On Oct. 19, I had the privilege of speaking to former America’s Next Top Model’s Bello Sanchez about his career for Fashionweek.com
Bello Sanchez’s journey in modelling is an amazing one. From being teased during his childhood, to now walking the runways for famous designers such as Marco Marco and Zachary/Nathaniel, the outspoken America’s Next Top Model contestant is a fan favorite.
FashionWeek.com’s Michele Villery recently had a chance to talk to the blue-eyed stunner about his amazing adventure and what life is like after being on America’s Next Top Model.
Tell me a little bit about your background and what was the thing that made you pursue modeling?
Okay. I’m Dominican and Puerto-Rican. I was raised predominately in Boston. I came when I was 19 years old and I just decided I wanted to pursue modeling. You know? I wasn’t born into the richest family or with a great last name like Kardashian or anything like that. I wanted to make a name for myself. I came out here and had $200 when I came, nowhere to stay, nowhere to sleep. That quickly became $100. The taxi driver ripped me off as soon as he found out that I wasn’t from here and I didn’t really know the value of the LA taxi cab. I said, “Okay, take me to where $100 can shelter me.” He took me to Skid Row and I ended up there.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Skid Row, but Skid Row is literally a street. That’s it. That’s where you’re living on, is a street with pests and feces and hard blankets and I saw the most horrible things there. I saw drug abusers, alcoholics, you could hear people getting sexually assaulted at night. It was really bad, especially for a 19-year-old. Mind you, I wasn’t rich, but I had everything back at home. I had my mum and my big room, I had everything, so I came back.
I came to nothing, but just dreams and $100, and then I ended up going to South Central. I went to South Central in LA. It’s so bad, but I don’t actually know, a lot of people nowadays sort of room for rent, especially LA, New York, if you’re renting a room they’ll have a for rent sign on the door. So I walked through the streets of South Central. This little boy with two big suitcases and big curly hair and I kept knocking on doors and said “I have $100, but I will have a job as soon as possible really soon,” and I didn’t know it was actually true, but I was speaking to him as “if you allow me to stay in your house I’ll give you the rest of the money within the week, here’s $100.”
It took me a lot longer before somebody actually said yes, and somebody finally said yes, and it wasn’t a good situation. There were a lot of Hispanic immigrants and the house was five or six rooms and in those rooms there would be five, six, seven even eight to nine people in there. It was illegal to have a lot of people in one room.
I ended up in a room where I was by myself because I paid $500, yeah it was really bad, maggots were on the carpet and I didn’t have a bed so I had to sleep on the floor with the maggots. Flies would wake me up in the middle of the night and sometimes that happened to go bathe where high school students take a shower in there. Because the shower where I was staying at were so dirty and there was so many maggots. It was really bad, but that’s kind of the gist of how I came to LA.
What was the thing that just made you pursue modelling?
I always liked it. I always did. I always dreamed of booking at, I know it’s going to sound funny, but I remember Tyra from when she was in Victoria’s Secret, and she was an Angel, I thought “Oh my god she’s hot, I want to do that.” That’s, of course, without the boobs and the thongs. You know I wanted to do that, and every time I would open a magazine I was attracted to it. I was always dressing myself up differently. Yeah, I want to do it. I was really awkward growing up, I wasn’t a really fat-looking kid, lanky and skinny and weird that I came into middle school, something happened, puberty was happening and I was starting to look different and people were starting to recruit me, and asking me to model or suggesting that I should, so that’s kind of what happened.
I understand that you got teased a lot when you were a kid, was it those moments, do you think that kind of just helped you throughout this whole process?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely oh my gosh, that’s a really good point. When you’ve achieved so much you eventually become angry. It doesn’t matter if you’re somebody who retaliates or even in fights, if you get angry and I was the quiet, weird, nerdy person who always got teased, so I became very angry like now and that has helped me, because I hate that and kind of just put that on the back pedal, put that in my pocket. Because I was teased, you’re not going to tease me again, but what you teased me about when I was younger is going to make me now, so now I’m teasing you. It’s kind of my revenge, this is my vengeance.
That’s a good point. So I have to ask you, tell us how you were selected for America’s Next Top Model.
How was I selected? Oh, my God. You know it’s so funny, because I was the only person that was, I think there was one other person who actually tried out for the show, a lot of people were recruited. Most people were recruited, maybe there might be two others.
