“Lightswitch”: A Short Story Based on Real Events by Tina Bell

TRIGGER WARNING: please do not read this short story if you are in any way triggered by material surrounding mental illness, poverty, hoarding, childhood trauma, fire or anything of the sort. While I appreciate your voluntary readership, it is not my intent to bring any harm, emotional or otherwise, to you in anyway. Please stop or call a professional if at any point you feel the need to do so. It is okay to not be okay.

DISCLAIMER: This story is nonfiction and written from my memory but we all know that human memory is deeply flawed. Some embellishments and paraphrasing may be present. These are my accounts of real events, from my perspective at varying ages, but there are always multiple sides to every story. Enjoy!

“Light Switch”

I used to sneak into my mom’s room when she was away just to open her closet door and stare at all the sequins, shoulder pads and shiny clothes (now you know where I get my style from). I would watch her get dolled up for church every Sunday. Other women would hold their husbands tighter when she entered the room. Any time she got money, she would spend it all on these oddly expensive German Steiff stuffed teddy bears. She would bag sliced oranges for me to share with my teammates at my soccer game halftimes. She would light up when she was chosen to be the church coffee hour food/beverage leader or the parent field trip chaperone.  

…and then suddenly that light went out. Like a switch. I watched her slowly slip into a shell of the human being she once was. Not leaving her bed for weeks at a time. Dust, mold, clutter, chaos and decay crept in. The house turned into a museum and my mom into a petrified mummy. 

She stopped wearing makeup. She stopped washing her hair. She stopped opening her closet door. She stopped volunteering to chaperone. She stopped. 


In 1st grade, we had storytime in class. Turns were taken, up and down the rows of desks, reading one line per student. Sounds like fun, right? Wrong. This was my living nightmare as a kid with a stutter and dyslexia. I would strategically count how many students were before me to find which line would be mine so I could rehearse it. This worked, for a time, but I did not account for overachievers who would read TWO lines, unprecedentedly. Thus catapulting me into a frantic panic. By the time it was my turn, I was on the verge of tears and had lost my place. The teacher pointed to the line, I stumbled through it and she scolded me to pay attention next time. I went home and told my mom what happened. Instead of scolding me too, she told me to come to her room every night to read aloud to her. Trust me—if you knew how bad my stutter was back then—you would know this could not have been a pleasant experience for my mom. But she always listened with grace and patience until she drifted off to sleep. Her snores were my cue to turn the light switch off and slink back to my own room. I did this for years and my stutter slowly went away. 


So naturally, in 2nd grade we had to pick a hero to write a poem about and I chose my mom. Duh. I wrote that she always smelled of Chanel No. 5 and baby powder while she twirled her hair up in her signature French twist on Sunday mornings. I ran home in excitement to read (aka stutter) it to her. She burst into tears and could only muster “im sorry”s between sobs. Not exactly the reaction I was expecting. She hung that poem on her vanity mirror she no longer visited. She didn’t leave her room for a month after that. I thought I did something wrong. Over time, the sunlight turned the paper yellow and faded the marker to light gray. Eventually, it looked like it had been written in invisible, disappearing ink and recovered from a shipwreck 100 years later. Yet another relic that haunted me. 


In 3rd grade, I was taken aside by my English teacher who noticed I was struggling to read. She told me to report to Room 318, the classroom for intellectually disabled students, the next class reading time. I obliged, even though I knew deep down I was misplaced. The assigned reading in Room 318 was “The Velveteen Rabbit”. 

For a week, I paced back-and-forth in front of my mother’s bedroom door, too afraid to tell her the delicate news. I was terrified I would be responsible for sending her even further into her sarcophagus. I opened the door and yelled “I don’t want to read ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’”. My cries penetrated my mom’s Egyptian burial grounds and I swear she rose like a zombie to my rescue. 

She marched to the school and I watched as my mom progressively became more and more animated while demanding my teacher remove me from Room 318. Crimson color rose to her cheeks as she spoke. My teacher turned to me and asked: “what happens in ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’”. I had only read the first and the last paragraphs, which was enough to respond with “a boy unknowingly brings his toy rabbit to life by loving it”. My teacher ate her words and granted my release. As my mother and I turned to leave, my teacher grabbed my arm, crouched down and asked: “did you read ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’”. Shit. She knew. I hesitated and replied, “I just said I did”. My teacher smirked and said: “you’re a very smart girl. I’m sorry for not realizing just how clever you were earlier”. I walked away smirking;  thinking I got away with a lie. My mother went home, flipped the light switch back off, crawled back into bed and regressed back to being one of her stuffed bears she loved to collect. I have still never read “The Velveteen Rabbit” to this day. 


