Sonne Bajwa isn’t what you’d expect from an student government president. Hailing from Singapore, Bajwa is comfortable, very colloquial and sometimes a bit too casual. Yet, he’s honest, bold and confident in his abilities. He greeted this W27 reporter wearing a plain white FIT logoed t-shirt, dark pants and a Kermit the Frog cap. He was at rest on a fancy chair with his hands clasped — maintaining eye contact at me while he spoke. Here’s what President Bajwa had to share.
W27: When and how did you start to get involved on campus?
Sonne Bajwa: One of the first professors I had in my first semester was Professor Blumenthal — who is the advisor of the Merchandising Society club. He taught me in FM114: Introduction to the Fashion Industry. At that time, the club was looking for a digital co-manager to create an ecommerce site for the Style Shop. I thought the position was interesting, I had done something similar in the past, so I asked him to briefly talk to me about it. He asked me if I would like to interview for the position. I mean, I was a freshman. I hadn’t felt comfortable yet in FIT. I was, and am still, a quiet person. Even now, I usually only talk to people by need. Anyways, in the end, I decided to get an interview, was accepted to the position and built a team of 6 people with me and another partner as the other co-manager. After a year, we launched the site, magically, so now you can shop online. That was how I first got involved. I never thought I would do much more, but when the next year started it got crazy.
W27: What made you want to run for this position?
SB: FIT has done a lot for me. It helped me grow as an individual, and I want to give back to that community some way or the other. However, I also have friends who are dissatisfied with FIT. They said there is no community, no spirit, no events, which I am not even mad at them for. I know why they feel that way. Personally, I felt that the past administration could have done more…Sure, I was not in their seat, but I am now…People say there is no school spirit, but they don’t realize that they are a big factor. The act of going from one friend to another friend and saying that there is no school spirit — you just contributed to the lack of school spirit. At FIT, there are students who wish to come to class and leave. There are students who wish to be involved. Whatever path you choose, don’t hate on the others.
W27: What are your immediate goals for the FIT Student Government Association?
SB: I want the SGA to be united. It is simple, but it is a goal I really focus on. I am a confrontational, black or white person when it comes to work. If you did it, you did it. If you didn’t do it, you didn’t do it. Thankfully, many executive board members are friendlier, so they can keep me in check, and I can help them get things done when they slack off. It’s a good balance. I hope when the April re-election comes, 24 of us can move out and the new board can come in with a legacy to carry on.
By the way, there are now 22 members. I hope we can fill up the last two. Applications are open!
W27: Can you tell me a bit more about your participation and triumph at the Infor/FIT Fashion Design ICONS Awards?
SB: This was a competition introduced to me by a professor last semester. It was literally during finals week. I was busy, but still, I applied. My partner Kathleen Grey and I had three weeks to put together this business plan to sell a thousand dresses of a model designed by a FIT fashion design student in three months for Macy’s, then present it in front of some big figures in the fashion industry. The presentation itself was huge. My partner was working, and I was interning. We tried to bounce around it, came to school working from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. We presented. We won. The dress was worn by social media influencer Olivia Perez at the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS dinner, which was the official kick off event for Fashion Week. Since we won, we got to go, which was pretty cool. My goal for the night was to get a selfie with Kendall Jenner and a photo with 50 Cent, and I did.
W27: You have been elected president and won quite a few awards recently. You must have been busy. What keeps you grounded?
SB: The fact that I know I still waste time and do things that I like, like watching Youtube…I don’t do things that I hate. Deep down, I am pretty nerdy when it comes to getting work done, but that is only when I want to do something. If you give me something which I think is irrelevant, I have no motivation and will do the bare minimum. But if you give me something meaningful, something I am accountable for, that is when I get very invested. I can go for hours without feeling tired.
W27: Can you tell me one thing not a lot of people know about you?
SB: Before I came to the U.S., I was always the problem child at school. I nearly got held back when I was 13. The requirement to move on was 50% of the overall grade. I scored 50.3%. When I took my GCSE A levels, which is the thing they do in British style schools, I scored miserably, which was embarrassing. However, when I came to the U.S., I quit smoking and stopped a lot of irresponsible behaviors…I knocked out everything that you think you need to do in college by the time I turned 18. Occasionally, I still go out to a party, but the point is that I have goals now. I had my fun. Everyone in Singapore now wouldn’t believe who I am here. Everyone here wouldn’t believe who I was back home.
W27: If you could give one piece of advice to all FIT students, what would it be?
SB: I always tell my friends this: live your life as if there will be an autobiography about you and people are going to buy that book. You are not going to write that book, because if you do, you lie. How do you want your story to be told? If you want to live it like you’re Mick Jagger, like Obama, or like the Kardashians, please do so. However you want to live it, prepare for it to be your legacy.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.