"Gratitude and self-love are the keys to finding your wings and setting yourself free"
An interview with Angelena Bonet | HEART OF THE MATTER | VMA20 SOCIAL AWARENESS AWARD | October Edition
The best changes in the history of humanity have often been influenced by women and men who have made a significant contribution to society courageously and actively throughout their lives.
After the beginning of capitalism, human beings have gradually lost contact with reality due to systematic manipulation of information that has created needs and models that are far from the intrinsic authenticity of the human being.
That is how companies have progressed so far, in a climate of extreme competition, narrow-mindedness; where diversity has no longer seen as wealth and where the therapeutic power of Love seems to have gone out of fashion. Societies where people unconsciously drown in socially approved anesthesia (and masterfully planned), such as addiction to social media, addiction to work, sex, alcohol, and drugs in search of that presumed happiness skillfully sold together with them.
In this context of extreme suffering and frustration, fortunately, there are still people who get their hands dirty for Love of this world and towards all beings; people who fight to offer a healthier, more constructive, and sustainable alternative vision.
It is the case of Angelena Bonet, a former Australian supermodel, actress, singer, and director who is actively dedicating her life to creating connections starting from one of the most denigrated categories: women.
Angelena presented her docu-web series Heart of the Matter: a sequence of interviews with very inspiring people from different backgrounds and origins. These interviews describe a 'new' way of living. A project that earned her the SOCIAL AWARENESS AWARD here at the Vegas Movie Awards last October, category of Excellence.
Thanks to this inspiring interview, we can feel the dedication and care of a talented filmmaker who believes that it is everyone's real responsibility to change this world for the better.
• Congratulations on your win, Angelena, and welcome back to Vegas Movie Awards! It was very inspiring to see and hear the different interviews you presented in your web series. It gave a lot of insights to our whole Team to finally launch the SOCIAL AWARENESS AWARD as a specific category, as well as FREE, that aims to encourage people to present products that move the needle and can help a collective awakening towards a more sustainable and ethical way of living. How did it feel to be the first to receive this award?
Thank you so much Vegas Movie Awards for the beautiful introduction, I really appreciate it! It is just wonderful to be included in your special film awards again and to learn that you actually created a new category when you watched my docu-web series is so humbling and such an honor. Everyone that knows me knows I like to talk (!) but when I received the news I had won the Social Awareness Award for Heart Of The Matter I was speechless and then I had a few tears. This category is so important and I take my work very seriously. I have been determined to make a change in our world and to receive this recognition has really touched my heart. This project means so much to me and I have put my heart and soul into creating it over the past six years. I’m beyond grateful and will cherish this award forever. The fact that my work helped create this inspiring category and now hopefully encourage others to create their creative projects from their heart for the betterment of humanity is magical. We have all then played a role in creating more love on our planet and that makes very happy indeed.
• We have already seen you with Angelena: Change the World, an autobiographical documentary. It tells how from a dramatic life, you have channeled your experience into something extremely positive through music but above all thanks to sharing and connections with other women. Can we ultimately say that Angelena: Change the World was the prelude to Heart of the Matter?
Oh absolutely, no doubt about it. I created Angelena: Change The World organically and was not the project I initially thought I was producing. The film began when I had attended the One Billion Rising Organization’s V Day event in Sydney in February 2016 and not long afterwards a good friend of mine, whom I have known since high school, suggested I make a short film about the tragedies I had suffered as well as my humanitarian work for women. I was reluctant at first because I wasn’t comfortable with publicly sharing the loss of my fiancé and the reasons behind me wanting to change the world and aligning myself with global ethical non-profit organizations supporting women and girls. However, the more I thought about it and told myself it would just be a seven to ten minute short film, the more I thought it could be a great way to create more awareness. I began the film with the footage and interviews from the V Day event and then decided to explain where my passion came from for my wanting to help women. It literally just snowballed from there when I found my courage to be transparent. Little did I know I was embarking on a documentary feature film trilogy, a short film and two docu-web series and I can say it was been one magical journey! Angelena: Change The World tells you who I am, where I have come from and what I have endured that lit the fire in my heart that I just couldn’t ignore.
The women I am particularly interested in interviewing are ones who are empowered, confident in their own skin and making a positive contribution to our society and not apologizing for it.
• What were the reasons that made you decide that it was time for you to create a series dedicated entirely to women?
I began Heart Of The Matter in Toronto in September 2014 with the intention of interviewing women all around the world and from all walks of life to allow their voices to be heard. It was actually the very reason I created my production company, Crystal Heart Productions, and was the only project I saw on my horizon for quite some time. I conceived the idea for Heart Of The Matter two years after I survived a horrific violent attack, orchestrated by someone I knew and trusted. I had to pick up the pieces and recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), not receive the justice I deserved and on top of all that, had loved ones not support me due to their state of denial. The whole experience was so wrong on every level and it opened my eyes to something so horrific and devastating and I saw this trauma that society was refusing to acknowledge first-hand. I decided that I wasn’t going to stand for the violence, the broken justice system and I definitely wasn’t going to own the shame. I had miraculously survived attempted murder and had a second chance at life and I intended to stand up and speak out. Struggling to cope with PTSD, then ostracized by people near and dear pushed me right to the brink of suicide. I then learned from the detective on the case that violence against women was a global silent epidemic. I was shocked, to say the least, and instantly saw everything through new eyes. I realized I was one of many who had experienced this and that most perpetrators would never spend a day in jail for their heinous crimes. I was beyond disgusted, furious about the injustice and felt such deep compassion for women. I wanted to help other women heal also, find their inner strength and encourage them to take back their power and not allow these evil people to ruin the rest of their lives. I realized we have choices in our healing and our happiness lies in our own hands.
• In your series, you interviewed women from different backgrounds, orientations, and professions. What is the common denominator that you and all these different people from each other have in common?
I have been absolutely privileged to interview women from all backgrounds that possess their own unique and special talents and qualities. I choose to interview women that bring something to the table other than the superficial nonsense we have become accustomed to. We live in a youth-obsessed digital world where social media and pop culture encourages artificial physical “perfection”, competition, materialism, and fear and ultimately devalues real human connections and being your self. The women I am particularly interested in interviewing are ones who are empowered, confident in their own skin and making a positive contribution to our society and not apologizing for it. We all share a need to use our voice and share our wisdom and express that through various occupations. I believe that when we come together, with united voices, we can change the world. Mother Teresa once wisely said – 'I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.’ And I wholeheartedly agree with her and that is why I speak with women who resonate with that same sentiment. They all inspire me and I am very proud to share their voices and work with my audience.
• What is the profound motivation that drives you to travel the world in the constant search and disclosure of a better way of living?
What motivates me to travel the world, at my own expense and on my own, is the deep desire for women to finally be heard. Too often women are valued for our appearance and I felt it was time there was a platform where we could be our authentic selves, share our intelligence and wisdom and celebrate our different cultures and life stages. Seeing women in a superficial light is limited thinking which creates the environment for oppression and patriarchy to fester. There is so much more to women than our exterior and our fertility and I believe our society would be much healthier if we all understood that. The show I wanted to host and produce didn’t exist in 2014, so I got busy creating it. It has been such a joy to connect with wonderful women and I am very proud of my series.
• We have been used to a "masculine" way of life, made up of competition and division, where women still today in many countries do not even enjoy the right to education. However, we know that the female way of life focused on inclusion and share, could lead us (if we give it a voice) to a new “Era”. What are, in your view, the most significant changes that women could make if placed in influential positions in society?