My mom had this party trick she would break out on birthdays or rare candle-lit dinners. She would run her finger through the flame of the candles. I couldn’t believe my eyes. In sheer disbelief, I would tell her to do it again. So she would. My eyes lit up more and more with each subsequent request. She would end her trick by putting the flame out with her thumb and index finger. So cool. For the longest time, I thought it was pure magic; there could be no other logical explanation for it. My mom was a magician…or even cooler, a witch. One day, I had a friend over for dinner—which was rare because of the embarrassing hoarder clutter everywhere—and after bragging to my friend about my mom’s talent, I asked my mom to do her candle magic trick. My mother barked back a short “what do you want from me”. I reluctantly repeated the request, hoping she just didn’t hear me or was preoccupied. She looked confused and said: “I have no idea what you are talking about”. She turned off the light in the kitchen, stomped past my friend and I in the dining room and retired to her bedroom. I apologized to my friend for being mistaken and asked if she wanted me to make her boxed mac-n-cheese. She politely declined and called her mom to pick her up. I thought I dodged a bullet because I was bluffing; I had NO idea how to cook. I went to bed hungry that night. 


I’m sure you’re asking yourself where my father was in all this. My father wasn’t around. Don’t be sad—that was actually a blessing. To say he is a bad man would be an insult to bad men. He paid for our cell phones and demanded we call him at least once a week, lest he would turn off our service. Seems a fair exchange, but he would talk derogatorily about my mother the majority of the conversation in our weekly calls. That takes a toll on a young, impressionable girl. I knew she wasn’t perfect.  But she was still my hero. At some point in every superhero movie—the hero falters; they quit, they get battered, they feel helpless. If I learned anything from those movies, I knew this was the point when she needed backup. So I stood my ground against the formidable 500-pound man that is my father and defended her. Afterall, she was at least physically present—which was more than I could say for him. So I stopped calling. I told my mom why. She cried and then something surprising happened. The light was ignited again. We went to Sprint and bought our own cell phones under my moms name. We did not give my father our numbers. We were free. I no longer had to endure the weekly verbal and emotional abuse. 

Then the lights went out. This time, literally. My father turned off our electricity in retaliation. Because nothing says fair justice like turning off a life source in exchange for some good ol’ fashion abuse and personal validation. We had no heat, no hot water, no lights, no stove. I took cold showers, I stayed at friend’s houses to shower, I took the bus to the library to finish school assignments. My mom’s first act of defiance against my father’s clutches was met with swift, all-consuming punishment. My mother was able to adapt to this lifestyle quite quickly from years of experience digging her own dark hole for one. I eventually swallowed my pride and caved, for my little sister’s sake. I was 14 and my sister was 11. I called my father from a blocked number. No niceties were exchanged. The lights came back on. 


I wish I could end this story by saying my mom finally found her light switch and turned it on for good. But that would be a lie. No amount of money I sent home in college to keep the lights on could buy my mom the light switch she needed to find her way out of the black hole of her own design. I look back on her fleeting moments of heroism and shiny bouts of motherhood with nostalgic melancholy. Every time I visit or speak with my mother, I backslide into being that confused little girl again; still fumbling in the dark to find the light switch. I catch myself to this day unconsciously talking about my mother in the past tense because she’s like a ghost in so many ways; just another relic collecting dust, like her teddy bears or my poem of the woman she once was. She was a good mom when she found her spark, but she stopped lighting the fuse long ago and all we have left are haunted stories to tell by candlelight. 


A Short Story By: Tina Bell

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Tea Time with Tina talk show E2: Ask Dr. Jeff… Covid-19 / Coronavirus

Tune in to episode 2 of my talk show Tea Time with Tina to get all your Corona Virus questions and updates answered by a real-life Doctor from host (yours truly) Tina Bell. Meet my boyfriend of 9 years aka Dr. Jeff aka Dr. Dreamy. Feel free to ask more Covid-19 questions below or topic / guest suggestions for my next episode of #TeaTimeWithTina talk show. Be sure to get linked to to telehealth services below as well. Stay home. Stay safe.

TRIGGER WARNING: We will be discussing Covid-19 topics and even though it is entirely our intention for it to be purely informative, I acknowledge it may be sensitive for some viewers so please do not feel obligated to watch if it risks your mental health.

DISCLAIMER: This post/caption does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have heard in this video. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

Telehealth Services: Before paying Out-of-Pocket, be sure to call your Primary Care Doctor, Psychologist, Insurance provider and/or your local in-network providers to see if they offer telehealth services. I am not personally affiliated with nor can personally vouch for any of these services:

STAY SAFE, STAY HOME & STAY HEALTHY

Tea Time with Tina is BACK!

