Vanna Bonta is an American poet, novelist, essayist, actress, inventor and artist's model. She is the author of Flight: a quantum fiction novel that was noted for coining "quantum fiction" as a literary category that reflects a 21st century view of reality stretched by new physics and quantum theory.
As an actress, Bonta earned a global fan following playing the hero's mother (Zed's Queen) in the fantasy film The Beastmaster. In a Hollywood career spanning over two decades, she has worked primarily as a voice talent on a roster of feature films, such Disney's Beauty and the Beast, as well as television shows.
Bonta is the inventor of the 2suit, a flight garment designed to facilitate human intimacy and stability in microgravity environments of outerspace. The spacesuit was featured on The Universe television series, which followed Bonta into zero gravity to film a documentary titled Sex in Space that aired in 2009 on History Channel and opened worldwide discussion of human colonization of other planets. Another Bonta invention, described in WIRED magazine, is a shoe with a telescoping heel that converts from a flat into heels.
One of Bonta's poetry collections was awarded a gold medal book prize by the Italian Minister of Culture and Florentine Poetry Society, and in November 2013, a haiku by Bonta was launched from Cape Canaveral on the NASA spacecraft MAVEN to Mars.
Early life and family
Bonta was born in the southern United States to Maria Luisa (née Ugolini; 1918–1997), a fine-art artist from Florence, Italy, and James Cecil Bonta, (1918–1992), a military officer from Kentucky. She is the niece of Italian children's author Lydia Ugolini, her mother's elder sister. Within a month of her birth, the family returned to her mother's home town in Tuscany where Bonta was baptized in the Florentine Baptistery with her grandfather, the Italian author Luigi Ugolini, as her godfather.(citation primary source, photo author interview Minerva magazine- retrieve) and then moved with her family to Bangkok, Thailand.
Her childhood was characterized by an immersion in the arts. Her Italian grandfather read out loud to his family after lunch, choosing selections from Dante Alighieri and other classical writers. She began writing poetry when she was six and short fiction when she was ten. At the age of eleven, she wrote her first novel. The Bangkok Post published a poem she wrote in honor of Queen Sirikit. A collection of her childhood poetry appeared in 1965, published by the Bosco School in Thailand. Her grandfather wrote the preface.
By the time she was seven years old, Bonta spoke fluent English, Thai, Italian and French. She learned sharp-shooting from her father at age nine, and by age eleven had traveled around the world twice, spoke four languages, and could read and write music. Her first job at age eleven was playing piano for a ballet class. After living in Thailand for five years, Bonta's family returned to Alexandria, Virginia.
Bonta has described herself as "fashion challenged" and notes that she used paper clips in her hair instead of barrettes while eschewing modeling lessons. Nevertheless, she became an artist's model at the age of eleven, when she modeled for Italian painter Pietro Annigoni, who inscribed a pencil portrait with a promise to do her portrait every time she visited Florence. When she was fifteen, she modeled for American sculptor Ruth Hutton Ancker, who sculpted a life-size bust.
In a Washington Post article about her mother Maria Luisa Ugolini Bonta, journalist William Rice quotes the artist saying that Bonta was mechanically inclined and could "fix the toaster and other things" around the house. Bonta once described herself as "the wild daughter of a talented woman." As a teen, Bonta rebuilt a car engine. Growing up, she became part of the Washington DC art and music community.
While taking college classes in journalism, drama, music and photography, Bonta was hired as a staff feature writer for The Unicorn Times, a Washington DC underground newspaper noted in Chronicling America's List of Historic American Newspapers. Bonta wrote about art, dance, and music, and her article archives include an interview with celebrated American jazz singer Eddie Jefferson, inventor of vocalese. As a result of incoming mail from readers, she soon had her own column titled "Near Vanna," in parody of the Dear Abby column, in which she publicly answered questions that had started coming in from readers about the arts. The column's banner was "Ask me, I'm not afraid to know," and ran for four issues.
In DC, she met sculptor Frederick Hart, who hired her as a model for the three-dimensional stone installation "Ex Nihilo" he had been commissioned to create for Washington National Cathedral's west entrance tympanum. The statue references the Biblical story of God's creation of Man and Woman "out of nothing." Bonta was paid $6.50 an hour for the job that entailed climbing up on high scaffolding.
