The victim of a violent crime, Angelena was forced to pick up the pieces of her life after a traumatic attack by a group of men. Using her experience, Angelena created a documentary to tell her story. In doing so, it helped the former supermodel to cope with the effects of her attack.
Angelena has worked tirelessly since 2014 as a women’s rights activists. She hopes to help women who have suffered similar experiences to live fulfilling lives.
Now an award winning documentary filmmaker, Angelena has her sights set on producing a second film. She hopes to continue to tell her story, and help women across the globe fight to be heard.
Angelena, please tell us about Crystal Heart Productions and its latest achievements.
Crystal Heart Productions all began when I was in Toronto, Canada in 2014. I had been a professional model, actress and TV Host for 20 years, and the kind of show I really wanted to host didn’t exist; so I decided to create my own. I had been a victim of an extremely violent crime in 2012 in Melbourne, Australia, and as a consequence, retired from modelling shortly thereafter due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I had been kidnapped, gang raped and miraculously survived the attempted murder. Suicidal and struggling to recovery from the horrific attack, my heart felt excruciating pain and because I loved and trusted my perpetrator, this evil betrayal only exacerbated the trauma. My compassion for other victims of sexual violence was so strong that I knew I wanted to help ease their pain. In September 2014, I came up with the idea of having an online journalist program and calling it ‘Heart Of The Matter’. I interviewed women and girls from all walks of life from all around the world, so our voices could be heard. I was determined to channel my pain and sense of injustice into something positive and allow us all to unite and share our stories. I refer to this as turning tragic into magic and my vision is one of unity, harmony and healing.
Since the show began, I was in Sydney in February 2016 interviewing on the red carpet of a film festival and making a public speech at the V Day Organization event when a good friend of mine suggested that I make a short film about my life and enter it into the film festival the following year. I was initially hesitant, but the idea created a spark. Once I began putting clips together, it just took on a life of its own. I was connecting footage and interviews, and this short film turned into a 13 month long project and a feature film length documentary chronicling my life to the present day. It is called Angelena: Change The World and is currently on the international film festival circuit. I have won two Awards Of Recognition for Documentary Feature Film category at the Impact DOCS Film Awards and the Accolade Global Film Competition in the US. I have also received three nominations thus far at the World Music & Independent Film Awards for Best Documentary Feature, Best Director and Best Female Filmmaker. I produced my documentary in its entirety, including editing and co-writing the musical score with my dear late fiancé, Erick Deeby. It was definitely a labor of love, but just like when I wrote the lyrics and melody to the instrumental pieces of music Erick had written for me during my time of deep grief, it had a very healing effect on me and to be receiving this recognition is just so humbling and a wonderful feeling.
From supermodel to global women’s rights activist. Why and how?
My inner world had changed in an instant in 2012 and my heart was forever changed also. My initial focus became the police investigation and healing myself by finding balance on a mind, body, spirit level. The following year, I was named the Australian Ambassador for World Mental Health Day and was an invited guest to Amnesty International’s Women’s Leadership Event and their Stop Torture Campaign launch in Sydney. I began contacting non-profits and offering my services. My interest in modeling seemed to pale in comparison to speaking out on issues that were close to my heart. I then got involved with the R U Ok? Suicide Prevention initiative, and went to high schools to speak to the students about my journey and how to reach out for help. I am now an official blogger for OXFAM International and a huge supporter of the V Day One Billion Rising Organisation founded by the incredible Eve Ensler, the global women’s rights activist and Tony award-winning playwright. I recently made a public speech when she visited Sydney in September, and it was a huge honor to meet her. Whilst I loved my career as an international model and enjoyed much success, my work as a global women’s rights activist brings me the most joy and an enormous sense of satisfaction. Giving back to our community and world, and connecting with people and sharing compassion and empathy, to me, is the most beautiful aspect of human nature. I always say that when we stand together with united voices, we can change the world. I hope this will be my legacy.
You recently won a prestigious Award of Recognition from The Accolade Global Film Competition for your documentary feature film Angelena: Change The World. What does that mean to you?
Winning the Award Of Recognition from The Accolade Global Film Competition and the Impact DOCS Film Awards is truly an honor and I feel so grateful. To have your hard work and journey acknowledged by such prestigious film festivals is humbling to say the least, and I just did not expect any of this to happen. My goal was to tell my story, the whole story and overcome my fear of reliving and sharing my tragedies, my pain and release the shame and show people my vulnerability. I made myself look at my wounds and my life and it was a very difficult process. Awards and accolades were the furthest thing from my mind. One of my biggest driving forces was that I made my late fiancé, Erick, a promise at his bedside whilst in a coma, that somehow, someday I would finish our special project. Suddenly and unexpectedly, three days after we got engaged in August 2007, he suffered a massive heart attack in our Sydney apartment. He died in my arms as I desperately called for an ambulance and performed CPR. He was in a coma for a week and tragically had to turn his life support off. I lived my worst nightmare… To have finished our album and included it as the film’s soundtrack has brought me a sense of peace and I know he would be so proud of me. It is our love that has kept me going and I am proud to be able to share our music, which was written from our heart and soul.