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My talk show Tea Time with Tina is BACK! It’s difficult to find silver linings or things to look forward to during this uncertain time of quarantining, social distancing and staggering pandemic stats, which is why I have decided to relaunch my talk show Tea Time with Tina. We find ourselves needing entertainment and looking at screens more than ever so what better time to bring you a little recluse? So sit back, relax, pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and sip along while I spill the tea. Feel free to comment on the various videos with topic & guest suggestions. Episode 1 is aptly all about self-care (of your thoughts 💭 & mind 🧠 )

Travel Guide to Dubrovnik

When you hear of the city “Dubrovnik”, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” comes to mind. It’s true, Dubrovnik, Croatia tourism has boomed ever since GOT premiered the gorgeous White City of “King’s Landing”, but Dubrovnik is a beautiful city with friendly people and a storied past that goes beyond the Emmy Award Winning Drama.

I was fortunate enough to visit Dubrovnik this past May for my sister’s wedding and wanted to share all the hot spots for those of you traveling to this wonderful city. I’ll show you the best food, bars, gelato, tours, views, photo opps, and more!!

Preparation

Flight / Airline

When I booked, there were no direct flights to Dubrovnik. I flew economy from Boston, Ma, USA to Dubrovnik, Croatia with a layover in Dublin via AerLingus and It. Was. Fabulous. I was anxious about fitting all my clothes, plus my bridesmaid dress, in a small carry-on but luckily I didn’t need to. AerLingus gives you ONE FREE CHECKED BAG, ONE FREE CARRY-ON AND ONE FREE PERSONAL ITEM. Thats right. Additionally, they had free new movies and were super friendly. My flight only cost $700 roundtrip. 10/10 would recommend. Pro tip: just book at least a few months in advance and in an incognito window.

Currency

Pro tip: request Kuna (the Croatian currency) from your bank at least 48 hours prior to traveling. I was misinformed & told Euros (EU currency) were interchangeably used in Croatia. They are not FYI. Most businesses in Dubrovnik are local, small businesses and do not accept Euro because they lose money in the exchange. So when you get to Old Town & see that a cocktail is 75 kn, don’t have a heart attack–that equates to ~$12 USD. If you get stuck with Euros like me or only bring US dollars, there are plenty of places to exchange currency but you will be at the mercy of the exchange rate & fees that day.

Language

Whenever you are going to foreign country, you should learn a few words or key phrases. Not only will it improve the quality of service you receive, but it will start conversations & improve your overall experience as a tourist. Here are a few key words/phrases I was taught by Croatians:

Thank you : Hvala

Beer: pivo

Please / Response to “Thank You”: Molim

Your City is Beautiful: vaš grad je lijep

Attractions / Tours / Photo Opps

Dubrovnik Tourist Guide

Want a GOT tour, a photo tour, a history tour or a custom tour? BOOK IVAN ! He is the official tour guide for GOT actors, a National Geographic co-host & local Dubrovnik celebrity. He has been featured in People, TIME & El Mundo. See for yourself Here.

He gave my brother, sister, boyfriend, sister’s boyfriend and myself a custom tour. He asked me what I like, I said: GOT, Film, History, Culture, Food & authentic, one-of-a-kind experiences you cannot get anywhere else”. He customized the tour to include all this and more. He spent FOUR HOURS with us. AND we saw him at one of the local spots he recommended days later & we drank coffee & chit-chatted about life. I cannot recommend him enough!

Ana is the founder of Hello Dubrovnik and she is just as adorable as her IG photos. As a Dubrovnik native, she has connects to all the local brands, products & services to customers like me & you. She gave me custom recs for food, shopping, tours & photo opps. She’s the one who recommended Ivan (mentioned above). She even offered to set up reservations FOR ME at spots that were booked for months. She’s a gem! Im not even going to give you all the recs she gave me because you will just have to ask her yourself. Trust me, you wont regret it!!

Dubrovnik City Walls

The one thing everyone will recommend is walking the city walls. Old Town Dubrovnik is enclosed by a fortress of walls you can walk along to view the expansive city & coast. The photo to the left here was taken when it started randomly pouring about 5 minutes into our walk. Though, I gladly got soaked to catch a glimpse of these breathtaking views.

I bought tickets in the square for 200 kn (~$50 USD) so I don’t have a great, reliable rec for money saves here. It seems this is pretty standard in my research although you may be able to save a few bucks on websites I cannot personally vouch for. Most of the photos I took of Dubrovnik were taken on this self-guided tour. You can get a tour guide but I highly recommend booking Ivan (mentioned above) separate within the city walls and just enjoying the city wall views without a tour guide. DISCLAIMER: once you get on the wall, you cannot leave & go back. Your admission ticket is only valid once you enter the gates & is rendered void as soon as you leave.

Galleon Tirena

Take a cruise in this gorgeous sea beast called the Galleon Tirena. I was fortunate enough to ride for free since it was part of my sister’s wedding package but for ~50 Euro, this sail is fully worth it. As a social media content creator, this cruise is certifiably ‘grammable. Check out some scene pics captured by moi (and a professional wedding photographer) .