I didn’t have a job, for like three months and then I got a job, and then I got a job at an arts and crafts store at like $10 an hour, and it was part time, so that wasn’t enough for anything especially after two months when you’re behind in rent. Then the next day, I had plans before the show, but not like this. Someone sent me the schedule for the CW network itinerary of ANTM, and I thought no way, I think they want me to do it, I’m going to go, I’m going to go to all these states, as many as I can, I’m going to drive around. I only have a thousand dollars, I’m going to make it work even though that should be going towards on my car note that’s already late. I just left and I went on a ride. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a road trip, it’s a little different because it would be driving to one state and then driving ten hours to wait in line for seven hours to drive for nine more hours to wait in line for six hours and then it would be raining and 30 degrees outside. So that was my schedule, but there was no sleeping for like nine days.
Wow, so you literally went from city to city to make sure someone noticed you.
Yes. That’s exactly what happened, and I still applied online and Instagramed and did a video. I did all of that.
Wow, how long was that whole process, Bello?
About eight or nine days. But I couldn’t make it to every single one it was impossible, I couldn’t make it to every single one so I made it to as many as I could, so it took about eight or nine days I remember it being a little over a week and it was in December by the way.
Make matters worse.
When you were chosen, how excited were you? That has to be a thrill.
You know what’s funny Michele, I mean, I don’t know if I was excited. I was excited, let me rephrase that, but it wasn’t a typical type of excitement that a lot of people would expect. It wasn’t a normal reaction, I was very calm. There was a lot of serenity. I just knew it was for me. I had suffered so many years and I went on this road trip not hoping that I would be on America’s Next Top Model, but knowing. It was really weird, I was like “I knew I was going to be on it.” I knew that somebody saw me the right person would choose me and I heightened my chances by doing what I did.
So, I was like “okay cool, yay,” like okay thank you. I think I literally said “okay great or okay cool” and the producer, the casting director or one of the casting directors said “You don’t want to scream?”; and I’m like, “No I’m good,”; “Sure you don’t want to scream?”; I’m like “no, but thank you so much I’m really excited and I can’t wait.” A very calm reaction.
When you were on America’s Next Top Model, we saw that you clashed with a couple of the contestants but to me, it has to be hard with all those different personalities living under the same roof, what is that like?
What is that like? It’s hard. You have, first of all this is the first time where it was actually twenty, beginning it was thirty one people, but twenty people ended up living in the house before the top fourteen. Living with 21 other people from different parts of the States even the world. There were some people not from the U.S. and we don’t know each other, we don’t know each other, all we know is that we’re all competing for the same thing and we all have our guards up, because there are some fake people, and you don’t want to be thinking about other people – it’s a competition, we’re fighting for the same thing.
So it was hard, it was a hard for us and I ended up making a break. I automatically [am] a U.S. citizen because I’m Puerto Rican, but my mother’s children are Dominican, and they came all at once from the Dominican Republic when I was about thirteen, and they all were scattered around the Dominican Republic because my mother didn’t have the money to keep us at one person’s house, so it had essentially we were all strangers living all of a sudden, there were seven of us total including my mom, living in the same house but we didn’t know each other.
So for me this is experience was a part two that, but I didn’t want to live with a bunch of people I didn’t know. It wouldn’t be the first time. So, I was like “these people aren’t going to like me whether I respond to them or not,” this is my second chance at living with strangers and making something work. But no, as you saw that wasn’t the case. They didn’t care for me too much.
I saw things, I was like “oh!”
Hope you don’t think I’m too crazy.
No, not at all. You know what I thought personally, I thought that it was because it happens all the time, when you deal with a lot of personalities in one house and it’s taped, you have that recipe for things to happen, so that’s what I thought.
But, tell us who you were close to in the house while you were there.
In the house I was close to Ava and then she left, and then, you know what actually … I was close to Hadassah too, but that didn’t work out towards the end.
Do you still keep in touch with anybody there?
I stay in touch with Ava, but honestly, Delaney calls me every now and then, I’m open to anybody calling me. I’m not going to say no don’t call me it’s not that, but not really … I know everybody else keeps in touch a lot more, but no, not me.
What was some of your favorite moment when you were in the house?
