Interview by Zadie McCracken // Photograph by Sandra Lazzarini
Isabella, known simply as Isa to her friends and Belle to her mother, is a fifteen- year-old high school student and up-and- coming actor. She’s dramatic, emphatic, adorable, wild and unintentionally funny, a straight-A student who never cleans.
We’re sitting on her messy bed in her upstairs bedroom, and I’m putting on Lana Del Rey’s new album. “So, right,” I begin, “in my daydreamed conversation, I said, ‘We should have some atmosphere music’”.
Isa replies, “Wait, what is a daydreamed conversation?” “I had a daydreamed conversation, do you never daydream about conversations you’re going to have?”…
A few seconds later, Lana’s deep, sultry, and epic voice plays out in the form of ‘White Mustang’. The few first bars of the song begin as we do.
Okay, now questions. So exciting! How old were you, where were you when you got and how did you deal with your first period?
Isabella: (laughs) I can answer this! Okay, I was twelve, it was August 24th –
Z: (laughs) Oh, wow, that’s very specific!
I: I’d just turned twelve, I was in grade six. It was a total coincidence: I’d gone out that night to Gold Class to watch City Of Bones, at the cinema, ‘cause I just, like – I’d read the book in grade four and I was so excited for the movie. But the movie was really crap and I was really disappointed!
Z: That’s so sad!
I: I know. And I ate a brownie, and I was there in Gold Class and everything was great. It was me and my mum. Then I came home, and I was getting changed, and there was just, like, blood! And then I wasn’t convinced. I was like, ‘Noooo, what?!’ And so I just put a pad on, ‘cause obviously I had a lot of pads, just lying around. (laughs)
Z: (laughs) Yeah, when you’re twelve, everyone has them! When I was about ten I bought my first pad and just put it on, just to see what it would feel like. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh’ and then I had pads lying around for three years! Just in boxes!
I: (laughs) Anyway, after I got my period, I told my mum two days later or something, and then she told everyone!
Z: Two days later?!
I: And then she told everyone! And that was it.
Do you get and how do you deal with cramps, PMS and other lovely period side effects?
I: Yes! I get all of them really bad. Technically I haven’t been diagnosed, but I have all the symptoms of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. I want to get diagnosed, just to see. So, the symptoms start around ten days before your period, and, basically, you get really bad cramps, you get really bad bloating, you get sore breasts, you get depression and anxiety.
Z: You go through this every month?! Oh my god, I would die.
I: (laughs) And then the symptoms stop, like, around three days after your period starts.
Z (laughing): So you’ve got everything and it’s all awful?
I: Yeah! I get really bad cramps sometimes, sometimes not. Usually, my mum will make me take herbs and stuff.
Isabella’s mother is a Chinese medicine practitioner.
I: But sometimes I forget to take them, and she’s like, ‘Ughhh!’ (laughs) Usually, a hot water bottle helps.
Z: Yeah, yeah, hot water bottles are so great!
I: But what’s really upsetting is that I always want to eat chocolate or ice-cream but my mum won’t let me, because apparently it will make my cramps worse. It’s really upsetting.
Tell us your favourite, funniest or best period story.
I: One time I was taking a test, in grade seven or eight, when I was trying to go for scholarships to go to private schools. My mum made me do this practice thing, and I had to go to this place, and they gave me all these tests to assess my level, it was so dumb! But we were running late, and I forgot to put a pad on, and I was wearing a dress, and leggings. I just bled all the way through and all over the seat! (laughs) And I didn’t realise until I got up!
Z: That’s so funny! What happened? Were there people around you?
I: There was just one lady and I just saw blood on chair, so I pushed it into the table and left!
Z (laughing): Oh my god! How would she have dealt with that?
I (laughing): I don’t know! But I’m always scared that that will happen again.
How much and what did you know before you got your period?
I: I knew a lot, because of Clarissa.
Clarissa is Isabella’s twenty-one- year-old niece, who lived with Isabella and her
mother for most of Isabella’s childhood.
I: She also used to get really bad cramps. And I remember, one time, it was really freaky – this used to be her bedroom, so she was lying on this bed – and I walked past, and she was lying here, naked, writhing in pain!
Z: That sounds amazing! Watching your niece – it’s funny to think of Clarissa as your niece, because I always think of her as your older sister. She’s kinda of, like, your niece-sister. But I can imagine finding her lying on the
bed, naked! (laughs) Writhing in pain! It’s a real image.
I: (laughs) I know! But, anyway, I think I knew most things. I didn’t know how to use tampons.
Z: Do you know how to use tampons?
I: Now I do.
How open are you about your period and do you talk about your period often?
I: Well, I mean, I’m not like – I guess I’m open about it. It doesn’t come up in conversation a lot but when it does I’ll talk about it.
Do you use pads or tampons?
I: I probably use pads more often, but I like them both, so, yeah.
What advice do you have for people about to get their periods for the first time?
I: Google it!
Z: (laughs) That’s beautiful!
I: (laughs) I don’t know, whenever I have a question about something I just automatically Google it. I always feel uncomfortable about asking someone. Like, why ask someone when you can just Google it? (laughs)
How do you feel about your body in relation to your period?
I: I actually think the idea is really cool.
Z: The idea of what?
I: Of bleeding! Like, that’s cool! I think that it’s annoying having all those other symptoms, like cramps and everything. If I didn’t get those, I’d probably actually enjoy getting my period
Z: Honestly, same! Like, flush me out! (laughs)
I: (laughs) Yeah!
Z: It’s like a juice cleanse! The juice is blood! (laughs)
I: (laughs) Yeah, I think all those symptoms make it annoying but otherwise I kind of like getting my period. It makes me feel special, I don’t know.
Z: That’s so cute!
At this point, I ask Isa if she has any last thoughts, but she doesn’t, so we begin to sing the last few lines of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Lust For Life’: “Take off, take off, take off all your clothes!”
Z: That’s a great thing to end on! Me and Isa are going to go take off all our clothes
(Isa starts laughing.)