Either before you board the Galleon or after you return to port, walk around the port & the surrounding walls. It has the most gorgeous views of the city. Best of all, its free to look & take ‘grammable pics. But dont take my word for it, look:

Sponza Palace

Sponza Palace is such a gorgeous building with a ton of history. It has withstood hundreds of years, fires & earthquakes and still maintains its beauty. Definetely worth a quick visit. Pro tip: Go in & look up then go upstairs to look down. Its breathtaking arcs & open ceiling will leave you swooning.

Clara Stones

This jewelry store is unlike any other. There are two storefronts right across the ally from one another; one is commercial & the other is more demo/high end. Coral is a very rare commodity & a Croatian specialty.

I went here twice. TWICE. Once on my tour with Ivan (mentioned above) & once with my mom–who is a professional jeweler. Her & the lead jeweler talked about coral & precious stones for over an hour. He even gave her his personal email to stay in touch. I guess there are not a lot of coral enthusiasts & I can see why: it’s so rare that it’s authentic. I will let them explain the process to you but spoiler alert: its fascinating. Even if you are not a jeweler, like me. Mark my words: I will be back here when I get rich & famous to wear one of their gorgeous coral pieces.

Food / Drink

Konoba Dubrava

Hands down, Konoba Dubrava is the best meal I had in Croatia and perhaps in my life….and if you knew me, you would know I would NEVER say that lightly. Disclaimer: this place is not best fit for vegetarians, nor is most of Dubrovnik since their specialty is Octopus & all things seafood.

We ordered the ribeye, the octopus, grilled chicken, chicken wings, french fries, salad & lots of Croatian red wine. If you don’t go with a hungry army like I did and could only order one thing, I would HIGHLY recommend the octopus. It changed my life. The wait staff was amazing & made excellent recommendations! One drawback: it sits on top of a windy mountain so be sure to buckle up in your Uber 😉

Lady Pi Pi

This oddly named restaurant had one of the best views of Dubrovnik plus delicious, reasonably priced food. It’s named after a fountain of a woman with water coming out of her lady bits. I kid you not. You would think this place would be packed but its steep hike up hundreds of stairs just outside the walls borders deters most. Pro tip: wear sneakers!

I happened upon Lady Pi Pi by accident. I was on a mission to find an authentic, hole-in-the-wall spot with a good view. I climbed up hundreds of stairs toward the walls that enclose the city and when I got to the top / the wall border, there it was. Nestled just outside the wall, with an ivy-covered pergola & the best views of the city outside the wall tour, Lady Pi Pi is a MUST. Be ready to climb but what a way to burn off that free bread basket 😉

D’Vino Wine Bar

This was my favorite place to get a glass of wine. Not only did they give us a flight of wine to taste, but their Australian-Croatian sommelier explained his excursions to find each fine wine in great detail. If you love wine as much as I do, this is a must. Get a wine tasting flight & sit outside. You’re welcome.

Glam Cafe

After you get wine drunk at D’Vino’s, save your table & send someone right across the ally to Glam Cafe for lattes & craft beers. The man who works here loves nerding out about craft beers from all over. He came over to give my boyfriend (a craft beer enthusiast) a sip of a rare craft beer he himself was saving for such an occasion. Croatian people are truly the kindest & most generous people. Bonus points: if you have ever been to or heard of Treehouse Brewery –mention it to him. He is OBSESSED with their beer. Massachusetts is internationally known for its beer 😉 Yes thats their sticker on my fridge.

Dolce Vita

You cant do to Europe & not get Gelato. It’s sacrilegious. I went to two Gelato spots, one touristy one & one authentic one. Which one did I prefer? The authentic one obvs: Dolce Vita. They have amazing flavors but you have to get their namesake flavor: Dolce Vita.

Want the ‘grammable, gimmicky experience? I don’t blame you. Hell, thats why I went to the alternative spot: Peppino’s. I got their GOT themed flavor. It was super delicious, albeit not as authentic gelato as Dolce Vita but totally worth it for the ‘gram. Check it out:

Oliva Pizzeria

Want to keep it simple with some budget-friendly pizza? Oliva is the place to get it then. Quick, easy & nice servers. No frills but very cute & cozy. My family & I went here because it was close to our AirBnB & we wanted a relaxing dinner after the wedding madness!

Phew!! That was a lot, I know. And believe it or not, I left out a TON. There were two whole days of festivities I didn’t include among countless other gems that just didn’t make the cut as the BEST of Dubrovnik. There are quite a few expiditions I was unable to enjoy but were recommended, like cave diving, kayaking, etc. But that will have to wait till next time. Hope this was helpful!

xo, Tina Bell

IG Guide to LA LA Land

I have been to LA 3 times now so I guess Im a little more than a tourist. When I visit new places, I like to experience the area as much like a native as possible and sprinkle-in touristy gimmicks. In this age of social media, I am a slave to a good “Instagramable” experience. If you want to visit LA but get the most IG content on a budget, then follow my simple IG guide to LA LA Land. 

