Bella Poarch is the Gen Z renegade using digital platforms to overhaul pop’s hardware – where she goes next is down to her.
There are many sides to Bella Poarch. There’s the online star, building her own global-spanning fanbase from the ground. There’s the adopted kid in the Philippines trying to navigate an abusive, endlessly difficult family environment. There’s the social media phenomenon, upending beauty standards and quietly breaking barriers. And then there’s the musician, the radical pop dreamer who wants to do it her own way.
Right now, we’re seeing Bella Poarch at her most focussed. She’s onset in London, taking part in an ambitious cover shoot for CLASH. It’s undoubtedly draining; having your photo taken repeatedly – across multiple looks, for hours on end – can be intrusive and tiring. But Bella is the modicum of focus, never once losing sight of why she’s here, taking charge of the stereo and spinning tracks from her favourites as the camera clicks open and shut. At the end, she praises the drizzly London weather, and hugs everyone on-set making sure she thanks them for their efforts.
A few weeks later, we’re put in contact for a full interview. Gracious with her time and refreshingly open, Bella is candid but controlled, eager to communicate but ever conscious of the need to protect herself. Looking back on her childhood, she points to music as an outlet, as a key area of expression. While she wasn’t always happy, “music uplifted me and made me feel powerful” with Bella citing Lea Salonga, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga as icons in her childhood pop galaxy.
Ultimately, Bella’s colossal online fame is testimony to the DIY power social media can have. When used correctly, TikTok is a fascinating, free-flowing nexus, a means of demolishing the line between artist and audience. This is the space Bella Poarch thrives in; continual communication, a stream of information that cycles round in a digital vortex. “I think my fans can relate to me being unapologetically myself,” she says, “whether that be my more silly videos or me singing on TikTok live. I try not to take myself too seriously when it comes to content. I just like trying different things.”
Refusing to obey the barriers put around her, a thirst for freedom sits at the core of Bella’s being. Music is ever-present in her life – anyone who spends even a second on her social media channels would recognise this – so it was only a matter of time before it rose to the surface. Debut single ‘Build A Bitch’ was a daring moment of departure, a rebel-pop masterpiece that carried an incredible sense of risk. At the time, though, it felt totally natural. She points out: “It’s always been my dream to be a musician, so the moment I had the opportunity to make my own music I just knew I had to go for it.”
When the moment came to set her debut single live, Bella admits to having more than a few butterflies in her stomach. “I was really nervous because it was the first time I released a song, and I didn’t know how my fans would react,” she gasps. “I had so much anxiety built up that when ‘Build A Bitch’ was finally released I felt a great sense of relief. I’m just glad that the people who listened to it seemed to like it!”
A global phenomenon, ‘Build A Bitch’ found Bella Poarch flipping the script. Lawless pop creativity that pulled from multiple genres, it was the work of someone who sought to unlock a new aspect of their identity. “It was so important that the first song I released had a strong message that I believed in,” she explains. “I hope everyone who listens to ‘Build A Bitch’ feels empowered and that they don’t change who they are for anyone.”
Gloriously inspiring, ‘Build A Bitch’ found Bella Poarch sweeping away expectations. In the studio, she quickly found that she needed to be true to herself – it was the only thing that mattered. “For me, it depends on how I feel and then I begin to explore that feeling. From there an idea is born, and the beat comes after the idea to fully set the vibe of the song.”
Emboldened by the success of her early experiments, Bella Poarch found that ideas simply flowed out of her. It was as if something long held inside was suddenly unleashed – this torrent of expression, tapping into repressed emotion, and hidden ambition. Debut EP ‘Dolls’ saw Bella Poarch level up, affording her the bandwidth to switch it up sonically, with no two songs sounding the same.
Evolution, it seems, is key. “Definitely!” she exclaims when Clash puts this to her. “I’m working on an album now and I’ve been working with different producers trying out different sounds. I want to make sure that I’m getting out of my comfort zone when it comes to my album, so I’ve been pushing myself to try different genres and sounds.”
