Sixteen-year-old Bella Eng has a famous face.
Ever since the Saugus High School student was a young child, she has been acting in community theater, but within the last year and a half, she has built a career in modeling.
Bella began acting as a child with the Canyon Theater Guild, following in the footsteps of her mother Gin Treadwell-Eng, who is also an actress. Seeing her mother perform on stage instilled in her a desire to perform in front of others as well, and she has been in 10 productions with both the Canyon Theater Guild and Saugus High theater.
While on a trip to New York City, one of Bella’s uncles took some pictures of her, which the family then gave to one of her aunts, who is a casting director, to submit to agencies.
“I started watching ‘Project Runway’ as a child and I’ve always loved fashion, especially how they make the clothes, and dreamed of being a runway model performing for people in a different way,” Bella said. “I wanted to get into modeling because I wanted to see what it was like in the fashion industry both behind the camera as a designer and in front of the camera as a model. When I started getting contacted by agencies I was really excited because I realized I could actually pursue this as a career rather than it just being a dream.”
At the beginning of her modeling career, Bella said she found it intimidating to be on set because, as a model who shot older, she was always the youngest person surrounded by adult crew and actors portraying teens. Since signing with a modeling agency, Bella modeled and shot ad campaigns for Anastasia Beverly Hills, JCPenney, Apple iPhone 11 and actress Millie Bobbie Brown’s new makeup line Florence by Mills.
“My first shoot was with Anastasia for their holiday line and it was at first so intimidating, but it was so neat to have them put makeup on me and do my hair,” Bella said. “As a model you don’t usually get to see what the shots look like in the moment, but they had a monitor set up so I could kind of see and it was so cool to see myself looking back at me, but so glamorous and older looking and not anything like how I view myself.”
Bella said that for her, modeling has an on and off switch and she views it as a profession. In front of the camera, she feels like she is her “best self,” portraying the person she wants the world to see, and as soon as she is done working she is back to the same goofy person she always was. She said her acting and improv background has helped in her modeling career and makes it easier for her to inject her personality into her photos and think of different poses very quickly.
After working on shoots, Bella wasn’t told when the ads would run and was actually informed that they were live from friends who had seen the ads and texted her about them. Soon her face was international.
“My face was trending on Twitter next to Colonel Sanders and Ariana Grande, and there was an article in DailyMail about the iPhone with my face as the main picture in the article, and then with Florence I was also featured on Millie Bobbie Brown’s story,” Bella said. “Seeing my face everywhere was really weird, but fun. The first thing that my friends say when they introduce me to people is that I’m a model and they’ll have me take photos of them because I know how to pose them. After I started to get recognized I would get texts from random people at school saying they saw me in an ad. I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow that weirdness because I’ll always see myself as just Bella and never as ‘Bella the model.’”
Though it can sometimes be a challenge to balance normal life and school with her modeling, Bella said the hardest part of maintaining her work and normal life is missing rehearsals, because while she can make up school work or do it on set, theater is so dependent upon her being physically present. Though it is difficult, being a performer has always been a dream and she views her current job as getting a head start that will allow her to further develop her career than if she had waited until after graduating college.
A typical shoot will last between six to eight hours, and though she hasn’t had to miss too much school for work, Bella and her mother anticipate an increase in jobs once she turns 18.
“A lot of agencies hire 18 to play younger because of all the labor laws and regulations, so people hire adults to get around those restrictions,” Gin said. “She got an offer for representation from an agency in the Midwest but they didn’t realize she was only 16 since she photographs older, and I’m not going to let her fly out there unaccompanied, so we have offers that we can revisit.”
Gin said that though she was initially reluctant to sign her daughter up for professional representation, she’s excited to see where her daughter’s career is going.
“I was reluctant at first because I know what the audition scene is like and that there are more rejections than acceptances, and I didn’t want that to affect her self-esteem, and it’s also been stressful to manage all of our schedules and then move things around to accommodate last-minute auditions,” Gin said. “But we gave it a chance and I’m really proud of her and excited for the opportunities she’s getting. In the meantime, she’s a good student and managed to keep up with her grades and other interests.”
In the future, Bella wants to go to college for fashion design and pair that with environmental sciences to create biodegradable textiles while continuing acting and modeling. Although she prefers print modeling, she said she would like to revisit her dream of being a runway model.
“I like print modeling because I like to see the finished photos, but I’d also like to try runway and the performance aspect of walking in front of people,” she said. “Modeling isn’t always real but I think we’re at a place where companies are looking to portray real people and real stories, rather than fake and glamourous. Fashion is important because it allows us to express who we are as individuals. It allows us to wear exactly what you want to wear and be exactly who you want to be. Whether you dress for comfort, color or to be athletic, fashion is tailored to your walk in life.”