We have been in the era of patriarchy for quite some time and what we are now seeing is a seismic shift into the feminine and a more gentle and inclusive way of being. There are many more women in leadership roles today and Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris, is an excellent example of what is possible for women and how society is becoming more accepting of seeing women as “powerful”. Men and women usually have different leadership styles with men generally giving direction and women encouraging their employees to find their own direction. The most significant changes I believe women would make if placed in influential positions would be implementing policies that protect women and girls, starting with girls’ education. Worldwide there are 132 million girls out of school. That in its self is a human rights violation and probably, in my view, one of the biggest root causes for all our failings as human beings. Our current male world leaders are still very much focused on warfare and winning and being “the man in charge”. Basically, all their decisions are ego driven. If policies and decisions for all of humanity were made from the heart, our world would be very different indeed. Only 66 per cent of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education. At the secondary level, the gap widens: 45 per cent of countries have achieved gender parity in lower secondary education, and 25 per cent in upper secondary education. The reasons are many. Barriers to girls’ education – like poverty, child marriage and gender-based violence, vary among countries and communities. Poor families often favour boys when investing in education. In some places, schools do not meet the safety, hygiene or sanitation needs of girls. In others, teaching practices are not gender-responsive and result in gender gaps in learning and skills development. When girls receive an education, the lifetime earnings of girls dramatically increase, national growth rates rise, child marriages rates decline, child mortality rates fall and maternal mortality rates fall also. Girls’ education strengthens global economies and reduces inequality. It contributes to more stable, resilient societies that give all individuals (including boys and men) the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Other changes we would see if women were in leadership positions would be laws involving sexual violent crimes changed and perpetrators receiving the jail sentences they deserve. It’s a matter of striking the right balance between male and female leadership so that harmony can be restored.
• What do you think of Female Leadership and the Emotional Intelligence that guides them?
Emotional Intelligence I don’t believe is limited to only women. However, it is vital for a more kind and just world. Women do tend to be more in tune with their emotions and empathetic to other’s needs. Unfortunately, we have all beared witness to some very selfish, narcissistic individuals that are only interested in “power” and have no qualms going to war and killing innocent people. I am definitely in favor of seeing more female leadership and the emotional intelligence that guides them, as it will be key to creating world peace. Without a connection to our hearts, we will continue to repeat history.
• In a very inclusive climate, governed by Love and freedom of expression, the point of view of what is essential could change, even drastically. Without our material possessions and our physicality, we would be listened to without “visual” prejudices. What do you think about it, given that you were also a leading figure in the Australian fashion scene? How has your point of view changed?
In my song Change The World one of the lines toward the end says “why is it all about how we look?” I wrote those lyrics when I was a model and I still feel the same today. Being one of Australia’s successful models, particularly swimsuit and lingerie, I was constantly judged by my looks and I received both positive and negative treatment. It was a challenging time to navigate but luckily I was raised by loving parents who taught me equality, didn’t value me for my appearance and taught me self worth. My father encouraged my education and instilled in me a sense that I could be anything I wanted to be. My mother was a physiotherapist who specialized in children with cerebral palsy and I remember going to her work as a six year old and when she introduced me to the children I can remember seeing the light in their eyes and how much they loved my mum. She told me they are just like me and everyone is just as special as each other. That truth has stayed with me ever since. I found the modeling world an interesting education and got to see how fickle people can be and the importance placed on physical beauty. My point of view hasn’t changed in time because I have always been that down-to-earth friendly Aussie girl who sees everyone as equal. The fashion industry gives us a very limited idea of what they consider to be beautiful. You can clearly see that when you watch a Victoria Secrets Show – all the models virtually look the same! And they represent about 1% of the global population but at the same time they dictate to women that this is the ideal. From my point of view, so called “physical beauty” isn’t what makes someone beautiful. I have met and worked with people who possess physical traits that magazines deem as desirable but when they have an attitude or see themselves above other people they immediately appear ugly. I’ve also seen the dangerous lengths some models resort to to lose weight and become a size 0. Let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. Inner beauty such as kindness and compassion for others is what shines through and makes someone glow and has nothing to do with age or ethnicity. When you only focus on someone’s skin, you miss an opportunity to connect with another human being sharing the planet with you. All of our journeys are sacred and need to be respected. I have met so many incredible people and it’s amazing what you can learn from them when you take the time to talk and listen to them. Everyone has a story, paths cross for a reason and life shouldn’t be taken for granted. I think many people may have learned that truth this year during the Covid-19 global lockdown. Connecting with our family and friends is the most important thing and it has nothing to do with looking “perfect”!