During her time in Washington D.C., she was also playing music and songwriting. Bonta composed in different genres, Alternative Punk, Jazz, and Country. Four of her songs won Honorable Mentions for music and lyrics in the Billboard World Song Competition and the American Song Festival. Bonta also supported herself working in an art gallery framing paintings. There, she would write messages in the back of paintings, signing her name before quickly sealing them in brown paper. She also began her voiceover career in Washington DC, landing jobs as the voice and regional spokesperson for Subaru.
Bonta began acting professionally when she was cast as Zed's wife and queen in The Beastmaster soon after moving from Virginia to Hollywood in 1980. In the same year, she had was cast as a laboratory student in Time Walker aka Being From Another Planet. She made screen appearances in MTV music videos, namely War's "War What Is It Good For?" music video, and for British recording artist Jack Green (formerly with T. Rex) on "One By One" from his Reverse Logic album.
Bonta lost interest in pursuing on-camera roles. She auditioned for Sheena Queen of the Jungle, but backed out due to time conflict with writing. Bonta tested for the role of Diane Chambers, an original character on the TV show Cheers that went to actress Shelley Long. She turned down a lead role in Reform School Girls because she found it was exploitative.
Eventually, she found a niche as a voice talent. While staying focused on her writing, she was cast to perform in numerous productions, including An American Tail: Feivel Goes West, Hocus Pocus, Demolition Man, What Dreams May Come and various television shows. In 2007, she read for the audiobook version of her novel Flight and also played piano for the soundtrack.
Bonta's first edition poetry collections are confessional poetry and New Formalism published as chronological collections of life experience. A poem dedicated to the science fiction fantasy author C.L. Moore, a tribute and account of time Bonta spent with the writer including days before Moore's death, is among poems in Shades of the World. The book was introduced at a literary conference of the Italian Poetry Society by Margherita Guidacci in 1986, and was awarded the Camerata gold medal book prize. The book cover is a photo depicting Bonta wearing sunglasses, sitting in front of a scale that weighs a heart on one side and a dollar sign on the other, a statement about the author's irreverence toward commercial values of success. This theme of misplaced social values is repeated in her essay, "State of the Art," and in quotes such as "Money is only a human invention."
Bonta's 1989 poetry collection Degrees: Thoughts Capsules and Microtales was endorsed by celebrity comedian Phyllis Diller.
The Italian Poetry Camerata and Italian Minister of Culture formally presented Bonta's poems in 1986 and again in 1996 in the city of Florence, Italy. In 1986, Italian poet noted for coining the word "paparazzi", Margherita Guidacci, presented Bonta's poetry book Shades of the World at a literary conference in the Palazzo Vecchio, and compared the effects of her poetry to chills she felt when reading Sylvia Plath.
From 1987–1993, she also wrote feature articles about Italian historical figures in the arts for The American Citizen, a bimonthly publication out of Omaha, Nebraska. She also penned a column titled "Ordinary Holy Days" which ran for two years.
An essay by Bonta also appears in The Malibu Times in 1990. While she was acting in various films, Bonta also worked as a development screenwriter on projects for actors including Pierce Brosnan and Robert Davi.
An unpublished draft of Flight attracted the attention of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After reading the novel, Roddenberry contacted Bonta about writing for Star Trek: TNG. He sent her the TV Bible from the Paramount set of the show, which has become a permanent part of Bonta's collection of memorabilia. Bonta wrote three stories for Roddenberry, and her story "Somewhen" was picked up for the show. In a radio interview, Bonta says that Roddenberry was very supportive of her work. He noted that on his Sears credit card, he is a "writer, just like you" and that she should not be intimidated by the Executive Producer sign on the Paramount studio, or any ideas or feedback he gave her. Bonta's acting and writing converged when she contributed original spoken word stories to Holiday Magic for children's hospitals in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2007, she also read her own novel for the audiobook edition.
In 1995, Bonta's first novel Flight: a quantum fiction novel was published. Positive trade reviews resulted in her appearance on various talk shows on television and radio, including the Ricki Lake Show and Talk America Network Radio, hosted by Hugh Rodham. Professor Gabriella Fiori, biographer of Simone Weil, was on the panel that presented Bonta's new work in Italy. Fiori gave one of the first public dissertations on the "quantum fiction," chronicling the significance of a literary form reflecting human thought as a participant in creation (fiction) that becomes reality.
