Her career arc is remarkably like former teen stars Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and other teen television stars.
She’ll take her next step into pop music with the release of her new 12-track album Stopping Time. It debuts Sept. 18. The first single, “Dream About Me,” is already climbing the charts.
This is no teenie bopper record. She covers such adult hits as Beyonce’s “Halo” and Oasis hit “Wonderwall.”
Former teen pop princess Debbie Gibson has also contributed a new song, “Angel,” along with a Peter Stengaard and Rebecca Johnson tune, “Every Girl.”
Despite her young age, Isabela is a seasoned actress who exudes a sensual, vivacious beauty, like a young Vanessa Hudgens.
She made her Broadway debut four years ago in the revival of the musical Evita. The same year, she made her national and international television debut as a singer in “The Next Big Thing: New York.”
She landed her first feature role in the 2013 film “The House that Jack Built.”
Being on a national TV-show has given her the same springboard that Miley and Selena had to launch their careers. So far initial album reviews have been positive as well.
So, is Isabela the next big thing? And can she negotiate the treacherous path from teen to adult star?
TheImproper caught up with the teen-wunderkind at her home base in Cleveland for one of her first in-depth interviews.
TheImproper: Tell us about the album and your new single “Dream About Me”
Isabela: “Dream About Me” was one of the first songs I’ve written. I was 11 when I wrote it. It’s about one of my first crushes and how he liked someone else. I wrote about it in my diary and it turned into a song! I was just browsing through my diary and had just learnt to play the uke earlier that year, so I started putting a melody to what I had written, kind of venting my frustration about these feelings that were so new to me. Up to that point, ‘Sugar and spice and everything nice” was all I knew then I met my first crush.’
IM: There are some unexpected covers on the album, especially “Halo” by Beyonce and “Wonderwall” by Oasis; how were they chosen?
Isabela: “I admire these artists. I grew up listening to artists from Louis Armstrong to The Beatles to Oasis. I have always loved ‘Wonderwall.’ Thought I’d experiment with the Uke, give it a fresh sound, a bit more upbeat perhaps? Beyonce is so soulful. I aspire to sing at that level. ‘Halo’ has such variations, so much I could do vocally, very colorful.
IM: Who is Patrick? We saw his name on the album notes.
Isabela: “Patrick is my Dad. He inspires me musically; he is an amazing musician. He is like your typical closet musician, and I hope that the world gets to hear him some day. I think I got him started writing songs, and he loves seeing me write. Without him, I don’t know that I’d understand music quiet as much.”
IM: What was the first song you wrote?
Isabela: “The first song that I ever wrote was “May You Sing that Song.” It was a Christmas song that I wrote when I was 6. I really didn’t want to show it to anyone beside my parents. My dad said that reading that song really got him to believe there must be a God because there was no other way I was just born having that insight.
The first song I ever wrote and shared with others was “Never Alone.” I wrote it because I was invited to perform at an event in Connecticut to support the families of the Sandy Hook victims.” That was the first time I actually felt okay to share one of my songs because I felt there was a purpose, a good reason beyond just me writing a song.
IM: There’s also a song by Debbie Gibson on the album; how did you two meet?
Isabela: “I have actually never met Debbie in person. We have face-timed though while recording ‘Angel,’ the song she wrote. She worked with the producer of my album, Van Dean. Her manager saw me perform at a concert at 54 Below, and she then spoke to Debbie about me.
Debbie and Van talked and she said she’d like to have me hear one of her songs, and then I liked the song. So she gave it to me for the album. I think it’s cool that she supports a teen like me and maybe helps launch my career in the music world. I think she relates to me being young and very passionate about music.”
IM: I want to ask you about your Nickelodeon show, 100 Things. Tell us how that all happened?
Isabela: “After my last theater show, my manager started sending me in for TV/movie projects. So I was going back and forth to LA, auditioning for other Nick shows. I was actually testing for another show back in November of 2013, and the next day I was called to read with the writer and creator of the show, Scott Fellows. Auditions were not really happening at that point. The show was in the works, so it wasn’t fully written. I didn’t hear back for a while, so I thought I didn’t get the role.
And, then when I least expected it, they called and wanted me to go in for a mix-and-match, which is where I read with a bunch of other kids. I went in to read with them and I felt immediate chemistry with the boys, especially Jaheem Toombs because he was the first kid that I talked to when I went into the audition room, and we just clicked. And to my surprise, I got the role and I was really happy about that.”
IM: And, you also recorded the theme song. Tell us how that came to be? Do you like acting or singing better?
