Wilmslow social media influencer Isabela Fernandez on beating the bullies
PUBLISHED: 11:14 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:14 07 April 2020
Wilmslow’s Instagram sensation Isabela Fernandez shares her story of how social media helped her grow into the confident fitness guru she is today
Ten years ago, the word ‘influencer’ wasn’t in anyone’s dictionary. The world was unprepared for the wave of social media influencers, and the fact that it could become a successful and well-paid career choice was unheard of. Today, influencers have become a new kind of celebrity that we aspire to be. Their style, holidays and interiors are where we take our inspiration from to implement into our own lives. It’s not something we always admit, but with a quick swipe, we constantly keep up to date with the stars of social media to see what they’re wearing, where they’re going and even what they’re eating.
The digital age of social media has provided so much for us. It allows to keep up to date with current affairs, keep in contact with friends and family from afar and makes things in life so much more convenient. Isabela Fernandez, who goes by Bela, turned to social media when she was in secondary school, to escape the horrific bullying she was experiencing. Brought up in Wilmslow, Bela struggled throughout school. ‘All throughout high school I was bullied heavily. I remember coming home from school crying pretty much every day,’ she recalls. ‘I was bullied for a number of reasons; for being born in Brazil, for my appearance. I had people threaten me, so I lived in fear. I went to a well-respected high school, so it wasn’t something you’d expect. But it was a really bad time in my life.
‘At the time, I didn’t know how to deal with it. But I did know that if I stopped going to school or moved to a different school, that they would win. So, I kept going on and pretended that it didn’t affect me.’ The bullying caused Bela to suffer tremendously. ‘I hated my appearance. I hated everything about myself, but I kept a brave face and pretended that the words didn’t bother me.’
The bullying followed Bela to college, but now, instead of pretending it didn’t affect her, she turned to social media. ‘I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted a proper career. I thought that I’d become a PT or work in a gym, so instead of aiming to get millions of people to like me, I began to post on social media about the gym.’ Fitness was where Bela was able to truly shine. ‘The gym was the one place I could forget everything and just focus on me. It was the place I was most comfortable. At the time, I hadn’t even noticed you could make social media into a career. I only began to think of it like that when I reached 100,000 followers and I began earning money.’
This opened a whole new world for the Instagram star, who now has over one million followers on the platform. ‘I was able to connect with so many new people and make a lot of friendships that I didn’t have in real life. That’s how my account started. At first, I was really in it for the friendships. It was amazing to be able to connect to new people and have conversations. Then it began to grow extremely fast,’ she says. Bela has worked with some huge fitness brands, such as Gymshark and Women’s Best, which truly showcases the growth of social media.
Knowing that she has a lot of young followers, Bela also makes sure her platform is used to promote body positivity. ‘I talk a lot about bullying in my posts,’ she says. ‘I try to talk about it as much as I possibly can. I recently joined Tik Tok and in just over a month I’ve got over 100,000 followers. I know the generation that uses that platform are quite young and still in school, which is why I try to create funny videos where everyone is included. I want people to think you can be friends with everyone.’
The 20-year-old moved to Liverpool after leaving college and focuses on creating various videos and images for all her platforms. ‘I work from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep. I try and interact with all my followers. I get so many people coming to me, asking for advice and relating to the experiences I went through.’
When I ask her what advice she would give her younger self, she says: ‘I’d tell myself that this part of your life won’t last forever. Even though it feels like there is no end in sight, just hold on because it will end. Focus on what you love, build on that and you’ll get through it.’
For parents who are unsure about how to help children who are being bullied, either in school or online, Bela suggests letting their child deal with it. ‘When my mum came to school, she unintentionally made it worse. It became bigger than it should have been, and I got more heat for it. So, I would suggest for parents to listen to what their child wants. When it comes to social media, parents should teach their children that what they see online isn’t always real. It’s so easy for pictures to be edited and people only show their best side on social media; they shouldn’t feel pressure to see that for themselves.’
Bullying, though a terrible thing to go through, helped Bela become the person she is today. ‘Bullying helped me develop a thick skin to deal with criticism and gave me the confidence to show so much of myself online. It’s also taught me how important it is to be nice to everyone, which is a lesson I think we all need to adhere to.’