The Short Version...
I was born in Portugal and grew up near the sea. I fell in love with the ocean, bodyboarding and competitive sports. Later on, I moved to New Zealand and then Australia following my passion for the sport and dedicating myself to my dream of becoming a professional bodyboarder.
By the age of 16 I was traveling around Australia and competing on a pro junior bodyboarder tour. I became Australian champion between the age of 16 and 17, while consistently traveling to compete and film with my sponsors and fellow competitors all around Australia.
After coming in 2nd place the following year, I was devastated and put body boarding to the side. I fell into some dark times and bad crowds.
Weight training was my savior. It was able to bring me out of the bad space I was in and connect with me with positive like minded people all over the world. I have completely dedicated myself to the discipline for over a decade which has led me to become one of Australia’s top coaches and no.1 fitness cover model.
My career has brought me around the world to train and work. I've had the honor to work with the U.S Marines and several high profile athletes over the past few years. However, now I get the most joy from working personally with my clients.
Having a healthy mind and healthy body translates positively into so many different areas of life. I want to help you reach greater health and optimal energy. My vision is about creating the correct atmosphere for anyone to flourish into their best self.
I am Sonny Brown and today I am grateful for my life and health! I look forward to working with you and appreciate you talking time to read about my rise through the fitness world to be alive and proud today.
The Long Version...
I was born in Cascais, Portugal in 1986. It’s 1 hour from Lisbon on the coastline. It has a very hot climate with super cold waters, pumping waves and loads of fresh seafood. My earliest memories as a kid were learning Portuguese in international school and being at the beach with my mum and dad. I grew up basically wanting to be a pro body boarder; that was my dream when I was 8.
My parents split around 10 years of age and I moved to New Zealand with my mother. I lived on the coast in NZ at a place called Raglan, which had world-class waves. School took a back seat to body boarding as I continued to spend as much time in the water as possible. I had been physically abused at age nine and in all honesty, I simply wanted to be in the ocean or doing sport as this was my release of frustration and anger.
I moved to England when I was 12 to live with my brother and father and started a new school there. I played soccer and enjoyed skateboarding, but the ocean was calling. I remember asking my father if I could move back to New Zealand to live with my mother and two sisters.
At 13, I moved to Australia with my mother and two sisters to live with my grandparents on the Gold Coast. It was amazing; the waves, the climate, it was a whole new world. I was at school with other kids who surfed and body boarded it was a very positive change in my life. I joined a soccer club and also a bodyboarding club. I was super competitive and exceled in both.
My Body Boarding Career
I slowly started to compete in bodyboarding competitions as my style, form and manoeuvres became stronger and more fluid. I continued to compete as I started high school. I kept a surf journal and promised myself I would surf 365 days a year when I was 14. I did that and wrote down every session including best wave, size, winds everything. I lived and breathed body boarding! My drive and determination led me to become Queensland champion and Australian champion over the next two years. I was travelling with sponsors and videographers around Australia following my passion.
My high school supported me as I continued to compete. They had even set up a specialized training program for me, but I couldn't stick to it. In fact, at 17 I lost my title coming 2nd to my biggest rival. I remember throwing that trophy on the ground I was upset at myself for missing out on that second title by literally half a point in the final heat.
My Rough Years
I was shaken. I had a very close friend, Jamie, who had taken me under his wing many years back as he and I both didn't have a father figure in our lives not to mention the crazy energy we both had together (we were crazy).
Jamie was connected with an underworld that his father had been involved in. I found myself at 17 reaching a place of pain and anger again, that I wasn't in the ocean. I had started working and doing some crazy shit with Jamie. I started to really act out as a young teenage man and it came out in so many different ways at times it would shock me.
I ended up in trouble with the law when a 22 year-old man picked up a fight with me one day. He threw some punches at me and I defended myself knowing no one would ever repeat what had happened to me when I was 9 years old. I didn't care who he was or what age or anything else, I simply retaliated to the energy. Before I knew it, the sunglasses he was wearing in the fight and smashed in his left eye leaving severe damage.
The detectives knocked on my family’s door 1 month later and I was arrested and charged in my mother’s kitchen by 2 detectives who had been investigating. My mother was so upset with me and simply didn't know what to do with me. She had my sisters to take care of and I could only imagine the stress I brought her.
