From a less than ideal childhood to the ring of the WWE to the world of designing “athleisure" fashion for her Celestial Bodiez line, Celeste Bonin is a woman who makes things happen – no matter what those things are; how they might come up; and how hard it might be to make them happen.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, Bonin will quickly tell anyone who asks that, “No, I don't have a southern accent and, yes, y'all is a word." She now lives in South Florida where, she says, “I live my life in yoga pants and tank tops and I'm not sorry."
Bonin says growing up she was an angel. “A dirty, bug collecting, jorts-wearing angel. I was a tomboy to the core. Once I was able to articulate it, I swore off dresses. I played sports, climbed trees, and refused to let my mom touch my hair. I was, am, and forever will be, the most accident-prone person I know. Yet, I've never broken a bone. EVER (unless you count the nose. Never did see any of those doorknobs coming…or the iron…) I attribute it to all the milk I drank. Oh, yea, and my brick shithouse genetics."
She describes her childhood as dysfunctional. But asks, “Isn't everyone's?" Her father was in and out of her life and her mother raised her and her brother on her own. “She even taught us how to read before we started kindergarten. I was the smart-ass writing in cursive when the other kids were still writing backward “N's." Little idiots."
Bonin says they grew up poor but her mom made sure they didn't really know they were poor until they were old enough to understand what that meant. “I started working at 14 and have never stopped. She says that having a lot of responsibilities, like contributing to the household income, really forced her to grow up quickly and, she adds, “Tt most certainly taught me the value of a dollar."
Celeste Bonin loved wrestling when she was a kid. “For some reason, I was a huge Vader fan. I didn't really start watching again until my early twenties. Seeing the women that were a part of the show really lit a fire inside of me. I was always super athletic and never really had a problem making an ass of myself. I have this really interesting quality about me where I set my sights on something and will literally do whatever it takes to get there. Some call it ballsy. Some call it stupid. Hey, if you never try, you'll never know."
Like many other things in Bonin's life, becoming a part of the WWE had a heck of a lot to do with serendipity.
“I had the opportunity to try out in 2010 through a friend that had previously been a part of the developmental program (basically the minor leagues of WWE). Hardest. Week. Ever. They really put you through the ringer and test your mental and physical fortitude during a tryout. It's a very physically demanding and a cut-throat industry. It's definitely not for the faint of heart. That being said, I loved every second of it. Even the shitty parts. Maybe I didn't love those parts while I was enduring them but hindsight is 20/20. It is so necessary to endure those tough moments to truly grow as a performer, as a professional, and most importantly as a person."
Being a part of WWE afforded Bonin all sorts of opportunities for traveling the world to performing in front of thousands in sold-out arenas and on live TV. “There's nothing else like it. It taught me a lot about myself and gave me the confidence and the 'Fuck it, let's do it' attitude that I have now."
Bonin describes herself as a chaotic, determined freight-train. And what would friends say? “Stupid. Fucking. Asshole. Just kidding. Maybe they would say, resilient, indecent, and headstrong." All joking aside, she has made some tough decisions throughout her life. “I passed up a soccer scholarship opportunity to stay close to home and help with some family hardships. I was bitter at first but it ended up leading me down an amazing path. I started with a few community college classes and then eventually chose to study fine arts with the ultimate goal of a career in special effects make-up and/or set design. I never finished school. I had the opportunity to try out for WWE mid-semester and I just never looked back."
How all of this leads her to the world of fashion is a whole other story. If you ask Bonin if fashion's always been her thing, she'll tell you yes… and no. “I've always put my own flair or style on current trends. I love shopping at resale shops and secondhand places. You really find so many gems. Most importantly, I'm an advocate of comfort over everything. You never know when you'll need to roundhouse kick someone in the face. You know, vigilantly crime fighting."
As for her own personal style, Bonin calls it “hobo-esque, flamboyant military, flannel grunge-chic. This is actually the inspiration behind my new line coming out under Celestial Bodiez. It's comfortable, flattering activewear with a very 'Steam Punk' vibe."
Designing a clothing line was not exactly at the top of her to-do list. But when the idea for Celestial Bodiez came to her, she couldn't help but run with it. “The original concept of #Bootyscrunch (the signature seam in all of my garments), was actually something that originated in my WWE days. My seamstress would sew a ruching in the butt seam of all of my wrestling outfits to create a more flattering fit. I took the idea and ran with it. No one was doing this in athletic wear. I've always known I would do some epic shit in my life but I never envisioned myself as a clothing designer. Well, I guess I never pictured myself as a professional wrestler either. Life is so funny."
Of course, Bonin hopes that her clothing line will be more than, well, just a clothing line. When a woman puts on something from Celestial Bodiez, she wants them to look in the mirror and say, “Fuck yea." "I want them to love the way they look and I want them to be comfortable above all else. When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you are capable of so much."
"I want them to love the way they look and I want them to be comfortable above all else. When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you are capable of so much." -Celeste Bonin
When Bonin thinks about the future, she says the one thing she knows for sure is that she's going to be doing exactly what she's doing right now for as long as she can. “I want Celestial Bodiez to continue growing and to be a big player in the athleisure industry. My goal is not only to continue putting out high-quality athletic apparel but to also build a culture that women want to be a part of. I want to be a voice and use my company and my platform to share my experience as a young executive woman. If I can do it, you sure as fuck can too!"
Although Bonin has thrown herself into the designing world full time, that hasn't kept her out of the ring completely. “I also have been spending more and more time back in the wrestling ring. It's really just a therapeutic thing for me (even though it kicks my ass). After a really rough 2017, which included a nasty divorce, I've realized that I owe it to myself to take some time to do things I love, things that inspire me and ignite passion inside of me."
Above all else, Bonin says she lives by the “Oh Shit Method" and imagines many women could benefit by following the same code. “This is the head on; leap before you look; figure it out as you go manner in which I live my life. Life is too short to wait to try new things; start a business; change careers, etcetera. In fact, if you wait until you're 'ready,' you'll never actually feel ready. No one's ever really ready. You figure it out as you go. If you fail, you fail. Failure teaches you. Failure is growth."
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.