The British-Iranian TV star, who is launching her own eco-friendly furniture range, House of Sonnaz, next year, sat down with HELLO! for an exclusive interview about her early life and path to success, including living in poverty, developing an eating disorder and eventually seeking therapy.
Speaking about her childhood, Sonnaz explained that while her mother was a creative, and would often make clothes and soft furnishings for their home, her dad encouraged her towards a more academic career and urged her to study law.
"As a child, I was always very creative," she said. "I grew up watching my mum make soft furnishings and decorate our home and various homes later on. She also made our clothes and our bedding with our names on it.
"However, my dad really valued academic careers. So I was told from a very young age, you're going to be a barrister or a lawyer. So that was it."
However, when Sonnaz's father's business went under, her mother left their home in Iran with Sonnaz and her two siblings and returned to Portsmouth in the UK, where the family had previously lived.
With the absence of her dad, Sonnaz dropped out of college at the age of 17 and applied for a prestigious apprenticeship with the luxury yacht manufacturer, Sunseeker International. "I had this epiphany, my dad wasn't in the UK, so he couldn't force me to do anything that I didn't want to do," she said.
However, with the collapse of her dad's business also came a change in living conditions for Sonnaz and her siblings. It was this transition that motivated the now-TV star to strike out on her own.
"My dad lost everything overnight when we were living in Iran and we'd gone from a family unit to a single parent with three kids. No money, living in a council house – and I'm talking literally no money," said Sonnaz.
"I really wanted to take control of my life and I knew that working and earning my own money would be the answer to that. And as long as I could work hard, I could achieve anything that I wanted to in my life and I've got control over it."
Getting a place on the extremely competitive Sunseeker International apprenticeship was a life-changing moment for Sonnaz. She had endured tough times up until then, having witnessed her parents' difficult relationship and split, as well as being bullied at school and coping with severe dyslexia.
"I experienced this period in my life [from being] a child with no control with these really difficult things happening, to actually being a young teenager having been accepted into something that was so prestigious, that I suddenly felt so empowered," she explained.
"It was a real-life example of actually, if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it."
Opening up about how her "difficult" childhood has shifted her outlook on life, she went on: "Those experiences give me a different perspective and appreciation for having the freedom to choose being empowered. And when there is success, going 'that's down to me'. So I look at that in a different way and I'm very grateful for what I've been able to do and where I've come from."
While Sonnaz was on the path to success in her working life, she began to struggle with her mental health and developed an eating disorder following a nasty motorbike accident.
"It was the first time in my life that I had to stop because I physically couldn't go anywhere or do anything or do any sport and I really struggled with that," said the Dorset-based star. "And I basically developed a bit of an eating disorder because that's all you can control.
"I got so bad that I thought, 'I think I need help'. I didn't have any clothes in my wardrobe that actually fit me."
After being referred for cognitive behavioural therapy, Sonnaz realised that it was PTSD from her tumultuous childhood "that was starting to rear its ugly head".
"All the experiences that I'd had up to then that I'd never really known how to deal with were starting to come to the fore," she said.
Looking for the positives, Sonnaz added: "That was again, although extremely difficult, a blessing in disguise because it set me on that path to start dealing with it and also to understanding myself. It was amazing."
In 2016, five years after starting her own business, Sonnaz was approached by the production company Ricochet about a role on their new show, The Repair Shop, but decided to decline their offer.
Explaining her decision, she said: "I was like, 'I'm not sure if I want to get into TV. I don't want my clients to think that I sold my soul to the media'. I didn't know how we were going to come across and be portrayed."
Thankfully, the show was recommissioned for season two, giving Sonnaz a chance to reconsider.
A visit to the barn at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex convinced the star to sign up. "[I thought] they really are focusing on craftsmanship and integrity and what it means to be a contributor. I was like, 'How could I say no?' It was amazing," she said.
Now, alongside her new business, Sonnaz's current focus is opposing new draft legislation on fire regulations for upholstered furniture, which would involve increased use of fire retardant chemicals.
Sonnaz, with the help of fellow upholsterer Delyth Fetherston-Dilke, has set up a website called Eco Chair, which shares concerns about the impact of the legislation on the reupholstery business.
In their open letter, Sonnaz and Delyth explain: "Furniture in the UK is treated with flame retardant chemicals that the Government openly recognises are toxic to human health and the environment. So toxic, that under a new law, sofas have now to be incinerated not landfilled to avoid the chemicals leaching into our river systems and environment. A new study has pulled together evidence of exactly how harmful these flame-retardant chemicals can be to a child. A young child hasn't yet developed enzymes to break the chemicals down and like an elephant and a mouse is disproportionately affected by the flame retardant chemicals leaching from sofas into the home environment.
"Flame retardants have been linked to impaired neurological development, reduced IQ and behavioural problems. They can also be endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic. The Fire Brigade Union has concerns with the smoke toxicity and that the chemicals provide negligible delay and worsen fire conditions. Draft new law for furniture fire safety has just been published and we had hoped this would move the UK to the US model where chemical flame retardants are now avoided. But the new draft regulations go nowhere near far enough. Unless we can move the Government to overhaul these new draft regulations the furniture manufactures will largely carry-on business as usual, and our waste furniture will go to incineration and our small children’s bodies will continue to be exposed."
For more information, visit Eco Chair.