Flight has been characterized as "inter-genre" (belonging to more than one genre simultaneously) by American Library Association, which reviewed it an "auspicious, genre-bending parable."Publishers Weekly described the debut work as running the gamut of particularly moving to quirky and hilarious satire, with "asides about bathtub books, self-doubt tapes and other foibles." With the publication of Flight, Publishers Weekly noted Bonta introduced the term "quantum fiction" to the literary world. Quantum fiction is a literary genre emerging in the 21st century that employs literary devices based on the new perception of reality catalyzed by quantum physics that provided glimpses of the invisible at play behind classical Newtonian solid reality.
In 2013, a haiku Bonta wrote was one of 1100 that was launched to Mars on the NASA spacecraft MAVEN. The haikus for the Mars trip were chosen by popular vote from a total 12,530 submissions. Bonta's submission was ranked in the top five.
Many of Bonta's phrases have been isolated and reproduced in quotes compendiums like Quotes.net, Quotepedia, GoodReads, and BrainyQuote. The beginning of an episode of Wilfred titled "Delusion" quotes Bonta's words, "Truth may sometimes hurt, but delusion harms." Bonta's epigrams are frequently quoted by other writers.
Publishing and translation
Bonta is the founding publisher and editor-in-chief emeritus of The Cosmos Review, an online literary magazine and archival library of poetry about space. The Cosmos Review published rare poems by Amelia Earhart, an eyewitness poem written by the first independent female space explorer Anousheh Ansari and a tonka written by Koichi Wakata while aboard the ISS looking at Earth. The Cosmos Review also features the work of new poets.
Bonta has translated the works of Italian contemporary poets from Italian into English for publication. She spearheaded the English translation and publishing of The Story of a Rich Dog and a Poor Dog, an Italian classic by Lydia Ugolini, a title from her literary family's book estate.
Bonta received considerable media attention for her invention of the 2suit. The invention converts two independent flight garments into a single garment for two people in zero-gravity environments who wish to achieve stabilization within proximity of a partner for the purpose of intimacy or mating, stabilizing work stations, recreational proximity, or emergency thermal applications.
Bonta told Australia's Femail Magazine that she did not expect that her presentation about the physics of sex in space, least of all her casual mention of special clothing items, would spark worldwide interest.
Producers of the History Channel television series, The Universe, decided to test the flight suit on one of the program's episodes. They approached Bonta in 2008 with an invitation that the show would manufacture a prototype and send her into zero gravity. She accepted. On that program, Bonta and her husband demonstrate how the suit works by kissing while installed in it. The documentary concluded that the "2Suit is one small step for humankind colonizing the universe." The Universe series episode was translated and subtitled into many languages with international distribution, continuing global discussions about the relevancy of human colonization of other worlds. Cracked Magazine called it one of 7 suits that will soon make the world a cooler place. The much talked-about spacesuit became bandied as a pop metaphor for the human side of space and human survival as a compelling reason for space exploration.
Lunar Lander Challenge
In 2007, 2008, and 2009 Bonta participated in the Lunar Lander Challenge, a competition sponsored by NASA and Northrop Grumman to commercially build a lightweight spacecraft for landing on the moon. Bonta was a team member of BonNovA. She innovated a device that protects high-combustion engines from exploding during the ignition phase, and the part was engineered to success.
At NASA Ames in 2008, Bonta presented what she called futuristic "smart clothing" for fashion with functional innovations that included portable atmosphere and hydration in balloon couture, self-illuminating purse interiors, blue tooth earrings, thermal fabric, spray-on biodegradable "second skins" that protect and glitter, a travel shoe that converts from flats to heels, and velvet fabric with fibers that function as sensors. In 2012, NASA announced partnerships with various universities to encourage students of design to develop "wearable technology." The US Patent Office issued two additional provisional Patents to Bonta, for a talking blanket called a "real comforter," that speaks a series of recorded phrases aimed to soothe and the other for a Rocket Engine Over-pressurization Release System (REORPS), a device that allows an over-pressurization in the combustion chamber of a rocket of high-combustion engine to vent to outside atmosphere or vacuum rather than build up to destructive levels, which Bonta conceived and developed with her teammate while participating in the Lunar Lander Challenge.
Bonta married in 1987, wedding the grandson of American movie star Irene Dunne. The marriage lasted five years, though the actress remained friends with the family. In 2002, she married rocket engineer Allen Newcomb.