Red Carpet.

I had my first ever Hollywood  red carpet experience. My roommate in LA went to the American Film Institute (AFI) for writing and extended the invite to my boyfriend and I to attend the star-studded AFI Fest. He toted the past alumni events as rubbing elbows with celebs. Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman and more were expected to be in attendance. I could not contain my excitement.

Little did we know that the AFI Alumni event was not the same as AFI Fest. Even though the celebrities were long gone from the Red Carpet, there were a few paparazzi stragglers. When my boyfriend started snapping pictures of me on the crimson carpet, I turned on my “model mode” and served face. We conned the paparazzi into thinking I was somebody and they started snapping away. It was such a surreal experience. As we left to validate parking (glamorous, I know), multiple people stopped me to take selfies because they thought I was famous. So my friends, you MUST attend a red carpet event and sneak on to have this experience. Best part: AFI Fest was FREE. Its a once in a lifetime feeling. 

Walk Around.

 I highly recommend packing cute walking shoes for your trip to LA. Sure, you can Uber, Lime or Bird (motorized Scooters) but you will miss some really cool photo ops if you do. My top places to walk around: Melrose Ave, Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, Hollywood. Be prepared to walk off those calories.

Walking around allows you to go to typical, “grammable” spots like the pink wall on Melrose or the Ferris Wheel shot in Santa Monica Pier but you also get to explore the stores, smells, food and people. I recommend finding your guiding force and following it. For me, its shopping. More specifically, thrift/vintage shopping. I saved all the Goodwill’s, Consignment Stores and Vintage Boutiques in my “LA Google Maps List” and planned my walking trips around those destinations. This way, you have a “plan” or “destination” and can explore around.

For instance, I went shopping in The Beverly Center and they had a whole Holiday installation (the purple picture) then I bought the Holly Golightly-inspired dress at their H&M on sale for $10 (chandelier picture). So I got two “Instagrammable” pictures for the price of one. Not to mention, those are not the only photos I took nor the only places I shopped that day. I got the 80s burgundy sequin dream bodysuit at a vintage store called Helping Hand Vintage for $25 and the serendipitously matching faux leather pants at Counsel Thrift for $8. Both places are within walking distance of me and the photo was taken against the wall of my apartment. 

Eat Food.

Despite the rumored exorbitant cost of avocado toast in LA, there is an abundance of delicious, cheap eats. If you know me, you know I love food. The term “hangry” was inspired by me, Im pretty sure. I have made a list of the best eats in LA I have been to and I have barely scraped the surface. Exploring food places always makes for full hearts and bellies. 

Book a Photoshoot.

LA is home to some of the most talented photographers in the world. Their clientele often includes star-studded celebs. Whatever it may be, I highly recommend reaching out to some to book a photoshoot! @janisyuephotography is AMAZING. Check her out!!!

Appreciate Art.

I was fortunate enough to be visiting LA during a holiday. Why is this good? There is nothing like a white Christmas but enjoying some holiday fun without the threat of frostbite is worth the trade-up. Also, there are tons of free or cheap attractions and installations to lure tourists and grammers. 

There are tons of quintessential attractions for you to visit in LA: The Hollywood Sign, Collette Miller Wings, The Magic Castle, and the list goes on. I have done these and you should too but if you’re looking for something new, unique and maybe life-changing; I recommend expanding your horizons a bit. Namely, The Getty Museum. Its free and open to the public. Not to mention had the best views of LA Ive ever seen. I also recommend LA Zoo Lights. Every year the LA Zoo turns into an adult playground (kids welcome too). It had beautiful holiday light installations. I was on sensory overload. Another great (cheap) event is the Melrose Trading Post: a flea market on Melrose Ave every Sunday. Check it out!

The Getty Museum sunset and views was probably the most affordable and jaw-dropping experience of the trip. The LA Zoo Lights was amazing but it cost a pricey roundtrip Uber, had long lines, was crowded & cost $13 a piece. Its well-worth it but if youre looking for the best bang for your buck, its the Getty Museum hands-down. Take a gander!

