There's no hiding for Bella Thorne. Unable to leave the house without being pursued by a gaggle of paparazzi, the 19-year-old actress and singer decided to beat the tabloids to the punch by sharing her life candidly with 14 million Instagram followers. "I watch my ass, but not too closely, because I want to remain realistic," the Big Sky and Perfect High star says about social media. After coming out as bisexual on Twitter, Thorne experienced a wave of positivity from her fans, but she was disappointed in the reaction from studio execs, who were less accepting of her sexuality and what it supposedly meant for her public image. "Look at the world we live in. It's so crazy and disgusting, and times have changed so much, and yet still not enough whatsoever," she laments. Hopeful about the future, Thorne is creating her own website with the intention of helping kids learn about the arts, noting that she forged her own path after "barely going to school." More liberated than ever, the starlet's working on new music and a host of film and TV projects, including her new ABC Family series Famous in Love and the American adaptation of the Japanese film Midnight Sun.
How do you go about choosing your roles?
I always try to go for really different characters…I've now decided I'm not going to do another mean girl, and I've had to turn down a couple of really cool roles just because they were mean characters. I really just think about if I like the script, if I like the director, if I like the story. It's really important to work with a great director, because your career in that moment is in their hands.
Did you turn away from playing mean girls because you felt like you were being typecast?
If you're semi attractive, people think that you're mean automatically. People are so shocked at how nice I am when they meet me. They're like, “God, you're just so fucking nice! Like, wow!" I'm always like, “Thanks! You are too!" People are like, “Oh my god, you're just like you are on your socials. That's so cool."
Speaking of social media, you have an insane following. What's your general approach when it comes to sharing your life?
Social media is hard. It really is a job in a sense that I watch my ass, but not too closely, because I want to remain realistic. I'm myself. I'm very blunt. I'm a very honest person; I really don't lie. So if you ask me a question or if my best friend asks me a question, you're going to get the same answer. So I always try and be careful because people need to see a real face.
I try and always use my social media for good. Even if I'm not getting bullied but I see somebody else is, I'm always on people's shit about it on Twitter. It sucks that you have to do that, and people always give me different advice, like “Why do you listen to the haters? Why do you reply to them? You're giving them what they want." And I'm like, “Um, it's really a tough line to balance but I'm not going to just sit here and watch people be bullied or picked on." I've had my fair share of bullying, so I'm like, fuck it, I'm not going to let this chain keep going.
Do friends or people you date feel comfortable with you being so open to the public?
They don't realize that social media is such a big thing in my life. So when you're in a relationship with someone who doesn't understand social media, it's a really big fucking challenge. And it is really hard to work through because they don't understand that this is my life. I step outside of the house and immediately there's paparazzi following my every move. I can't go out without a fucking photo taken of me. So if you're not willing to be down with that, I can't change that about me. You think I want paparazzi following my every move? You think I want people trashing me on the Internet all the time, talking shit about me? No! But that is my life, and if you're dating me, you need to know that you have to take that on in a sense, too. And it's unfortunate but it's something you have to give up when dating me.
I feel like social media allows you to control your own image at a time when so many paparazzi are trying to sell it. It gives you the upper hand in that way.
It's because I'm choosing to want [to put it] out. People are getting photos of it anyway, but it definitely sucks when someone gets a photo of something you didn't want out at that time. Like, obviously that sucks. I also know a lot of people that know something's coming out about them, so they go on and they put it out first so that nobody else can get credit for it, which is really interesting to.
For instance, dating Tyler [Posey], when we first started dating, paparazzi got a photo of us kissing outside and it sucked that people got that photo because we really didn't want it out at that time. We were obviously dating and hanging out, but it just wasn't necessary to put that in front of everyone's face, you know? That one sucked.
Top by Waltz, briefs by The Order, jacket by This Is A Love Song and pinky ring by J. Hannah
You also used social media to come out as bisexual. What has the reaction been like?
I've gotten a lot of positivity from fans. Everybody was really happy, in my personal life. Everybody was really proud of me. It felt good, but it was also something that I was never really hiding. So I guess in a way to me, it wasn't that big of a deal, because it was always something that I kind of knew and I felt like everybody else kind of knew too, because people were always commenting on my photos. So I never denied it.
Did you realize how big of a news story it would become?
When I did it, I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal for me. I knew it was going to be a big deal for other people, in the sense that hopefully kids read that and they go, “Oh, that's a big step she took. Maybe I can take the same one." But I never realized that it was going to be a big deal to the public eye, or that it was going to be so crazy or blow up so big. I got a lot of tweets from people saying that I've inspired them to come out to their parents, which is really cool. But I've got some shit from studio heads. I've heard some shit down from the grapevine that I'm just like, are you kidding me? Look at the world we live in. It is so crazy and disgusting and times have changed so much, and yet still not enough whatsoever.
Why did you choose to do it on Twitter as opposed to a talk show or magazine?
I didn't want to glamorize it. The reason why I did it is for other people's benefits that have the same insecurity that I had. And that's why I'm doing it. When you do it in a certain way, you just glamorize it so much it's not easy for kids to relate to. Like a kid could easily write on their Twitter to all their best friends that they're bisexual and come out like that.
In terms of your career, what's coming up?
The end of this year I have Keep Watching coming out. Next year I'm going to be working on some music. I'm starting to get a little bit back into music. My sister and her boyfriend are DJs, so they're also getting me into it and inspiring me more to sing. That's cool. I'll be doing a little bit of all genres. But also, I'm writing right now. I'll be writing a show and developing it for the next two years or so. It's kind of based on everything that I know about this business and how dirty and grimy it gets, and some of my personal life experiences. And then I also wrote and will be directing a short called Him and Her, and I'll be doing that in December this year. It'll be cool for fans to see something that's really just me. I wrote it, I'm directing it, I'm acting in it, and everything else.
What makes you feel the most fulfilled or successful when it comes to work?
It depends on the project. If I'm doing the project to send a message to people, then obviously my biggest hope is that it brings people closer together.
What's something you look forward to doing in the future?
I didn't learn any of this shit. I didn't go to school for this. I barely went to school at all, to be completely honest, and I understand kids and families that can't go to school that want to learn about the arts or they do go to school and they are taking electives in college and it's not what they want to be doing because they have to be doing Econ. or something else, but they really have their heart in film. They can go to my site that I'll be building and learn how I did this piece by piece without really knowing anything about it. Hopefully I'll be able to get funding to make some kids' shorts, and work with them and have them learn the ropes, or even submit stuff to me and get it made and hopefully get it into festivals and make kids dreams fucking come true.
Hair by Ryan Richman at Starworks
Makeup by Ashleigh Louer at Starworks
Location: EDGE Studios