Bonta was raised in the Catholic Church. During her father's residency as a diplomat with the American Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, she attended Holy Redeemer School, a missionary school which included students from diverse ethnic backgrounds and multiple religious traditions: Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, etc. She regularly attended Mass and her First Holy Communion was to have a lasting effect on her. Celebrity news site WALEG reported that during that ritual, she conceptualized actually communing with an all-loving God, and she cried with happiness. When asked if religion plays a part in her life, Bonta replied she has always been deeply drawn to a desire to understand consciousness and the universal spirituality of life, but does not embrace doctrines that draw barriers between people. She told Contemporary Authors that her religion is "Life, truth, common sense and good will."
|1982||The Beastmaster||Zed's Wife||superhero's mother|
|1982||Time Walker||Student in Lab|
|1990||The Rescuers Down Under||Multiple voices||Disney animation feature|
|1991||An American Tail: Feivel Goes West||Federation of mice||Universal studios animation feature|
|1991||Where Sleeping Dogs Lie||Serena's Secretary||Sharon Stone's look-alike secretary|
|1991||Beauty and the Beast||Multiple voices||Disney animation feature|
|1993||Hocus Pocus||French teacher||(voice actor)|
|1993||Demolition Man||Computer||(voice actor)|
|1996||Mrs. Winterbourne||dubbed role of Patricia Winterbourne||(voice actor) Italian release|
|1998||What Dreams May Come||Heaven voices, multiple roles||(voice actor)|
|2003||Something's Gotta Give||E.R. nurse||(voice actor)|
|2004||Born to Fight||Mali||(voice actor) English version|
|2006||The Omen||Spirits||(voice actor)|
|2014||Dante's Hell Documented||Narrator – 7th Circle: The Blasphemers||(voice talent)|
|1981||One By One||Bowler Girl||MTV|
|1985||My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn||Blue Moon Waitress||TV movie|
|1986||Scarecrow and Mrs. King||Lead Actress in Play||TV series|
|1996||The Ricki Lake Show||Author, herself||TV talk show|
|2002||The Twilight Zone||(voice)||TV series (2 episodes)|
|2009||The Universe (TV series)||Inventor, herself||TV series History Channel|
Producer, composer, Director
- 2005 What Goes Up | Pianist / Zero G Flyer
Tribute to SpaceShipOne Not-for-profit; Distributed by the Space Generation Advisory Council
- Bonta, Vanna (1995). Flight: A Quantum Fiction Novel. Meridian House. ISBN 978-0912339177.
- Bonta, Vanna (1989). Degrees – Thought Capsules (Poems) and Micro Tales on Life, Death, Man, Woman, & Art. Dora Books. ISBN 978-0912339054.
- Bonta, Vanna (1985). Shades of the World. Dora Books. ISBN 978-0912339016.
- Bonta, Vanna (1981). Rewards of Passion (Sheer Poetry). Empire Books.
- Bonta, Vanna (2013). Voci Fiorentine (in Italian). Ibiskos Ulivieri. ISBN 9788878418639.
- Bonta, Vanna (1979). Lyrical Voices: An International Poetry Anthology. Young Publications. ISBN 978-0911666038.
- Il Cosmos Come Poesia – Città di Vita, Bimestrale di religione, arte, scienza – Issue V; (in Italian) (May 2008, October 2011)
- Stato dell'Arte. L'attacco al valore dell'uomo e della bellezza – Città di Vita, Bimestrale di religione, arte, scienza – Issue VI; (in Italian) (December 2012)
- Space: What love's got to do with it, The Space Review (24 October 2004)
- Bonta, Vanna (2005). The Impact of Space Activities Upon Society. ESA Publications (European Space Agency). ISBN 978-9290925828.
- Bonta, Vanna (1994, 2012). The Cosmos as a Poem. ASIN .
- Bonta, Vanna (2000, 2012). State of the Art. Amazon Digital. ASIN .
- Bonta, Vanna (2008, 2011). Il Cosmo Come Poesia (in Italian). Beacon Hill. ASIN .
- Bonta, Vanna (1992, 2012). Ordinary Holy Days. ASIN .
- Bonta, Vanna (1992, 2012). Mother Ship. ASIN .
- The Malibu Times, (researching,retrieve names of articles), The Unicorn Times, The Italian American Citizen newspaper, The Washington Times, The Bangkok Post
- , by Vanna Bonta. Attenzione magazine; Volume 8, Issue 2 – . (1986)
Awards and nominations
Bonta's poetry collection Shades of the World was awarded a gold medal prize by the Florentine Camerata in 1986, and her essay The Cosmos as a Poem won first place in the Pergola Arte Lily Brogi literary awards in Italy. The Space Frontier Foundation awarded Bonta the 2008 "Service to the Frontier" award for her work on The Cosmos Review.