Los Angeles is a magical place full of great food, warm people, hidden gems, art installations and some of the best photo-ops. I highly recommend putting the camera down to just enjoy all of these moments you capture IRL but I hope this guide has helped you find some grammable moments in your next LA adventure. 

xo Tina Bell

My Valentines Day/Birthday Photoshoot

Hello Bellas,

Welp, its a fact: Im getting old. At least, one year older that is 😉 As an annual tradition, I did a birthday/valentine’s day fusion photoshoot with my bestie Joe Murphy. He texted me and said “lets do a birthday photoshoot for you–your vision/concept and I’ll do makeup and shoot”. As most photoshoot stories go, there were some hiccups along the way…

We planned to do this photoshoot at a local laundromat that has teal washing machines. I called the laundromat multiple times to get permission to shoot to no avail. Finally, the day of the shoot, a nice woman picked up and told me they are closed for renovations for 2 weeks and that the teal machines were being replaced. REPLACED?! Damn. This was originally what we wanted to do:

So, we adapted the script for the day to be not on-location. I used some Pinterest inspiration of course, but we made them our own.

It all worked out in the end and we made some fabulous images. Here are some #bts images:

And the final product images:

We had so much fun!! I have always been called the “love-baby” because my birthday is so close to Valentine’s Day so this fusion photoshoot was what dreams are made of 🙂 I hope you all enjoyed this photoshoot as much as I did. Stay tuned for my post about NYFW!!

xo

Tina Bell

Last Photoshoot of 2016

Hello Bellas!

Days before the close of 2016, I got the chance to work with 2 of the 3 photographers from the Toys for Tots Charity Photoshoot: Rob Hare and Mo Mendes. At 3:00pm I saw a status on Mo’s page asking for a model available to shoot at his studio at 4:00pm. I was getting over a cold, in my PJs, and just finished watching an episode of The Crown. I asked where the shoot would be half-expecting it to be over an hour like most gigs, but it was a mere 40 mins away. I accepted and ran into the shower, got out and got makeup ready as quickly as I could. I did not get there until 5:00pm (they knew I would be late) but luckily Mo was stuck in traffic and arrived right before me.

The studio space was HUGE and Rob already had a pink backdrop set up for one of our shoots. Rob and I had been in talks about shooting for a week and exchanged Pinterest boards (that means its going down). You don’t just show anyone your Pinterest board 😉 We both liked this one idea and tried it:

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Pinterest

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Tina Bell (me)

Rob made a status using this photo saying:

My New Years Resolution…..Get back to doing photography projects that are just for me. I love that I’m able to make money doing what I’m passionate about but I still like to have time to do personal work. So here’s to kicking it off in style.

This is neither a new nor original idea but it is a technically challenging shot for a number of lighting reasons. I was thrilled to put this project together with a model I’ve wanted to work with from the minute I met her. Tina Bell is a phenomenal model and she was kind enough to join me to put this project together.

Thank you Mo Mendes for the assist on this shot. Very proud to add this image to my personal portfolio.

There was another model was there–Brittany Bearden- Miss Maine U.S. International–and we were alternating time with photographers. I worked with Mo next and then with Rob again before the end. I will leave the Mo surprise to the end (Hint: It’s a Secret) and show you another gem that Rob and I created:

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Tina Bell

There was no Pinterest inspo for that one. I had the dress and Rob had the camera. The lighting is really the unsung hero of this shot. There was a hard light source to my right and I had to angle my body and face toward with while also creating curves and pretty lines. Its more challenging than it looks, but DAMN does it look good 🙂

As promised, Ill let you in on my secret with Mo…Victoria’s Secret, that is! Mo had these amazing black wings that were easily spanned 6 feet across. They were made for another shoot with a girl that was 6 ft tall by the lovely Lory Sun. She creates some really cool and dark couture pieces and this was no exception. I was strapped into the wings like a backpack…the heaviest backpack I’ve ever worn! I couldn’t move to fast or I would topple over or hit a light (which I accidentally did do a few times). But the shots were worth it. Its more of a dark VS angel shoot.

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Tina Bell

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Tina Bell

I am so honored to be inspired and inspire great artists in my line of work. This is a reminder of why I do this at all. They don’t call us artists tortured for no reason; some days you wake up and think “its not enough” or “I should just quit” or “what if I fail” or “why am I even doing this”. Creatives can totally relate to this “Negative Thought Record” (as we call it in the clinical world). However, its shoots and statuses like this put it all in perspective. Suddenly, hopping in the shower, getting ready and driving 40 minutes out of your way on a moments notice does not seem so crazy. We all can get down and forget why we are working our buns off (especially when the bills stack up and your not getting paid), but shake off those demons and doubts and GRIND! Happy New Year!!

xo Tina Bell

Toys For Tots Charity Photoshoot, Boston Fashion Awards and Facebook Live in Review

Hello Bellas!!

It has been a hot second–sorry! If you don’t already know, I have made the decision to go FULL-TIME with my acting and modeling career in honor of my 1-year acting anniversary on Nov. 18th. I went full-time because I was sick of opportunities passing me by because they were on a Tuesday or I needed a whole week off on 2-days notice. My acting career was the main reason I went full-time since filming eats up the most time. Ironically, its my modeling that has taken off since. I recently had a whole day of modeling, photoshoots and catwalks.