Isabela: “When I first met the creator of the show Scott Fellows, I think he knew that I could sing because I think that we kind of touched that topic through the audition process. I gave him a demo of me signing; I really didn’t want to, I was nervous, but I ended up doing it, and I think that was one of the best things I’ve ever gotten myself to do because without him hearing that demo, he wouldn’t have ever know that I could sing.
I don’t think I recorded the theme song until the 7th episode into the season. So we had all these episodes where I would be on set and I would just be singing non-stop. Singing is like my default. If I am not really doing anything, I’ll start singing or humming. I don’t even notice it. So I assume that Scott knew I could sing from being on set with me all the time and hearing me sing in between takes.
He started talking about incorporating me singing into the show. He was very complimenting, ‘You are really good singer!’ I was like, ‘“Wow, that means a lot!’ You know coming from the Scott, you know who made a huge boy-band hit show, ‘Big Time Rush.’ I love ‘Big Time Rush.’ So coming from him, the compliments meant a lot.”
I worked with the producer of the theme song, Desmond Child. It was scary going in because I was told that he was very meticulous; he has very high expectations. So I was very scared going in. I don’t know why they told me that. When I met him, he ended up being a really nice guy. It might have helped that I am Latin and he is Cuban, so we had that in common and connected on.
His kids are young like me. He gets me; I loved working with him. He is clear with his direction in the recording room, he works fast, he knew my range very well, and he was always pushing me–great mentor! Working with him on the theme song really meant the world to me. Desmond has written so many hits, ‘Living La Vida Loca’ and ‘Living On A Prayer.’
IM: Do you like acting or singing better?
Isabela: “To me it’s like you get two-for-one deal when you perform a song because feelings have to be conveyed in a song when you perform it, or you might as well just listen to it on the radio. But even when I am in the recording studio, and I’m singing something I didn’t write, all that experience reading and interpreting scripts comes in very handy because it helps me relate to the writer and convey the song the right way.
And acting is almost like telling a story without a song. The beats are there, there is rhythm that sets the scene and I love that you can live so many imaginary circumstances whether it’s on screen or a Broadway stage. “If I had to choose, I’d choose singing. Singing is the one I could never live without. I’ve been singing since I was a baby child. I could sing before I could even talk or crawl, except I babble sang or I’d hum. (Like I’m doing now!) I just caught myself singing.”
IM: As a 14-year old, what are your inspirations?
Isabela: “Anything that inspires any other 14-year-old girls. It’s not like I have better likes or higher goals than anyone. We all have dreams. I guess what gets me through the day is every day, thinking so far my whole life every single one of my dreams has come true. When I was 6 years old, all I wanted to do is be in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and that ended up being my first musical.
Then, I was determined to record an album, so I won this competition and the prize was to record your own CD at a recording studio. When I was nine years old, I wanted to be on Broadway. I was literally nine years old from Cleveland, Ohio doing a community theater show with about 100 seats the Summer before I was cast for Evita on Broadway. Who knew that I’d be on Broadway performing with Ricky Martin more than once a week? When I was 10, my goal was to be on TV and then not even a year later that came true.”
What inspires me? I don’t know how to answer this question! Random acts of kindness, a good show, great performances. People working hard to make dreams come true, breaking the norms, seeing people with my Latin roots fighting all odds to be successful in politics, in Hollywood, Broadway, even in the streets sharing their art. People who don’t believe in the word ‘impossible.’ That inspires me, it gives me hope.
IM: What other artists do your follow?
Isabela: “I follow musicians like Ed Sheeran, Sia, Beyonce. Actors such as Neil Patrick Harris, Cara Delevinge and JLo. I also love following Broadway writers such as Lynn Manuel Miranda, seeing how he is shaping Broadway into a whole new thing. Actress Amy Schumer, Jennifer Lawrence.”
IM: Whose career do you admire?
Isabela:: “In terms of musicians, Beyonce; everyone knows why. She is a powerhouse, she has pizzazz, she has it all. She has woman empowerment, she has respect, she has entitlement, she has a family and she worked very hard for it. I admire artists that can write their own material, not just perform like Ed Sheeran, Sia. Cara Delevingne slays, she has rocked the world in the past year, I’ve always liked her and I’m so happy to see her so successful lately.
Cara broke the standards for a model; she’s funny and crazy. Her personality has no limits and neither does her career; she’s a triple threat. I respect that. I admire artists from other parts of the world who work hard at reaching larger audiences. I admire Peruvian song writer, Gianmarco. He reaches the world with his music; even non-Spanish audiences are mesmerized by him. And he is able to juggle his career with his family.”
Check out her video of the them song from her Nick show. Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest celebrity news.