My mother and father decided I would move to Bristol, England to start a job there and live with father and his family. It was the start of me turning into a young man.
I worked in an Italian Restaurant with older men and started to learn different languages, wine knowledge and how to take care of myself. Three months after arriving I had my own one bedroom apartment and was living by myself in England paying my bills, working hard and realizing I was capable of doing whatever I set my mind too.
It wasn't that easy though I had these demons following me around unspoken pain and suffering that had not been resolved. This would hang around for years, stopping me from growing and being real with my own character.
I was working crazy hours in all sorts of restaurants from 5 star to cocktail bars. I started to use cocaine as I found the party and social scene and to cope with the crazy work hours. I was making good money, but was caught up in a circle of not being true to my active and adventures character I was masking my pain.
I moved back to Australia to stay with my brother when I was 20 after living in England for 3 years and continued to work in and around the wine and food scene. I somehow landed a job at the top restaurant on the Gold Coast. After 6 months, a new boss had me writing wine lists and I was earning 10% of all wine sales.
I was 20, living in a penthouse with two other people. I was working hard and partying harder. Life was amazing, but the lows started to get very intense and scary again.
One day I got pushed into a window and someone held a gun to my head telling me I needed to pay him in 7 days or else. I was reaching my all time low in life and some days I didn't want to wake up. I was drinking nearly everyday, using cocaine, not doing any physical exercise and was down and out.
The final blow came when I was contracted to work Christmas night at a mansion organizing the champagne list for the VIP guests. This was a well paying job and my colleagues and I worked and partied very hard that night. I'm not sure how it happened, but I found myself at my mother’s place at 3 in the morning. I had taken 20-30 valium, drunk alcohol and was trying to hang myself from a ceiling fan.
I woke up in a hospital with tubes and all sorts of shit hanging out of me the next day and proceeded to rip the drip and everything else off me. I was embarrassed, upset and so angry with myself. This was the lowest point in my life.
Over the next 2-3 months I would loose my job, go broke, start to evade police and anything positive or conducive to life. I was living on the floor of a drug dealer friend’s house and not giving a fuck about anyone or anything including myself - this was a scary place to be in.
Everything was coming to an end and I knew it. I couldn't hold a job down. I was fighting other men and hanging around guys who are now in jail, institutions or dead. I had no home and literally nothing to show for myself at 20.
Turning Things Around
My mother was trying to help in anyway she could. She connected me with a councillor to speak with. I would show up there in a suit, half cut, talking about my issues in life. I still find this part of my past hard to speak about. I have always felt that people out there have had it tougher than me and I wanted to help them.
I was put on a waiting list to go into a program that rehabilitates men and woman who were dealing with similar issues to me. I was fast tracked to get into this program.
One of the first questions I had to answer was. “Do you have any warrants out for your arrest?” Well, at that time I had 13 warrants and I had missed court years ago when I left to England. I had been using different names, but my prints had been found at crime scenes and also implicated in other crimes. They told me I had to get all that sorted before I could join the program.
My mother and I organised with the clinic that I would hand myself over to the police in the hope that my lawyer could tell my story and I would be allowed a chance to attend the rehabilitation program.
I stayed in the police cell for two days awaiting my hearing and they had me in handcuffs the whole time, even when my sentencing came. I watched my mother in tears, as I stood in the courtroom honestly ready to go to jail, but scared at the thought too.
My lawyer proceeded to tell the judge about my pro bodyboarding career. He communicated my story of how I had been side tracked in life and what I needed was another chance. Not prison, but the program. The judge looked me in the eyes and told me, "If you do not finish the program, even 1 day short, I will send you to max prison for the 7 months and 3 days period." I was admitted to the rehabilitation program.
I celebrated my 21st Birthday in there and did my first bench press ever surrounded by men who had been dealing with similar issues in life. I knew I had to stay here and finish this. This was going to be the start of my new life. I knew I could make something happen that was positive and conducive to me as a man.
I started learning how to weight train in there. I didn't speak with anyone from my former life; I only spoke with my family and people who wanted to see me better. I stayed in there for 7 months and 3 day. While other men ran away and headed directly to jail, I stayed. When other men wanted to fight, I said no. When I felt like giving up, I trained. I wanted to get better and no one was going to stop me!!!
