I had to give myself a little pep talk before calling Bella, just in case I addressed her by her Instagram alter ego, Stella of Deliciously Stella fame. “The thing about Stella is, she’s quite one dimensional”, the real Bella explains as she makes a clear distinction between the two, “she basically makes the same joke everyday”. Although, Bella does admit that Stella does inherit some traits from her creator, describing them both as “hapless”.
Just in case you haven’t heard of Deliciously Stella, she’s a character with 144k followers on Instagram (as it stands), all of whom seem to love her posts which poke fun at the current health and wellness industry. Instead of courgetti and avocados, Stella prefers her food doused in artificial colourings and sugar.
But is Bella, the brainchild of Stella, a junk food junkie too? “I eat a real mixture. I’m not like some crazed sugar monster”, she explains. “I think I’ve got a pretty healthy approach to everything in moderation.” Unlike Stella, Bella actually loves cooking, and has a certificate in food and wine from Leiths. Her mum was a professional chef, which is where she got her passion for food from. “I’m quite good.”
Bella’s 29 years old and from Edinburgh, although you wouldn’t know straight away, as her accent was “beaten out” of her when her parents sent her to boarding school. Her career before Deliciously Stella took off was in food TV. “I was researching the ‘new talent’, and I came across all these gorgeous girls who were making all this healthy food and I was absolutely fascinated. I sort of fell down a rabbit hole stalking them.”
“Why are you all on the beach all the time?! Why is no one at work? How many avocados can one person eat?”, she would think and being the cynic she is, she always thought “it was a load of shit”. Bella is a big believer in science, proven in her podcast where she actively sought nutritional professionals to talk on there. “I couldn’t fathom why no one was questioning any of this.”
It was her boss who encouraged her to take on these accounts with a parody, suggesting, “well, you’re the most disgusting person I’ve ever met, so why don’t you start your own version?” Over the course of a weekend, Bella was hooked, and the account got really big within “about a week”.
Stella started it to drum up interest in her first Edinburgh Fringe Festival comedy show. She realised that no one was going to come and see her show because no one knew who she was, so she needed to get clever with marketing. By the end of the festival, people were standing on the streets leaning in to watch her. The show, by the way, doesn’t even have anything to do with Deliciously Stella.
The thing that really annoys her about the health blogging world, is that her Granny is a coeliac, and Bella says that she had a really hard time finding food that she could eat. These people who wilfully give up gluten when there’s no scientific evidence to support their claims for better health, just felt like “a massive slap in the face”.
I ask if she believed that the clean eating is dead, and her opinion is that “people are still doing it, they’re just talking about it less”. The authors of clean eating books and blogs are still probably making heaps of money and doing really well, she thinks, but because ‘clean eating’ has become a “dirty term” and so they’re just “laying low”. It’s peaked in London, but Bella reckons it’s moving further out. “I think it [clean eating] sets an unrealistic precedence for normal people. It’s really, really expensive to do.”
Although Bella didn’t buy into the movement herself, she understands why many people do. “We’re conditioned as women to react well to things like that. They’re packaging it in a different way, but ultimately it’s all about being thin, attractive and rich”, suggesting that maybe if we ate like them, we’d look like them. “Realistically, you’re going to look like you, because it’s genetics.”
But Bella hasn’t always been against FAD diets. “Oh my god, I’ve done SO many”, describing one pitiful attempt at the Dukan diet where she put on more weight than she lost. As she’s gotten older she’s been less and less drawn to them. “I respect myself too much to put myself through the agony of being a couple of pounds lighter.” Now, she exercises for her mental health and eats “pretty normally”.
Obviously, Bella’s taken a rather unorthodox approach to Instagram, but “just because I take the piss out of it doesn’t mean I’m not affected by it”. She explains, if you’re having a bad day with your tracksuit bottoms on and your hair in a bun and then you see some glorious model’s Instagram page, it can be “really disheartening”. “But what you have to realise is that there’s all these apps now and lights. Nobody is going to show you a picture of what they really look like.”
The highlight of Deliciously Stella so far for Bella was appearing on the cover of the Times. “I really needed something that I could explain to my dad”, explaining that her parents don’t really “get” the account. As for the future of Stella, Bella would love to turn her into a sit com, if the odds work in her favour.
I’m sure we’d all watch that.
Bella Younger’s Deliciously Stella book is out now, here.