"Bella the DJ" [photo credit: Julie Hinson Paisley]Behind bold beats and a perfect pucker, the imploring eyes of Isabella DeLéon exude a quiet, natural depth, which balances her striking beauty and solid stage presence. A.K.A "Bella the DJ," this 17-year-old modern-day DJ, model, actress and student attacks life with a sensible passion. Bypassing perceived ills of the fashion industry, Bella has walked multiple runways (most recently New York and Vancouver Fashion weeks), was featured as one of Gambit New Orlean's 40 under 40 (2015), serves as muse and in-house model for Project Runway Junior contestant Tieler James and recently graced the cover of Vie Magazine, after being named South Walton Fashion week's female Model of the Year. Keep reading for a snapshot into the life of a talented up-and-coming teenage superstar...
Rockin' the runway at Saku NY (L,M) and Christian Siriano NYFW Feb 2017 [R]Resolutions help set the tone for each new year. As the first quarter of 2017 draws to a close, how are you doing with your 2017 resolutions? What goals are you looking forward to fulfilling? What is one thing you've achieved so far in 2017, unexpectedly?
I am graduating high school a year early to pursue my DJing and modeling endeavors before going to college next year. I am also challenging myself to regimentally work out. I found Kayla Itsines' Instagram page and saw amazing results of her BBG (Bikini Body Guide) challenge. Motivated, I downloaded her app, "Sweat." I highly recommend it! Unexpectedly, I walked in NYFW for Korean designer Saku New York and was invited to watch Christian Siriano's fashion show at the Plaza Hotel. It was so surreal, and it made me want to work harder to achieve that level in the industry of high fashion
Modeling as an industry has faced criticism for views on body image, discriminatory practices, unethical treatment and sadistic pressure. Have you experienced any of the above, so far, in your modeling career? From your perspective, what are some of the positives of modeling--what do you enjoy most? What is one recommendation you have to improve the industry?
I just started seeking modeling representation this year. I have been told that my skin was too bad, my thighs were too big and that I needed to lose 15 pounds. Agency representatives told me to be under the measurements of 19 inch thighs and a 24 inch waist, which I have achieved in the healthiest way possible. I was also told by a New York agent that my natural hair was too big, and suggested that I straighten it and pull it away from my face. Not going to lie--it makes me feel really down on myself to a point where I don't want to talk about it for a period of time.
[L] Covergirl for VIE magazine / [R] modeling at Pensacola Fashion week photo by East Hill PhotographyI am of mixed race, so I don't look like the typical model most agencies represent. There are times where I want to give up, but then another modeling opportunity comes along, and I know it is God's way of telling me to keep pushing. I have been a house model for Tieler James since I was 16 years old. Tiler loves all of his house models for their individuality. He has models of different heights, shapes and sizes; his newest model--who is a beautiful transgender--made her debut in Vancouver Fashion Week this past March.
As far as recommendations to improve the industry... Bring back the model walk-in! I miss the personal interviews and social contact between an agent and model. I feel like social media has taken over the industry, in a sense. Not saying it is a bad thing, since I was booked for some great jobs through Instagram, but the "Insta-Famous" and child celebrity models who are extremely filtered seem to be sought after because of their followers for branding. It is hard to compete with them.
Bella the DJ in action at Coast Nightclub / photo provided by Bella
As a 17 year old, you have quite a number of achievements under your belt. How do you balance school, friends, life, modeling and being a DJ? How did "Bella the DJ" come to be? What are your favorite jams and who would you want to perform live, at your wedding?
I started out in theater and dancing when I was 5 years old. This led to pursuing an acting agent at 13 years old and landing my first movie called Impact Earth when I was 15. I absolutely loved it, and still pursue it. I've always loved music--for as long as I could remember. I met DJ Nikki Stylz when I was 14. I was so intrigued watching her DJ at the Beau Rivage, I thought it would be fun just to try it out. She started giving me lessons and it took off from there. At first, it was a hobby where I would DJ at kid's parties and elementary schools. I already had a love for Skrillex at 11 years old and just started to listen to Electronic Music. When I started taking DJing seriously at 15, I discovered other artists and sub-genres that were limitless. Currently, my favorite artists are Masego, Sango and Goldlink.
Definitely getting married in Gordes, France. I modeled there last year and have been in love with the romantic city since. Daniel Caesar would be singing at my wedding; his voice is butter. The after-party would be hosted my current favorite DJ at that time!
British food journalist Bee Wilson writes about introducing new foods to children with selective eating habits. What food(s) can't you get enough of? What is your least favorite food? Have your tastes changed from when you were young? What are you partial to now, but didn't used to reach for? What is your drink of choice?
I absolutely love sushi! My favorites are tamago and salmon sashimi. I could practically have sushi every day, if possible. I love spicy food, especially when I saturate my Pho with Sriracha. My least favorite foods are greasy foods; they make my stomach churn! 10 years ago, I would beg to differ! After my Irish dance classes, I would grab two large slices of pepperoni pizza and a large Fanta with chocolate ice cream. If I had that now, I would be bed-ridden! I am partial to greens, whether a salad, juice or smoothie. When I travel, it is a must for me to try local cuisine. My latest obsession is Ramen! Caramel Macchiato or a Matcha Latte would be my choice of drink.
With friends--candid shots provided by Bella the DJ
Fashion is a unique identifier. How would you define your 'personal style?' What brands do you reach for? As a model, have there been standout ensembles (either good or bad) you wore down a runway? If you had the choice of a personal designer for a year, who would it be?
I am still trying to figure out my personal style--it changes daily! I have always been drawn to Korean street styles, and am always searching for the latest Adidas sneakers and clothing. I always love wearing Tieler James' designs down the runway. It was such a dream when I walked for Christian Siriano in a mint gown. For everyday wear, I would have to choose Alexander Wang's Adidas collection.
Bella and Jordan Canamar for VIE Magazine as the winners of South Walton Fashion Week 2016 / photo by Carlo Pieroni
At the end of 2016, QZ.com highlighted the top "defining moments in America" (link here). As a millennial, what stood out as the top 2-3 defining moments (in America and/or globally)? What would you do if you were president, in order to make America "great" again? Generally speaking, what is the legacy you look to leave behind?
9/11 was a huge impact; it was when my mom and I moved to the South. That event is something in our household we will never forget. My stepfather is a retired Airforce pilot, He has been deployed several times to Afganistan. We respect our military and love our country.
I recently walked in Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) with Adrianne Haslet, who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon in the 2013 terror attack. She rocked the runway with her prosthetic leg for designer Lesley Hampton, whose designs were meant for women to feel like warriors. This was truly an inspirational moment.
Side profile portrait by Kelsey Campion Photography
Anything you want to offer up on philosophy / background / dislikes? Five favorites--your choice... and 3 words to describe yourself.
My heart always goes out to the kids that are wallflowers--the ones that fell like they don't fit in. Although all the things that I do involve being on stage, I am very much an introvert and have few friends. I was picked on throughout elementary school for looking and being 'different,' dressing different and liking different things--which is why I keep to myself in high school. I was never asked to prom or any parties. I have only two good friends, but that is all you need to get through life :). I have a wonderful boyfriend from Germany; he and I are long distance. I was born in Manhattan, NY. My father is Dominican and my mother is of Bulgarian-Polish heritage. I absolutely despise racism, discrimination and sexism. C'mon! This is the United States in 2017! We are a melting pot, so we should all be getting along.
5 Favorites: God, Love, Unity, Family, Friendship
3 Words to describe myself: Weird, Clumsy, Kind
Mermania Launch Party with V-Moda at the Admiral Hotel / photo by Michael Short