EP highlight ‘No Man’s Land’ caused a ruckus for a whole host of reasons – not least the appearance of digital savant Grimes, who actually punches Bella Poarch (playfully, mind you) in the video. So, did it hurt?! Bella collapses into laughter: “It was so worth it because the scene came out sooo good! It’s such an honour to be able to say that I was punched by Grimes!”
“I’ve always been a fan of Grimes and I have a tremendous respect for her artistry,” she continues. “I reached out to her to be a feature on the song but I never expected her to actually say yes. But, I’m so glad she did because I can’t think of anyone else that I would’ve wanted on the song. Being in the studio with her was such an incredible experience that I’ll always treasure.”
Yet as thrilling as these experiences are, sessions also cut to her core. Take ‘Living Hell’, enormously autobiographical, it peers into some of the darkest moments of Bella’s life, including her turbulent, often fraught childhood. “It’s really hard to be vulnerable especially when it’s about something so personal, but I think it also feels freeing to be able to share that with my fans. I just hope people who might be or have gone through the same things feel seen,” she notes.
The video recreated her childhood bedroom, a shoot that was fun but also triggering for someone still coming to terms with those memories. “There were some parts of the shoot where I got emotional because I felt as if I was reliving my childhood trauma. But, there were some parts that were fun,” she smiles, “like the bathtub scene where I was painted yellow and submersed in yellow slime. Although, what was not fun was trying to get all that slime off me!”
Bella Poarch has input into every aspect of her creative output. Attracted to visual arts, she’s able to blend this with music and her undoubted social media grasp, re-working standard tropes to produce something addictive, engaging, and future focussed. She recently embarked on her most ambitious fashion project yet, a full capsule with revered brand HUGO.
“When HUGO asked me if I wanted to make a collection with them there was no way I could say anything but yes!” she exclaims. “I love that HUGO stands for expressing yourself and being bold, and I especially love how they’re not afraid to be creative and different. HUGO x Bella Poarch feels like a match made in heaven.”
For such a high-profile endeavour, it seems that both HUGO and Bella Poarch approached the capsule from a sense of daring independence. “This was such a free-flowing process and I knew that my collection had to be bold and edgy like my music and personal style,” she adds. Her personal favourite from the capsule, we wonder? “The first and my favourite piece was the bodysuit!”
In Bella’s mind, creativity all merges together. A true multi-hyphenate, her work in fashion and visual arts informs her music, while her music acts as an anchor for this new collection. It’s all interwoven; a cyclical relationship. ”This collection was inspired by my EP ‘Dolls’, which is dark, edgy, and empowering. The pieces in the collection can be mixed and matched to fit whatever your sense of style is. The main thing I hope is that whenever someone wears it they feel like the badass they are!”
It all comes back to empowerment. Bella knows what it’s like to lose that spark, to lose sight of your goals – she fought her way back, and hopes her fans can do the same. “Music, fashion, creating content all have the same thing in common, which is why it’s a great way to express yourself,” she says. “I love being able to showcase the different sides of me whether that be through the clothes I design and wear, the music I write, or creating content. It feels surreal to be able to bring these worlds together with this collection!”
Bella Poarch is building her own universe. Fusing together a creative cosmos, she’s now ready for her biggest challenge yet, her debut album. The path hasn’t always been easy, but it’s forever been fulfilling – each achievement takes her closer to her goal. “I’ve never done anything like this before and being able to step out of my comfort zone was so fulfilling. With my new music I’ve also been pushing myself to try different sounds, genres, and work with different people that I haven’t before. Because after this collection I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do!” Pop’s newest renegade, Bella Poarch is spearheading a newgen of digital creatives who refused to be hemmed in. Unpicking the ghosts of the past to chart a radical future, this cross-genre aesthete is ready to speak her truth in glorious technicolour.
Pre-Order your copy of Clash 126 HERE.
Words: Robin Murray
Photography: Joseph Delaney
Fashion: Matt King
Hair & Agent: Nick Rose @ The Wall Group
Make-Up & Agent: Kelly Dawn @ The Wall Group
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers