Actually, Bella, the youngest of four kids, still lives with her mom (She’s my best friend‚); brother Remy, 19; two cats, Louis and Mae; dogs Hades, a husky, and Kingston, a Maltipoo; and a wolf (yes, wolf), Voodoo. And even though she’s legally an adult, she has no plans to move out anytime soon. I’m really comfortable,‚ she says. I’m also so lazy, and moving out is a big deal. Plus, I don’t like being alone.‚ The Thornes are a close-knit family who have overcome major challenges over the years. When Bella was 9, her father was killed in a motorcycle accident, and it rocked her world. At first, you’re in a state of shock,‚ she says, admitting, I didn’t cry for a week. During those days, you’re still waiting for him to show up at your door.‚
Now, her heartache resurfaces at random times, she says, like when she’s talking to Gregg and knowing my dad will never meet him.‚ She says her father’s death partially fueled her drive to succeed because without his income, her family had to go on food stamps to survive‚ something she’s always kept private. It was really, really hard for us for a long time.‚ The actress has overcome other challenges as well: dyslexia, friend drama, and being afraid to let her real (and sometimes awkward) self show.
When I was on Shake It Up!, I wanted to be what everyone wanted me to be,‚ she explains. I wanted to be the funny one, the pretty one, the one who dressed right, the one who everybody liked. And I did that.‚ So what happened? I realized that I was miserable!‚ Focusing so much on other people’s opinions made her selfconscious. At an event,‚ she recalls, I was too worried about dancing because people were going to look at me weird. So I was just like, ‹“No. I’m not going to do it anymore.’ ‚ Since then, her confidence and career have skyrocketed. Over the summer, Bella won a Teen Choice Award for her portrayal of mean girl Madison Morgan in The DUFF.
This winter, she appears in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, and she’s shooting a pilot for a show by PLL creator I. Marlene King called Famous in Love, about a girl plucked from obscurity to star in a blockbuster movie series. Next year, expect to see the Neutrogena Brand Ambassador in Midnight Sun with Patrick Schwarzenegger and the AwesomenessTV-produced movie Shovel Buddies. Oh, and her second novel, Autumn’s Kiss, is out now. When Bella doubts herself, the fact that she’s an author reminds her of what she’s capable of doing. I always remember, I wrote a book and I’m dyslexic!
It’s not even, ‹“Oh, can I do this?’
It’s, ‹“No. I’m going to do it.‚ When it comes to auditions, she has a similarly defiant attitude. If they don’t like me,‚ she says, then I’m going to go in again and I’m going to do it better.‚ As Bella sits at her dining room table‚ where she’s also getting texts from her mom and occasionally yawning‚ she opens up even more about getting through ups and downs in life (and love) and her secrets to becoming a kick-ass adult. This is your third Seventeen cover.
What’s different about you now compared to your first one, the Prom issue, in 2012?
I’m not that different. Before, I was still very much growing into myself and following everybody else’s opinion. Now I’m a bit more of my own person.
Do you have your driver’s license yet?
No, not yet. I don’t have my permit either. I have a fear of driving. My father died in a motorcycle accident. I’m not mature enough to accept the responsibility of perhaps taking someone else’s life. My mom drives me, Gregg drives me, and I have Uber. My mom was like, If you get a car, you’ll want to drive it.‚ So I got a car, but I’m very content sitting in the passenger seat. Because of my fear, I need to really believe in myself and be confident in my driving skills. You seem to be a confident person in other areas of your life. Everybody has good and bad days. But I have Gregg and my family, and they always make me feel better. In my daily life, if I put on makeup and heels, then most likely I feel a bit more confident in my appearance. But it just depends.
How about in terms of dating?
In dating, I’d say be confident in your appearance, but don’t be overconfident in general. Like, being goofy and funny and spilling your drink at the table‚ if you’re dating the right person, they’ll love that about you. Those are the cute things! Anybody who gets mad at you for spilling a drink on them is not the right person. Most people would be terrified of that situation happening, but you’re saying just let loose! If you’re too guarded, then they can’t get the dorky, relatable side of you. If you’re on a date, you want the person to see the inside of you as well.
So when you went on your first date with Gregg, did you spill anything on him?
No. We saw Ex Machina. We’ve known each other for a long time. We always knew that we liked each other. On our second date, we went to a comedy club and we laughed the whole time. My laugh is so not cute. It’s the ugliest thing about me besides my fat toe. Based on Instagram, you two do fun things together. Gregg likes to do fun stuff. I learned from making pottery that he cannot paint! I’m more of a homebody. One of my favorite things to do is watch TV. He’s the one pushing for us to go out. You have a five-year age difference.
§Do you care? I don’t notice it at all. Sometimes he says I’m more mature than he is, and I think girls mature at a faster rate than guys do. My mom thinks it’s appropriate. She’s known Gregg for a long time and she knows his family, so she’s very supportive of the relationship. If your family didn’t approve of a guy, would you still date him? No. My mom has to approve. Also, since I don’t drive, it’s not like she’s going to take me to see him if she doesn’t like him.