• Given your precious knowledge of so many women and realities, which ones have been of the most inspiration for you? Why are they so frightening that they are, sometimes, hindered?
I have been blessed to meet and read about many amazing and inspirational women and so many of them stand out for various reasons. As we are going through the current US election, Hillary Clinton comes to mind. Most people have their own opinion of her and what I admire most about her is her determination to follow her dreams and run for presidency. You can’t help but think how different the last four years may have played out if she had won. We will never know. Now with Kamala Harris as Vice President I’m sure we will see many positive changes on the horizon. Other women I really admire are Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace prize winner in 2014, for standing up for girls education in Pakistan, Waris Dirie the Supermodel and Activist for female genital mutilation with her non-profit Desert Flower Foundation and her remarkable story of fleeing her homeland at 13 and Mamma Maggie who is the Founder and CEO of the non-profit charity Stephen’s Children in Cairo, Egypt who helps homeless children. Women are often held back or hindered but I truly believe that if we stand together we can make the change. If women support other women and use our tools, such as social media, and refuse to accept the unacceptable then we can make the world better for our children and their children and future generations to come. We have come a long way in the past 50 years and we have many strong women to thank for those changes and we owe it to them to continue this fight and not give up.
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.
• In recent years, there is starting to be more attention and involvement of women at all levels, and this shuffling of cards is slowly changing the social fabric and their perception. How do you see this change for the future? Could we, in your opinion, give better answers to future generations?
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 community, and helping others become our primary goal. We have set the wheels in motion to ensure future generations have a safer and more equal world.
• What do you see in your future after Heart of the Matter? What are your plans?
I am still enjoying interviewing inspiring women for Heart Of The Matter and will continue this series until I feel I’m ready to put my energies out in a new direction. I just released my other docu-web series The Angelena Bonet Show last week, which consists of non-profit events I have covered in Australia and North America to highlight important issues humanity is yet to resolve. I have many projects I’m really excited to give birth to such as writing non-fiction books about healing our mind, body, and spirit from sudden loss and sexual violence. By sharing my wisdom on how I was able to overcome both traumas, I hope to shed more light on how to rise above your own adversity and turn that painful experience into your greatest gift. Essentially, they will be about turning tragic into magic! I’m also very keen to align myself with more wonderful non-profit organizations around the world by lending my voice and raising awareness. I am honored to speak for those who can’t and will be devoting more time to causes close to my heart. I have also been writing more songs and will be in the recording studio early next year, which I’m very excited about!
• We highly recommend our readers, both men, and women, to get inspired and see the series both on your youtube channel and to read more about your work on your website (links below). It was a great pleasure to have you again at the Vegas Movie Awards and in this profound interview. Is there anyone you would like to thank?
I can’t thank you enough Vegas Movie Awards for all your support, I’m just so grateful. I produce all my work entirely by myself so there is no team to thank. I would love to thank all the wonderful people I have met along this journey and the incredible people, both men and women I have been blessed to interview. I’m very thankful for all my life experiences, even the traumatic ones because it has taught me that I cannot control life, only how I choose to react to circumstances. None of us are immune to suffering but by experiencing the dark night of the soul, you can find your spirit, your resilience, and come out the end of the tunnel transformed just like a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Life is magical and there is beauty in all our experiences, for they help us spiritually evolve and grow. Gratitude and self-love are the keys to finding your wings and setting yourself free!
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