Discovering My Passion for Fitness
I decided that I wanted to learn more about the functions of the body and the science behind weight training and nutrition. This was my new found passion and answer to what I’d been seeking.
I enrolled into the best program on training and nutrition you could find in Australia and organized the $4.5k to start my studies. I had this feeling that’s hard to explain, but I knew this would all come together as long as I applied myself.
The course was amazing and taught me so much critical information that I could start to use in the hopes of helping other men and woman with their own health and fitness goals. The knowledge that I gained in nutrition was amazing, but I wanted more. I started to invest in books and further online courses. As my knowledge and understanding grew and I started to work with clients and trial different diets, training protocols, food sources and regiments. The results I had with my own physique and health were amazing, not to mention the results my clients were achieving!
The Start of my Fitness Modeling Career
I was doing part time scuba diving contract work and personal training 6 days a week. I was staying focused on my training and nutrition, it was crazy how fast everything was starting to become so positive since I had decided to fully commit to my own goals and visions for the first time since my bodyboarding days. One day I was doing fasted cardio early morning and a guy stopped me. He asked if I had ever done a photo shoot. He went on to tell me that I looked great and that he worked for an agency and felt I would be a good fit.
Two weeks later, I was shooting for a calendar, which would later on be sold in every Airport in Australia and New Zealand. I was payed for a days work and taken out for lunch and asked if I would be interested in working again. Another photographer reached out and asked if I would be interested in doing a free shoot and he would structure a portfolio for me if he could use the images for his clothing brand.
I realized that if I was in great shape year round, continued training clients and was trying to connect with photographers from around the world, surely something positive would come of it.
I reached out to a company in London, UK and sent through a bunch of shots and my bio. They offered to give me some model work and I was ready for a change of scenery too.
I headed out there and was able to reconnect with my father and brother, who at the time I hadn't seen for 3.5 years. It was a great time in my life.
I was fit, healthy and somewhat happy as I started to chase bigger goals. I found a job in a gym. I worked with photographers in England and did some further modeling work. It was hard to earn a solid living unless I was selling meal and training programs and hustling like a bitch.
Recharging and Moving Back to Australia
The climate was cold and after five months I started to ask myself exactly what it was I really wanted from life. I wanted to be free to grow and train everyday, while sharing my passion with others. I wanted be working on my inner self just as much as the outer. It was time for me to take complete charge of at life at 25 years of age and see what I could come up with!
I booked a flight back to Australia and flew through Singapore picking up and buying my first fitness magazine ever.
Muscle & Fitness. It had Julien Greaux on the cover, shot by Per Bernal. The cover story read, "Julien Greaux, the Next Hollywood Action Hero." I wanted to be on that cover and have enough money to live life on my terms.
I arrived back in Australia with this energy that only a 25 year-old man with a vision and an "I don't give a fuck attitude” can have.
I was SO hungry for success and I wouldn’t stop. I started full time work in a gym, rented a beautiful place, turned my body into a temple, and created a business model that involved helping others. I was starting to realise my truest potential.
Competing as a Fitness Model
I was studying Greg Plitt photo shoot videos and Per Bernal shoots. I had a growing desire to compete as a fitness model in Australia.
The first year there was a fitness modeling competition in Australia I was there. It was me and a group of 10-15 other guys who would go on to pioneer fitness modeling and business in Australia with the help of guys like Steve Jones and his beautiful wife Antoinette.
I continued to compete and placed highly in categories ranging from Muscle Model to Fitness Model over a 16-month period. I also travelled to Los Angeles to compete as Australia's first male fitness model with the world’s top fitness federation. I went on to place 3rd in a line-up of 47 men and set a foundation for rising young fitness models in Australia coming through the ranks.
In all honesty, fitness modeling competitions weren't really my thing. I didn't need to be judged. I had already beaten my own expectations in life, I was the winner and knew I was destined for bigger achievement's and accolades. I wanted to make my dreams of being a fitness cover model and telling my story to the world a reality and knew I was getting closer each year I continued to push myself.
Landing my First Fitness Cover
I continued to shoot with the top photographers in Australia and focused on building relationships with them. I went to all the fitness trade shows and made sure I would set meetings up with the editors of the magazines so they could see who I was and what I was about.