I have to say, when we did, when I got partnered up with Courtney. It was really difficult getting partnered up with Courtney, because she lacked confidence and here we have having to sell a perfume using our sex appeal. It was such a challenge. Because it was a challenge because of the person I was working with, and also because it was cold. Here Courtney and I are the thinnest models in the house and we started shooting super early when the sun was out, and now its 8 p.m. we’re in the middle of Malibu and it’s cold, the beach is cold and we’re the skinniest ones and we’re the last ones. So, literally, our bodies just shut down, so we were shivering and every single time the cameras were off as far as recording the commercial, you see me shivering. I’d never shivered so much like that in my life, Courtney too, but as soon as they were like “okay rolling,” here I am acting like it’s a hundred degrees outside and I’m in Hawaii. It was mentally and physically the hardest shoot I’ve ever had to do in my whole entire life and whole entire career.
So that was my favorite one, knowing that I had to push myself for that and Tyra gave me ten for that.
Wow. Since leaving the house you’ve been working in a ton of shows and I know that you have an important one with Marco Marco, so tell us what has this all been like, it’s been such a whirlwind for you.
You know what, I could not have imagined it to be like this even if I wanted to especially so quickly. New York Fashion Week ended and I walked for them, I did both New York Fashion Week and Style Week, then I did LA Fashion Week, just in the middle of that week, which I’m modelling for Marco Marco for.
I just came in from the Ragtrade in Atlanta, and I walked for two amazing designers down there. I walked for Brendan M Cones, and I also walked for Zachary/Nathaniel. It was funny because I was wearing a skirt for Zachary/Nathaniel and a corset which I’d never done before, that’s not in my closet, but it was really fun.
I came back [to LA] because I had to do a fitting for Marco Marco. He’s done clothes for Beyonce, Kesha, Katy Perry, Shakira, J-Lo and anybody that he can think of, he’s done stuff for. He’s making something specifically for me, can you believe that?
Wow that’s amazing!
Yeah, it’s such a compliment.
That is! That’s truly an honor.
For me to walk in his show, he took my measurements before I flew out, and I’m coming to see him later so I can try on the outfit I’ll be wearing.
What are some of your future goals, besides modelling – I know that you recently did a music video. Did I hear that right?
You did. I did a music video with former Pussycat Doll member Jessica Sutta. I’m so excited to have done that. I was an extra and then it was like “oh my God I love you, I love your look.” They kept putting me up in a bunch of scenes, so that should be coming out pretty soon, I think around Halloween, and then she loved me so much she said, “You know what I want you to be my leading man in my upcoming music video,” so I’m also going to be shooting another video with a bigger scene, cheerleading, romantic part in it, so I can’t wait for that.
So you plan on doing a lot more acting?
I do, I want to do a lot more acting. Actually I’m also doing another music video in a couple of days, well on the 20th I’m doing another one. So yeah, I want to do a lot more acting. I want to heavily go into acting. I like acting. I have all the passion. I want to do acting. I would love to do acting.
I’m going to do acting, I don’t want to, I’m going to do acting, I think like that.
Good, I was going to say don’t just say you’re thinking of doing it, do it.
Is there any advice that you want that you want to give anyone that wants to pursue modelling or their dreams, Bello?
Yeah. Actually, a girl tweeted me this morning as soon as I got off the plane saying “I wish I had as much passion as you did, you had,” so the advice I would give her or anybody else, is do it. I told her, “you know what, you can do it, you’re human, I’m human, we’re both made of the same material – flesh, bones, meat, but we also have the same ingredients, there’s nothing special about me, that’s not special about you. There’s nothing, we’re all the same exact, so have passion, don’t say you wish you had the passion, get the passion, go ahead and get it, tell yourself that you have it.
Tell yourself what you want that goal, that dream, whether it’s in modelling, whether it’s in a different field, if you want to be a doctor. Whatever it is that you want to be, make sure that you do your best at it and that you’re hundred percent there.”
And I know it sounds corny or cliché but just do it! You can do it, if you tell yourself you can, you can. Go the distance, a lot of people are starting to realize and study a bit more, be aware of the power of the attraction or the laws of attraction, but it’s a very real thing. You attract what you put out there, so put it out there and it will happen.
You know what, that is so true, I didn’t even think of it in those terms, but that is so true.
Think about it, we don’t all want the same house so if you sit there and you tell me I want a mansion and a beautiful luxury car, and I want a mansion and a beautiful luxury car and my sister wants a mansion and a beautiful luxury car, we don’t all want the same. There’s enough for all of us, why do we feel like we have to compete against the same thing? We don’t have to. Your dream and goals are not the same as mine. A lot of people kind of also do that in modeling. “There’s only, so many black actresses or so many brown boys with brown hair and blue eyes.” No, there’s not. There’s going to be a lot of those, so put it out there.”