'Queen America': Isabella Amara sang songs with Catherine Zeta-Jones while filming the Facebook Watch series
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, Isabella Amara opened up about her struggle with body image and how she related to Bella in 'Queen America'
Beauty pageant series 'Insatiable' had a controversial premiere, but 'Queen America' premiered silently on Facebook Watch November 21.
The story revolves around a ruthless pageant coach in Oklahoma named Vick Ellis portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She is tasked to help shape aspiring contestants to win the crown and is known to have caused eating disorders in women since 1995. She now wants her teenage niece Bella, played by Isabella Amara, to attend the pageant. Bella is an antithesis of the thin girls her aunt coaches. “I help girls become better versions of themselves,” Vicki says. “Everything you do in your life is about preventing girls from becoming like me,” Bella protests; “You hate ugly girls.”
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, Amara, who plays the role of Bella, opened up about channeling the role of Bella: "As someone who also struggles with body image, I drew upon my past and looked back at the times when I didn’t love myself or care too much about my physical appearance, which helped me relate to the material and understand what Bella was going through emotionally."
The 20-year-old actress also candidly spoke about starring opposite Academy Award winner Zeta-Jones and the advice the actress gave her on and off the set. Amara was previously seen in the Netflix film 'Alex Strangelove,' the HBO film 'The Tale,' Fox Searchlight’s 'Wilson,' and opposite Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson, in 'Spider-Man Homecoming' and 'Avengers: Infinity War.'
We have loved and adored you in almost all the roles you have played so far. What can we expect from your role in Facebook Watch’s dark comedy series 'Queen America'? Please tell us about the character you play?
In 'Queen America' I play the role of Bella Ellis, who is the niece of Vicki Ellis, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Bella is an incredibly witty, intelligent, sweet and down-to-earth teenager. Her negative body image affects her self-esteem and we see how she struggles with this throughout the course of the season.
How was it working alongside legends like Catherine Zeta-Jones? Could you tell us about your behind-the-scenes interactions with Zeta-Jones and if she shared any advice, professional or personal with you that you'd like to share with us?
Working with Catherine has been such an incredible experience. I’ve always admired her work as a film, television and theater actor and learned a lot from her. She taught me the importance of having a good work ethic and having a regimented schedule on set. In between takes, there were times when Catherine and I would break into song and start singing to each other. That was definitely a personal highlight for me.
We would also like to get a glimpse of your on-screen chemistry with Zeta-Jones as you play her teenage niece. Also, can you walk us through your audition process and how did you secure the role?
On the surface, Vicki and Bella seem to have a contentious relationship, but ultimately Vicki loves her unconditionally. When I first read the script, I tried to really dig deep and identify Bella’s habits, which helped me find out more about her character.
During the audition process, I tried to put myself in her shoes to figure out the reasons behind her choices. As someone who also struggles with body image, I drew upon my past and looked back at the times when I didn’t love myself or care too much about my physical appearance, which helped me relate to the material and understand what Bella was going through emotionally. It was important for me to show her worth in spite of how she felt about herself.
You're a strong advocate of body positivity and you've exceptionally rendered the message of self-love to your fans. Tell us about your journey to self-love and the challenges you faced. What advice would you like to give those who are struggling to fit into the idea of 'perfection', especially in a world driven by Social Media?
I think achieving self-love is an ongoing process. It is something I struggle with daily and I try and do the best I can. As someone who has been on both ends of the weight spectrum, I often look to the past when my weight was at its lowest.
I’m slowly learning to accept the idea that change doesn’t happen overnight, especially my weight. Shifting my mindset has definitely alleviated a lot of stress I put on myself. I find it helpful to catch myself whenever I start engaging in negative self-talk. It can be harmful when we are unkind towards ourselves without even realizing it. It’s important to be our own cheerleader and to treat ourselves better.
Who has inspired you the most and how?
It’s hard to choose one person who has inspired me. I’ve been so blessed to be surrounded by so many different people who have guided and mentored me throughout the way. Catherine has definitely inspired me because of her versatility as an actress and how she’s utilized her music and dance background throughout her career.
What are your expectations from 'Queen America'? What impact do you think the show will make to the audience?
I hope that everyone enjoys watching 'Queen America.' Set in the pageant world, the show will make you laugh and cry at the same time and I think everyone will be able to relate to what the characters are going through. The writing on the show is brilliant and the performances are phenomenal. We’ve also been very fortunate to have a great team of producers behind the show.
Since the show is airing on Facebook Watch, who are the target audience and how do you think the show can have an upper hand airing on Facebook Watch rather than conventional TV networks?
I think the show is targeted for women of all ages. As a predominantly female cast and crew, it was important for us to portray the daily struggles that women face and how incredibly strong and resilient we are. I’m excited that 'Queen America' is airing on Facebook Watch because it is such an interactive platform that encourages the audience to build a community and engage with each other. I also think it’s cool that the show is free and accessible to anyone who has a Facebook account. You can watch the show on your television, phone, or computer at any time and from anywhere.
You also have a flair for singing. Can we watch out for your singing career as well? Is there anything you are working on?
Yes. I am planning on getting in the studio to start recording music and dancing again. I’m really excited to share new material with everyone and show a different side of myself.
We would like to know more about you. Can you share with us a few details about your childhood and upbringing? How did you venture into acting?
I grew up in a suburb outside of Atlanta and was an athlete and performer. I also started acting, singing and dancing at a very young age. Having supportive parents who encouraged me to pursue my passion as a performer really shaped me as an artist. I never really stumbled upon it because I knew immediately that it was something I wanted to pursue.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I hope to be working on more film and television projects and would love to release some albums. I would also love to star in a musical and appear on Broadway.