Our latest Supernova has danced for Madonna and worked alongside names such as Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Eva Herzigová. He has travelled the globe, working as a model in London, Sydney and Milan and promoted some of Sydney’s most iconic venues and parties. This includes sourcing, promoting and hosting some of the globes biggest stars.
It would be fair to say that Robert Ian Bonnick has spent his entire career in the limelight, but for the team here at Confessions what really makes this supernova shine, Is his ‘lights, camera, activism’ approach to life. He is a guy who uses all of his ‘star’ connections and community to genuinely make a difference in the world.
Why? Rob grew up in two different orphanages between the ages of 2 and 18. As you can imagine growing up without the dedicated love of a mum and dad (something most of us take for granted), Rob didn’t exactly get a running start in the game of life. Despite the scars, Rob’s attitude is incredible. Many of Rob’s fellow orphans ended up in jail, or worse still dead. For Rob, he used the pain as a driver for purpose, and rather than staying a victim of circumstance chose to become a passionate advocate for overcoming adversity and standing united in diversity.
This mission has led Rob and his equally ‘on purpose’ wife Marina, to start a café in Redfern called The Social Laneway. Upon meeting Rob, I can see why people want to be in his presence. He is most certainly a man of charisma, style and charm but what really left me in awe was his humility, generous spirit and dedication to his family.
I feel really lucky to have Rob join The Supernova Tribe and I am so excited that he has been kind enough to answer a few questions for Confessions. Welcome Aboard Rob!
As a WORLD CHANGER in raising awareness of youth at risk, you have obviously been driven by a sense of purpose and passion in your life. How did you discover your ‘WHY’ and once you found the star you were aiming for, how did you execute your dreams?
From the start of my life I was a youth at risk! I grew up in 2 orphanages between the ages of 6 months and almost eighteen years of age. There were 18 adolescents living there at any one time and I was the youngest for the majority of the time. To this end I got away with being very cheeky all the way through to suffering abuse, racism and the butt of practical jokes. In many ways we had a massive multicultural family with a multitude of complex backgrounds! It felt like from early on, I led 2 lives, extroverted at school (where I was the only black kid for many years) team captain, excelling at pretty much any sport with a moving ball (including playing basketball for my country) yet at home, introverted and shy. Yet this shyness allowed me to ‘disengage from the events happening around me’ and see the end results of the choices made by those living around me; many of my fellow orphans didn’t make it emotionally, mentally, or physically.
One of the defining moments was when one of the elder boys in the orphanage ,who I looked up to greatly and wanted to be like, in a heartfelt conversation with me let his guard down to tell me “don’t be like me, be better than me!”. Combine this with some of the abuse and racism I experienced and the multicultural nature of our orphanage.
I saw that colour and background didn’t have to be something which defines us, instead it could unite us. At this point, I knew I needed to be an ambassador. I was an example of a successful black man, but also someone who stood for bringing people together from different backgrounds, opposed to creating separation.
Some speak of luck. In pursuing your passion do you feel that you have been guided by luck (fate,synchronicity,providence), or was your success as simple as setting a goal and executing?
There have been times in my life where I should have died or been seriously hurt. They’ve also been times where through the help and support of others, I’ve been fortunate enough to keep moving forward. I’ve been extremely goal orientated at times employing persistence and determination to break through. I’ve also worked extremely hard at times throughout my life but in some way I’ve always felt protected and guided. My feeling is that there is a mix of synchronicity, providence, hard work and a bit of luck.
This ‘Project’ (Confessions of A Supernova) is very much about embracing a purpose greater than our individual identity. Do you feel that your ‘purpose’ in life was something you were born with, or is purpose created by life experience alone?
My feeling is that we all come into this life with a purpose and it’s up to us to discover what that purpose is or what we want to make a stand for. Yet at the same time I know it’s possible for an individual to create a blank canvas in their life and decide what they want their life to stand for! In my case though through growing up in the way I did – it became clear to me.
It is the sharing of stories that creates change in the world. What moment in your life, made you passionate about raising awareness of youth at risk?
The moment I decided to be an ambassador, was also when I decided to raise awareness for youth at risk. The two are inextricably linked.
Just because I had a tough time growing up, didn’t mean using that as an excuse or a crutch emotionally, mentally or otherwise to not achieve. Ultimately, I’m proud that I’ve been able to achieve success despite a disadvantaged upbringing.
You can make one wish upon a STAR to enable world change. What is your wish, and why?
This is probably one of the most difficult questions for me to answer, as on one hand my spiritual training directs me first to accept the world as it is. Having said that without knowledge and understanding it is very difficult to empower people, therefore my wish would be for “knowledge and understanding” to be widespread. These two powerhouse ‘states of mind’ alone would bring about a world change inspired from a positive view. For example Imagine if bullying and racism, were replaced with knowledge and understanding. Knowledge and understanding do not support an environment driven by Ignorance.
We all have someone in our life that has ignited a spark in the soul. Who is that person in your life, and what was the one thing that person told you, or you heard them say that changed your life?
Throughout my life there have been people, some complete strangers, who have ignited, supported activated, clarified that spark. In answering this question, I keep thinking back to my original story of the fellow orphan who said to me “don’t be like me, be better than me!”
As a young adolescent male growing up in the orphanage, value was placed on being an “Alpha Male” perhaps not too dissimilarly to most boys of that age. It was all about model looks, having a muscular body, confidence, being popular with girls, articulate, a great fighter, dancer, snappy dresser and so on. It really was survival of the fittest, strongest and most virile.
Only later in did I realise that these values didn’t serve my friend to well and that was a huge lesson. I was glad I never went to that place. His admission, “don’t be like me, be better than me,” I took to mean that he was in essence not happy and had become trapped in a life he neither expected nor wanted.
To meet Rob in person and feel the warmth of his amazing team head to The Social Laneway in Redfern. With friendly staff, amazing coffee, and Australia’s best pumpkin tart (yes I tried it!) this place is well worth checking out. The Social Lane-way is a place of connection and community where you can fill your tummy, whilst warming your heart.
Keep Shining Light Year Lovers!