What have you learned from past relationships?
A lot. An ex of mine and I knew each other’s phone passwords, and he was constantly going through my phone. I learned not to do that because anything can be misread. Gregg has my password, but he doesn’t go through my phone. The ex and I also had a Don’t talk to the opposite sex‚ rule, so if a guy I was working with wrote me, it would be a big problem. You’re the youngest of four kids. What have you learned from your siblings? I used to always watch my two older sisters (Dani, 22, and Kaili, 23) get in trouble if they were going out to parties, and it made me never want to do it. I always tell my mom she got very lucky with me because I could be a party animal and go out all the time, but I stay in. I kill it at card games. I’m the Queen of Crazy Eights. You won a Teen Choice Award for playing a mean girl.
Ever had to deal with one in real life? I have a mean girl. She’s in the business, and she’s very, very mean. I stay away from her at all costs. I never say hello to her. Her siblings are not mean like she is. It’s just her. One of the reasons I don’t like her is because she’s been a billionaire since she was very little, and she’s never had to work for anything in her life. I did not come from a rich family. When my father died, we were living off of food stamps, basically. Did people know your family had to do that? I don’t think anybody really knew‚ it wasn’t a very obvious thing. I’ve never really talked about it. I wasn’t hiding it, and it wasn’t like, Oh, I’m embarrassed because we don’t have money.‚ It was, Oh, we don’t have money, so we’re going to work that much harder.‚ It was scary, though, because you really wanted those jobs. It’s a different hunger when you want your family to eat.
Did you feel pressure to make money? Yeah, sort of. Luckily, my mom was so supportive of us. She never pushed us in an uncomfortable way. You started modeling at 6 weeks old. Over the years, did anyone ever tell you to change your body or looks to be a better model? Not in modeling because I was so skinny growing up. But I eat all the food. I eat cheeseburgers and fries and everything. I do love vegetables, though. You’ve looked great on the red carpet lately.
Any style lessons you’ve learned over the years? I have a stylist, but my mom helps me with a lot of decision-making. We kind of have the same style, so it’s pretty easy. But there will be a time where, you know, the shoes just hurt, and I’m like, No. I’m sorry, just no.‚ She’s like, But they’re so good with the look!‚ I’m like, I don’t care.‚ I don’t want to be uncomfortable because everyone can tell when you are. This is what we love about you: You do what you want. Because I like me. I’m pretty comfortable with me. I know that once you start listening to what other people think, that changes you. And you have to constantly be brought back to being yourself. Once I started really working, I was like, They like me.‚ You have to find people that like you for being you, though.
Who’s your core friend group who supports you? My girls are Bella P., my brother’s girlfriend; Olivia, whose mom is best friends with my mom‚ we’ve been raised together since we were little; and Alexa, who’s been my friend for a while, and we kind of just started hanging out. I realized she was bitchy, and I was like, Oh, I like you.‚ Wait, you like bitchy people? I think everybody has a bitchy side, and once you let your friends see your bitchy side, then it’s like you can trust the person. We’re not mean to people; we’re mean to each other. That’s how we show our affection.
But we love each other. Who are you in the group? I am the funny one in the way that even if it’s a really bad situation, I’ll somehow find a way to make it a joke. I have a very sarcastic, dry attitude. In texts, I’m like, That’s supposed to be funny. It’s funny.‚ They’re like, It’s not funny.‚ I have to send little voice notes so they know I’m kidding.
How’s your friendship with Zendaya now? Zendaya and I don’t text as much as I wish we did. But when I saw her at Teen Choice, I was like, Hey, dude.‚ And she was like, Dude!‚ I always know that I can talk smack with Zendaya because she will talk smack with me. [Laughs.] How do you keep friendships going when you’re not together all the time? The best thing about social media is that you can keep up with your friends no matter where they are in the world. It’s a lot about group texting and Snapchats. If anyone writes in the group text, we know that we have to reply. And we always FaceTime each other whenever we get a chance. Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? I don’t do resolutions. There shouldn’t be like, Oh, I need a New Year’s resolution because everyone else has one.‚ That goes along with the whole riding the same train as everyone else. I can do it in the middle of the year or the next year or in five years.
When I decide to do it. Anything you want to try to do? I hope to somehow get over my fear of heights‚ small heights. It’s very weird. I love roller coasters, but I’m afraid of being like, 6 to 10 feet off the ground. I can’t dance or wear heels on anything tall off the ground. At Teen Choice, I was so afraid I was going to fall off the stage. You’re a determined person. Any advice on how other girls can learn to be that way too? I believe you’re put on this earth to show people you can be outside the box. You don’t have to be everything or anything people tell you. You can be more than that. When I was growing up, a lot of people told me that I wouldn’t be able to be an actress because I couldn’t read and I was the dumb model slash pretty girl. I’m determined to prove them wrong every chance I get.