Tell us how your career began and what have been some of the highlights?
My career really began as a child. I had a piano in my bedroom and began classical lessons at the age of six. I went to the Sydney Opera House in kindergarten for a school excursion to see the Nutcracker Suite and I was just mesmerised! I couldn’t believe how beautiful and magical the ballerinas were and I immediately begged my mom for ballet lessons! I was hooked on music and dancing and expressing myself in that art form and I continued jazz, tap and funk lessons until my late teens. I also took acting and singing classes and performed concerts and eisteddfods. My career took its natural progression after school when I kept getting approached to model. My first photoshoot was Vogue Australia and things just seemed to move really fast. I was an extra on a soap opera based in Bondi Beach and after a few times of being on set, the producers called my agent and offered me a role for the next two years. Breakers aired in more than 50 countries and I really gained much experience as an actress, the television business and was very grateful for that opportunity. I won the Miss Bondi Bikini Competition and then Miss East Coast of Australia and those two accolades launched my modeling career. I landed three of the biggest selling covers of Inside Sport Magazine, which was the equivalent of Sports Illustrated in Australia. I then modeled for Elle MacPherson’s Lingerie range for eight years and was even on the US TV Series JAG when they filmed in Australia. I have had many highlights which you will see in my documentary, but definitely modeling in Milan, Italy and then returning to Australia and being named our new “Supermodel” is something I will never forget. It was just so exciting, because I had worked very hard to achieve that success.
What was your most rewarding professional experience?
My most rewarding professional experience has been creating Crystal Heart Productions, because I am able to use all the skills I have honed over the years and direct them into something positive, meaningful and with purpose. Every job I’ve had, whether it be as an actress, a model or TV Host has been amazing in their own way and a learning curve. There is no way I could be doing what I am doing today had it not been for all the amazing opportunities I have had and all the experience I have gained.
How do you find inspiration?
Humanity is my passion, it is my purpose and the very reason I get up in the morning. I just want to make a difference in this world and leave it a better place than I found it. I know how it feels to be harmed by human beings and what the recovery from PTSD entails, and I just cannot remain silent. My spirit needs to speak up and speak out, because violence against women has to end today, in our generation. My perpetrators have not yet been held accountable and this injustice only fuels my determination to speak to governments and policy makers. I hope that by being transparent with what I have endured and through my show and film that others will have the strength to reach out for help or even have the courage to tell someone or report their abuse to police also.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part of my work is the amount of projects I juggle at any one time. I am constantly creating and having ideas, editing and managing logistics and because I am a one woman show (I even manage my own social media accounts) it is very time consuming. Having said that, I absolutely love what I do and for the most part doesn’t feel like “work” because I am beyond passionate! Time is of the essence and I try to make every day count.
What do you have your sights set on next?
I am currently filming my sequel to Angelena: Change The World and flying to Toronto, Canada at the end of October to interview Tina Tchen, President Barack Obama’s assistant and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Michelle Obama. Tina worked in the White House for eight years and also founded the United State of Women organization, which is a gender equality movement. I am also attending The 2017 Directors Guild of Canada Awards and Amnesty International’s Reel Awareness Film Festival to interview the nominated filmmakers on the red carpet.
Were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?
Absolutely. I really admire Oprah Winfrey for the corporation she has built. I watched her show for years and loved her connection with women and her naturalness in front of the cameras. As a singer/songwriter as well, you are influenced by other artists, particularly in your formative years and then there comes a time when you need to find your own voice and create from your own heart and soul. I feel that is what I have done with my show and film also. While I enjoyed Oprah’s show and admire her success, I am comfortable with being my myself and following my own authentic path.
What is a day in your life like?
I always start my day with yoga and meditation, as I really like to have that quiet time for myself and take care of my mind, body and spirit. I love to wake around 6am when the birds are outside my window and it is really peaceful. I then make myself a green smoothie and cup of tea before I get going for the day. I have a home office, so I always kick the day off on my laptop catching up on emails and determining what I want to achieve that day. I am either deciding who I want to interview and organizing the logistics, prepping and researching, or actually shooting. If I interview during the day, I am always excited to see the footage that evening and usually begin editing straight away. I may be getting interviewed by another media outlet via phone, email or in person. Then, of course, I am attending women’s rights events and sometimes making public speeches. Every day is different, but new projects and travel keep it all very exciting and moving along at a fast pace.
What makes you smile?
What makes me smile is knowing I kept my promise to my beloved, Erick, by completing our music and including it as the soundtrack. I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and my heart is now at peace. I know that if he could see what I am doing now he would be just so proud of me, and that makes me smile.