A few weeks ago, I heard about a Toys for Tots charity photoshoot so I jumped on the opportunity. Not only do I know exactly how it feels to not have gifts under the tree some years, but I also love to use my talents for good! There were 3 top New England photographers, a team of makeup artists and hair stylists and gowns rented for the day from Mark Russo. We were asked to provide our measurements for the dresses and given call-times to keep the traffic to a minimum. There were Miss Americas, Miss Teens, Marines and tons of talented folks! After getting my hair and makeup did, I went to the stylist to see which gorgeous long and flowy gown was selected for me. To my initial dismay, my gown was no gown at all. It was a short plain red dress. I secretly hoped it would not fit so I could get an alternate, but it fit…surprisingly well actually! So I decided, I just needed to stand next to these beauty queens in stunning floor-length gowns and just OWN IT. After all, its not about me…its about the kids!!

That’s what I did. I went upstairs and had only 3 minutes to make an impression with each photographer and did my DAMN THANG! Each photographer was impressed with my posing ability (one of my strong suits). No dress was going to hold me back from leaving my mark. And that’s the thing about the modeling industry; its comprised of 80% confidence, 10% grit and 10% talent. I’m a petite model so I am often written off as a non-threat. I wasn’t surprised that I got the short dress vs. a gown. I get it. I’m short. The hem being too long is most certainly a concern. Soooo whats the best way to eliminate that threat? A short dress. But I made that short dress work for me. Check out how much fun I had working with Eric Snyder, Mo Mendes and Rob Hare (photography giants) along with Liz Kidder on hair and Jena Tang of Pristige Communications organizing the whole thing:

Two days before, I did a music video shoot for a local Boston artist: Kyle Davis. Remember the name. He is extremely talented and underrated. He was scheduled to perform Sunday at the Boston Fashion Awards. I was not planning on going because I hate being forced to network with VIPs at a club where you cannot hear a damn thing. However, Kyle’s manager gave me comp tickets so my previous excuse of not being able to afford it no longer applied. I then tried to make the excuse that I had the charity photoshoot earlier that day and I would be too exhausted to go. However, the venu was closer to the photoshoot than my house so I really had no excuse. INTROVERTS, YA FEEL ME THOUGH?!?! I got over myself and my excuses then I picked out a killer outfit and went stag.

It took like 45 minutes to find parking and it was 3 blocks away (not bad to be honest) in the freezing cold. I bent over to put my bags in the trunk so I dont come back to my car window smashed and my things stolen and I felt a SNAP. I grab the back of my skirt that was formally held together by a clasp that had just broke. Classic. I debated getting back in the car and leaving but I braved it. When I got to the venu, I went to coat check and asked if they had a pin but they only had a paper clip…which I graciously accepted with no other alternatives. I went to the bathroom to finagle some semblance of a clasp when I saw my designer friend Nathalia JMag. She said: “than GOD you are here. Can you model? We are short models, there were no-shows”. I looked down at my paper clip clasp and empty arm (no date) and without hesitation accepted the opportunity to not wear my broken clothes.

I felt instant regret because I realized what I had signed up for: runway. I am NOT a runway model. I am 5’4″ on a good day. I know my strengths. Walking in a straight line in someone else’s sky-high heels in someone else’s clothes is not one of mine. Don’t get me wrong, Ive done it; I’m just not cut out for it. For the second time in one day, I was faced with needing to hold my own. I am beyond thrilled I did!! It was so much fun. The girls were so nice. I was one of 3 (questionable) white girls which was AWESOME! I was so happy to see women of all colors tearing it up on the runway. So often, in Boston especially, everything is white-washed. I was proud of my city for diversifying the catwalk. I got corralled into another designer’s line as well, but I was just so happy I didn’t have to wear my broken skirt!! Check out the fruits of my labor:

 

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While I had a ton of fun at the Boston Fashion Awards, I must say there were multiple technical difficulties. There was one point when I was waiting to walk the runway and loud white noise came over the intercom and did not stop for a solid 30 seconds. On top of that, they did not actually announce when any of the awards would be called and therefore, in many cases, the winners did not hear their names get called. Many designers and models who were nominated were busy backstage doing their job (that they were nominated for). The model who won best print model heard her name but was promptly rushed off-stage and was quite upset about it. Was she going to give an Oscar speech? No. But she said she was treated rudely. My question is: why call it the Boston Fashion Awards if the event is not completely centered around the awards and their winners? Why not call it the Boston Fashion Show (with some awards interspersed)? I understand these things are always hard to plan and there are always hitches, but shame on you Boston for your treatment of the people who were the WHOLE reason for the event!! Besides that, I had fun and it was a good place to meet good people and I thank the organizers for facilitating that.