I landed my first fitness cover at 27 years of age after numerous editorials and stories. I was invited to a shoot with Dallas Olsen after paying him for over 5 shoots. We shot the cover of Men’s Muscle and Health.
The vision was getting clearer and bigger with each year I stayed committed to my craft and passion. I travelled to Los Angeles and booked every fitness photographer that was good. I was investing everything I made straight back into chasing my dream.
Some people, even family members, would question my vision or sanity. Not to mention the haters and doubters who are around in life to simply remind you that your kicking ass and that hurts them in some ways. Why? Because they have what it takes to succeed in them, but they are not willing to try or dedicate themselves because they let fear take over everyday. I faced my fears and continue to do it daily. It’s a form of meditation and growth in my world.
I shot with Michael Neveux in LA. I had listened to many stories of how him and Arnold Schwarzenegger worked on covers and add campaigns. Mike looked me in the eyes at my first shoot and said “what are you here for?” I took it in and after what seemed like 10 minutes pause replied, “I have followed your work for over four years now and I feel I have reached this place in my fitness career”. That would go on to be one of the best shoots of my life.
Journey to Becoming Australia’s Leading Published Fitness Model
After arriving back in Australia later, I was called from America to do a phone interview. The magazine was running a six-page spread on me called “Deltoid Demolition”. I was the first Australian fitness model to land an American editorial in Ironman. This was the start of me cementing my own flare and energy as a professional fitness model and coach. I had arrived.
I moved out to Los Angeles full time the following year and went on to shoot with Noel Daganta and Jason Ellis. I continued to invest into my brand and business and my career was moving fast.
I moved back to Australia as I had many clients competing and doing shows so it was time to nourish these relationships and continue to build on my new found success in the fitness game. At 29, I had nailed more accolades than I had set out to achieve, but still hadn’t shot with Per Bernal or landed an international cover.
From ages 27-29 I slept max five hours a night, I was working and training so fucking hard. I was tired everyday. It wasn’t healthy to be honest, but I wanted to achieve those two goals so bad I wasn’t going to stop or slow down until I did.
Shooting with Per Bernal
I called Binais, the owner of Ironman America directly and spoke with him exhausted. I had reached a point in my career were I couldn’t go any further in Australia, but didn’t want to keep spending $20k each trip out to L.A.
I told him everything about me, my story, my dream I didn’t hold back; I had nothing to loose. He told me he couldn’t guarantee anything, but if I was in great shape and the images were good enough who knows.
He got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in working with Per Bernal. I had planned to be in L.A. in three weeks and within a space of five days we had set a shoot up with Per Bernal for Ironman America.
I knew that the only thing Per Bernal touches is quality. I had been following his work for over five years and wrote him personal emails and messages without reply over that time period. I showed up in my career peak knowing that I had been working from 21 until now to be in that position.
I was shooting with the best fitness photographer in the world, for one of the most respected magazines in the industry. That shoot was one of the hardest but most fulfilling of my career and I went on to land the Ironman cover in America, Australia, Italy and New Zealand.
First Australian Fitness Model to Land the Muscle and Fitness Cover
There was only one cover that I still wanted to grace, which is the Holy Grail in the fitness world. Muscle & Fitness.
I would spend months working on the back end making sure the editor was happy with the images and story. The issue was published and I became the first Australian fitness model to ever land the cover. The month before my cover they had 50 Cent and the month after they had THE ROCK.
My story was titled “Sonny Brown an Aussie conquering the world”. That took me eight years of non-stop energy, passion, blood, sweat and tears and I feel like I’m only just getting warmed.
Focus On Coaching
I have arrived at my physical and mental peak in life. I have worked on my soul, my inner demons and flow to arrive at a place that is about giving back. It’s all about helping men and woman from all walks of life to realise, it doesn’t matter how hard life has been to you, what has happened to you, where you’ve come from, we all posses the power to achieve our wildest dreams.
Having a healthy mind and healthy body translates into so many different areas of life. I want to help you reach greater health and optimal energy in your life. My vision is about creating the correct atmosphere for anyone to flourish into there best self.
I am Sonny Brown and today I am grateful for my life and health! I look forward to working with you and appreciate you talking time to read about my rise through the fitness world to be alive and proud today.