What scares you?
What scares me right now is President Trump and the unrest in the world with terrorism attacks. I am also disgusted by the latest revelations of Harvey Weinstein and by how entrenched misogyny is with these elitist pigs. Despite the darkness on our planet, however, I do believe that light will prevail and that we are in a time of a revolution. More and more people have had enough of this power struggle and dictatorship and are finding their voice and the courage to speak out, in particular women and I feel the tide is finally changing. We have the opportunity, now, to come together like never before thanks to the internet and social media, art and especially music. At the end of the day, I am positive. I have to believe that I can change the world, and that together, WE all can.
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is producing my documentary feature film Angelena: Change The World, no doubt about it. I have never been to film school, and I taught myself how to edit and that was difficult in itself. Then the most challenging part for me was connecting my life together and going right back to the beginning and seeing how my journey all began. It was extremely emotional and I had to relive my life and remember my darkest days. Once I had finished, I notice how much lighter I felt by having released more tears. My heart opened again and the fear and shame had dissipated. What completing my film did was essentially heal my heart and I am proud of my journey and my album and to have received awards of recognition is just the icing on the cake and I am definitely cherishing this moment!
What is your secret talent?
My secret talent is definitely my affinity with cats. I am the “cat whisperer”! I grew up with many cats as we always had about three at any one time, so I understand them, their language and just adore them. Even when I travel, it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, a cat will always seem to find me on the footpath and come up for a pat and cuddle. I even had a photo lying down with a tiger cub recently and that was such a special moment for me.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
The historical figure that I most admire is Joan Of Arc. “The Maid of Orléans” is a true inspiration not only to me, but is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War. She was also canonized as a Roman Catholic saint and I absolutely believe she deserved that. On 23 May 1430, she was captured at Compiègne by the Burgundian faction, which was allied with the English. She was later handed over to the English and put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon on a variety of charges. After Cauchon declared her guilty, she was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, dying at about nineteen years of age. In 1456, an inquisitorial court authorized by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, debunked the charges against her, pronounced her innocent, and declared her a martyr. In the 16th century she became a symbol of the Catholic League, and in 1803 she was declared a national symbol of France by the decision of Napoleon Bonaparte. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. Joan of Arc is one of the nine secondary patron saints of France, along with Saint Denis, Saint Martin of Tours, Saint Louis, Saint Michael, Saint Rémi, Saint Petronilla, Saint Radegund and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Her courage and conviction to follow her heart really resonates with me and I feel she is the epitome of strength and a wonderful role model for women.
Do you have any hobbies?
I have recently planted a beautiful herb and organic vegetable patch, and I really enjoy gardening and spending time in nature. I have always been interested in nutrition and natural medicine, so to have my own organic produce in my backyard is a real treat and I feel so well when I eat in this healthy way. Thanks to Google, it is just so easy to research topics of interest and aromatherapy is another of my hobbies. I collect different essential oils and this is one method I used to heal myself after both tragedies. They each possess their own healing properties and when combined can transform us on a deep level and calm the nervous system.
What are you never without?
I am never without my laptop! I spend hours a day editing, emailing and creating. I can’t imagine life without it these days. The beauty is that you can take it anywhere and I can still get my work done and be connected to the world. Technology is definitely a game changer and I am grateful for the tools we have.
Can you tell us two of your favorite quotes?
“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.”
– Audrey Hepburn
“Only do what your heart tells you”
– Princess Diana
How do you define success?
My definition of success is being proud of the work you are doing and legacy you are creating. For me, I am not driven by financial gain, but of serving the world and making a difference. Knowing that I am being true to myself and following my heart and connecting with people’s hearts is the most important thing for me. Finding balance between work and having a lovely close circle of friends to me is my idea of success and I feel blessed with where I am at today.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
My advice to anyone starting a new business would be to really define what it is you are passionate about. If you don’t love what you are doing then it will be hard to maintain the determination and longevity, and your heart won’t be in it. I would also recommend honing your talents and taking courses to improve your skill set to give yourself the best advantage at succeeding. Being prepared for hard work and long hours is also key, because nothing is handed to you in this life, you have to make it happen and that is where the sense of satisfaction comes from knowing you earned your achievements. I was blessed to have mentors along my path and I wasn’t afraid to ask for advice and take direction, particularly with the arts and having the right mental attitude is also imperative. Lastly, self belief will take you far. Surround yourself with positive people and go after your dreams. You can do it!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My album Tragic Fairytale and Angelena: Change The World soundtrack album are now available on iTunes and Amazon. I will be announcing the release date for my documentary feature film shortly on my website http://www.angelenabonet.com.
Social Media Links:-
Twitter – https://twitter.com/angelenabonet
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/angelenabonet/
Vimeo – https://vimeo.com/user51939813
For more information on Angelena Bonet, please visit www.AngelenaBonet.com.