At the event, I went Facebook live for the first time ever. I feel like I need to use this feature more often. I am a huge fan! I do think people abuse FB live and go on constantly to talk about what they ate that day, but if used sparingly for things people would not get to see normally and do not want to miss (ie the Boston Fashion Awards) then its a very useful tool. And so easy to use! One tip to FB: make it so you can share the link to these videos!! Check it out on my page: https://www.facebook.com/TinaBellCreations/

I had such a blast this day and I am so glad I forced myself to be a social being for a day. I met so many wonderful people and really stepped outside my comfort zone. Stay tuned for a ton more projects!!

xo Tina Bell

Post-Holiday Gym Feels

Its Monday. Everyone is in a post-thanksgiving turkey-induced coma as they sit behind their desks, typing away with zombie-fingers. But what happens after work? How will you get rid of those turkey thighs, those mashed potato muscles or those gravy glutes?

The Gym (cue dramatic music: Bah, Bahh, BAHHH).

None of us want to do it, but we will. You will go whether it be for a New Years Resolution, post-holiday binge-eating guilt, or simply because you are a weirdo who loves the gym. Watch how  I braved my post-holiday #gymfeels:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/TinaBellCreations/videos/

 

xo Tina Bell

Trick or Treat: Halloween 2016 Costumes

Hello Bellas!

I accidentally  went all-out for Halloween this year with 3 costumes. One was planned and the other 2 I had to pull out of my a$$. Halloween is all about being creative so join me in my Halloween costume journey this year.

Like every other year, I usually make one Halloween costume because I really only celebrate it one day. About 3 months ago I found a red all-sequined dress at Savers for $6 and instantly I knew what I was being for Halloween: Jessica Rabbit. It was perfect. Jessica Rabbit is the right amount of body positive sexy and classy you want in a costume.

Of course, there is always the Mean Girls age-old wear lingerie and cat ears/vampire teeth costume which never fails…but I’m not a basic bitch.

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via GIPHY

I slowly but surely got all the other pieces of my costume like gloves, a wig, heels and fake lashes. The entire outfit cost under $40 which is my limit for something I am going to wear one time once a year. I knew the day I would debut my outfit would be Saturday (the closest weekend day to Halloween you can go out without being an alcoholic) at an open bar party. THEN the Wednesday before this weekend my friend invited me to a networking Halloween party thrown by Model Club Inc. (one of the big agencies in Boston) on Thursday. They declined me representation a few months ago soooooo obviously I had to go and I had to look FABULOUS to show them what they’re missing. But, one day to muster up a drop-dead fabulous costume?!?! Not only that but I had two photoshoots earlier that day…the second of which I was completely covered in blood:

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So, I thought to myself: who is the most fabulous person I know whose wardrobe I already possess: BEYONCE. I know what you are thinking: “how do you already possess Beyonce’s wardrobe”. If you saw my closet (which you can see here: Closet Tour) you would think it belonged to a drag queen or a professional stylist/costumer…one of which I am. I quickly Googled “Beyonce Formation Tour” and combined two outfits of hers to make “my beyonce” costume because what fun is it if you just make the exact same thing?!?! Here is my inspiration:

And here is what I wore:

Friday night I was invited to my friend Nathalia Jmag‘s fashion show event in Providence. If you don’t know the name, you best learn it since she is on this season of Project Runway and is doing big things. The event was called: “Freaqshow”.

At the show I got to witness a man crowd-source $50 to staple his scrotum to his leg…and that he did. But, I digress.

Recently I was in a music video with the same carny freak-show theme and wore an old ringleader costume of mine. I could have worn that but I really don’t like repeating costumes nor do I like wearing the same outfit (costume or not) too close to one another.

So I decided to do something different and completely opposite of the theme. I used a baby pink faux fur sweater to inspire a Ariana Grande Scream Queens Costume. Here was my inspiration:

And here is what I wore:

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I know there are a limited amount of times I will be able to pay only $10 to see my fabulous friend Nathalia Jmag‘s designs on the runway before she is too famous to afford so I had to go and look fabbers.

Finally, it was Saturday night. The night I had planned and prepped for for months. I got to be one of my favorite childhood characters. I stuffed my bra and attempted to stuff my hips but the dress could not accommodate the curvy queen. At the pregame, I borrowed a safety pin from the host to keep the back of my dress from bursting at the seams from my fake boobs. The night was saved by the tiny metal pin until it burst open (luckily not exposing me for a fraud I was) while I was at the party and stabbed my finger on the dance floor. Roger Rabbit helped re-pin me and all was good again. We did not win the costume contest–although literally everyone told us we should have much like last year when my roommates and I went as The Avengers–but I know we were the winners of everyone’s hearts that night. Here was my inspiration:

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And here is what I wore:

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I hope you all had a happy and ghoulish Halloween! Let the trick or treating commence!!

xo,

Tina Bell