As the daughter of Paul Henry, Bella Hopes is no stranger to public controversy and criticism. But in the lead-up to the first episode of TV3’s reality show Beauty and the Geek later this month, the 21-year-old make-up artist admits she’s quite anxious about how she’ll be received by New Zealand audiences.
“I’m trying to stay calm about it, because the Australian media were pretty mean to me after the programme aired over there,” says Bella, who appears as one of the beauties on the show.
“I expected people to tease me about my voice, and they did – but they also said I wasn’t a beautiful girl, that I was the fat one and that I have no fashion sense. I mean, come on – I have great fashion sense!”
On the show, beautiful girls are teamed with male “geeks” who lead a completely different lifestyle to their princess partners. The teams perform challenges, with the winners taking home a cool $100,000 prize money – the reason Bella entered the show in the first place.
While on holiday with Paul in Las Vegas earlier this year, Bella says it was a moment of fun with her TV3 news presenter dad Paul that led to her applying.
“Dad was worried about what I’d do for money once we got home, as I don’t have a full-time job,” explains Bella, who is living at her dad’s North Shore home and training as a hairstylist at Servilles.
“I joked that he needn’t worry, I’d win Beauty and the Geek and the prize money would solve my problems – and he persuaded me to actually do it!”
Of all Paul’s three daughters, Bella is uncannily like her father – she’s funny, quirky and clearly enjoys getting a reaction from those around her.
Bella is the first to admit she’s up for a bit of fun – when the producers came over from Australia to talk to her about appearing on the show last March, she was dressed in an Easter bunny onesie, giving out chocolate at the airport for a promotional company.
But she wasn’t ready for what was in store when she went to Fiji to film the reality show.
“Looking back, maybe I blew some things out of proportion, but I hadn’t really prepared for life in front of the camera,” she admits. “I’m the type of person who likes to have time to process instructions when I get them, but everything was so immediate.
“The producers would call me in and I’d have to react straight away, which I wasn’t comfortable with.”
Unlike previous seasons, the show was filmed in Fiji, which meant fewer make-up artists, no spray tan guns, and a lot more flesh.
“I’d never worn a bikini in my life before I went on the show – but once I’d been accepted they told me I needed eight of them,” laughs Bella.
“Imagine me, having to strip down like that in front of all these amazing beautiful girls.”
And the stripped down look didn’t stop there. “They took out my hair extensions, cut my hair and took away my ‘blue shampoo’ – it takes the yellow out of my hair and makes me less blonde, but the producers said my hair would look too dull on camera,” explains Bella, who is a self-confessed “princess” – last year she made Paul do three full days at Disneyland so she could see all the characters.
“The show was much more down to earth than I thought it would be. Unfortunately I’m not a down-to-earth type of girl!”
Friends who have already seen the show have been quick to reassure Bella that she comes across well – and although she’s grateful for their support, she is glad she’ll be away on holiday when it airs in New Zealand on December 27.
“I was so upset, I actually had nightmares about it when I came back from filming earlier in the year,” she admits.
“I put on loads of weight after some mean stuff about me and Dad was printed in the Australian media. I did a lot of crying, and I talked to my boyfriend about it, as Dad was away at the time.”
But, says Bella, whatever happens, she’s learned a lot from her experience as a reality show contestant.
“I try very hard not to have any regrets in life, and at the end of the day, I met some amazing people, learned a lot about myself and other people, and had a unique experience. But would I do it again? No, I don’t think so.”