We had the good fortune of connecting with Bella Hicks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bella, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I have always been drawn to risk. At 8 years old, I saw a performance on aerial silks and started to climb up the fabric as soon as the performance ended. For those that don’t know, aerial silks are two pieces of fabric hung about 30 ft in the air that aerialists climb, wrap around themselves, and then fall from, only to be caught at the base of the fabric, just above the ground. My parents were terrified but supportive, and within two years, I was performing silks, trapeze, tumbling and clowning in a circus. From a young age, I saw how taking a risk could result in a huge reward. I knew very early in life that I wanted to be a singer and musical theatre performer—before I truly understood the risk inherent in the lifestyle. Physically, I am constantly at risk: I recently got hit by a car during a performance, resulting in scars and nerve damage that I will have my whole life. But I have never been afraid of physical injury. It was the emotional risk I was unprepared for. I have been told I was not overweight enough for a role and too small for others, not tall enough, not the right hair color—you get the point. Out of the audition room, I have had friends subtly ask how much longer I will be doing “this theatre thing.” Being a performer means your self-confidence is constantly coming under fire. That is the risk I take every time I walk into an audition room. In order to be successful, I have to believe I am capable, talented, and on the right path, despite being judged physically before my talent is even tested. I have to mitigate this risk with self-care. So while I never accounted for the emotional risk inherent in this career, the risk of losing my self-confidence and self-worth has taught me how to take care of my mental health. I have learned to do the small things every day that make me happy and fulfilled so I can walk into every audition, take the risk, and be rewarded with the knowledge that I did my best by being my best self.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
At 6 years old I told my mom I wanted to be a songwriter. She laughed and said, “Go write a song then.” I came back an hour later with two verses and a chorus that slapped. I started auditioning for film/TV at 7 years old, acting on MAD TV and My Wife and Kids, among other things. At 10 years old I performed in my first professional musical theatre production and I was hooked. Despite knowing performing was all I ever wanted to do, I went to the University of Michigan to attempt to get a degree in Geology because I wanted to mitigate the risk in performing as a career. Unfortunately, I was horribly depressed. I learned that performing was where I felt most myself. I quickly transferred to the USC School of Dramatic Arts a year later. In the second semester of my senior year I was cast in American Idiot at La Mirada and knew that I was on the right path. I went from classes in the morning to rehearsals till midnight and I loved it. From then on, I have performed in countless musicals and two national tours, including playing Rudolph in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Janis Joplin in the 60’s girl-group musical, Beehive. Since the pandemic, I have returned to my first love: songwriting. I have begun writing an album and I am looking to produce it within the year. Despite many successes, there are plenty of days where it feels like I am still at the base of a very large mountain. However, it is impossible to be an effective performer if you are unstable mentally. I consider maintaining my mental health to be a huge part of the job. I cannot present myself as the best option for a role, if I don’t believe it inherently. Furthermore, I want for an audience to feel they are seeing an honest representation of emotion and true vulnerability onstage. In order to give that to them, I must feel strong enough to show weakness. Performing has taught me self-awareness and self-love and has turned me into the person I am today.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hi best friend! Welcome to LA. I always say that in order to see LA, you have to hang with the locals. Don’t be a tourist in LA, you won’t like Hollywood and Highland, trust me. (Unless you like being asked how much you cost for a night, which has, in fact, happened to me while I was en route to an audition.) First and foremost, we would go on a different hike every morning. If you want to understand LA, you gotta live the lifestyle! My favorites are Los Liones to Paseo Miramar in Pacific Palisades, Will Rogers also in Pacific Palisades, and anywhere in the Malibu Creek area. We’d go for lunch at a healthy spot (once again, you gotta live the lifestyle!) at Bondi Harvest or Kye’s on Montana. We would hit up Melrose for some thrifting/vintage shopping and maybe go to a VR show at Dreamscape in Century City. We would obviously have to have a beach day at Point Dume in Malibu and get a wine tasting at Malibu Wines before dinner at Malibu Farm Cafe on the dock, overlooking the water. I am not a fan of clubbing, so instead we will opt for live music at Harvelle’s or an amazing cocktail at the Varnish (which also sometimes hosts a live jazz duo or trio). Maybe we’d pop over to Clifton’s Cafeteria for the secret tiki bar or the giant redwood tree in the middle of the four-story bar. Inevitably we’d end the night jamming in my living room and singing at the top of our lungs!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents, Tom & Noelle Hicks have been my biggest supporters from day one. They have always wanted my happiness first and foremost and done anything in their power to help me achieve it. My brother, Julian, is always the first person to listen to my new music and give me feedback. I am so grateful to be a part of a family that values the arts. Kyle Fitz, my boyfriend of five years, has done anything and everything to help me achieve my goals (including training me for a dance audition in the street because we didn’t have enough room in our first apartment together!) and always reminds me of my worth. In recent years, working with Jack and Benny Lipson has been a huge inspiration for me. They are incredible musicians and performers who have allowed me to sing with them on many occasions. Their music is politically and emotionally moving, very unique, and often, laugh-out-loud funny. We have performed together in NYC & LA to packed houses, but beyond that: they are giving, generous friends who I love very much.
Other: TikTok: @bellahixx
Amy Francis Scott