What is worth your energy? Mario Bonds speaks on Juneteenth, raising a family, and inspiring change
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
By Devyn Imholt
Photograph credit: Karl M. Lee
Mario Bonds is a singer, songwriter, motivational speaker, author, and journalist who rose to fame on season 2 of Oxygen Network’s “The Glee Project.” In March of 2021 he released his debut album I AM Human TOO: The Acceptance, showcasing his ability to create impactful music with a meaningful message. I had the pleasure of speaking with him about overcoming adversity, raising a family, and making a change with his work.
Mario was born with Morning Glory Syndrome, causing him to go completely blind by the time he was nine years old. As he has grown up and pursued his passions within his many professions he has always placed an emphasis on encouraging acceptance and promoting change. He describes his speaking and songwriting as his “most effective” methods of conveying his messages. “To be able to write lyrics or experiences that are reflective of how I grew up or any adversity I might have faced and have those songs be someone else’s escapism…I think is a gift.” Creating music seems to be an escape for Mario himself, explaining that he gets “lost” in singing, sometimes for hours at a time. This is described affectionally by his children as Dad being in the “zone.”
June 19th, 2021 was the first Juneteenth to be declared a federal Holiday in the US. Mario described his last single, “My Eyes, My Life” as the potential “mascot song for Juneteenth.” “The whole point of the song is that it’s a bold statement from a blind person to say…come take a look into my eyes and see what I think we could be if we only stopped all of this hate.” Of the government’s recognition of Juneteenth, he emphasized that it came “far too late.” “I’m glad that it happened…I think that there’s so much work to do, I hope that the next great feat doesn’t take 150 years to achieve.”
Mario is uninterested in waiting around for change to happen. In 2018 he released the song “Human” as part of his #IAMHUMANTOO campaign to combat bullying. This is an issue that is close to him, reflecting on his childhood he said that he “was bullied…from every angle…all with the backdrop of going blind at nine.” He feels especially compelled to combat this issue now, as he described the suicide rates of children being at “an astronomical high.” “I remember being twelve and feeling like I was God’s waste of space.” Mario wants to ensure that other people don’t have to grow up feeling this way as a result of being bullied. The campaign’s success has both inspired and humbled him. “Everything I was teased for I’m praised for today…from top to bottom…that’s very ironic.”
The passion for his work is evident, however, this pales in comparison to the radiance in his voice when discussing his children. He has adopted four boys and is enjoying every second of raising them. “To my kids I’m Super Mario.” His ability to motivate as a career translates effectively to his home life. As a Dad he is “big on lessons,” detailing one of his recent conversations with his seventeen-year-old where he emphasized the question “what is worth your energy?” He wants the best for his children, and this lesson was about encouraging them to see past the many trials and irritations in everyday life in order to focus on the big picture. He has found that his ability to be larger than life, even as someone who is blind, has been motivational to his children. “In fact, they forget I’m blind most of the time.”
Mario has used his trials as fuel to his fire rather than hinderances to his mission. His dedication to enforcing a message and making a change is inspiring, and as such, I wanted to know his advice to those who may be struggling through their own trials. He explained that “knowing is half the battle.” He described the key to combatting disability as “acceptance” and the key to beating bullying as “knowing you are more important than what that person says.” Self-care was another thing he placed an emphasis upon, saying that “we have to take care of our physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health on a daily basis.”
On July 15th Mario is dropping a video to “In Love,” a dance track that features a collaboration with a plus sized dance group called Pretty Big Movement. “I’m jumping into the conversation that we shouldn’t body shame.” Mario hinted at some “surprises” in the video, making sure to share his excitement for its release. He will be releasing “more music videos in the fall” and is now focused on “embarking on another social media cooking wave” after a video of him cooking eggs went viral. Speaking with him was a pleasure, his focus on making meaningful messages coupled with his drive to create is truly inspiring. He truly is as his kids describe him, “Super Mario,” making sure to focus his energy towards making real change.
Listen to “My Eyes, My Life” here.
Read his book, “Without Sight but Full of Vision” here.