I met Bella Anderson this time last year while in line with my friends at a Christmas-themed house show. She was instantly iconic – a few years older than us, sparkling with bubbly energy and an enigmatically captivating presence I would later identify as a survivor’s joie de vivre. We wouldn’t have gotten into the party if it weren’t for her charm. Some strangers just glow in the dark, you know?
After a year of liking each other’s Instagram posts, our paths finally crossed for a second time. November 10th, 2022: Bella treks from Seattle’s Queen Anne district to the Ave for an interview with Her Campus UW and a pudding-sweetened oolong tea. We meet at Boba Gem, a bustling teahouse that immediately matches her openness and love of bright colors. A shelf lined with adorable boba plushies catches my attention and she tells me she owns one. It’s all making sense.
I sip my taro milk tea and soak up the ambience. Bella wears an elegant red top under a red puffer coat and flourishes her red nails with every emphatic gesture. (Think Taylor Swift red. Femme fatale red.)
We spend a few minutes catching up before getting down to business. The business in question? Bella’s online jewelry and art shop, Dreamhouse (@shopdreamhouse on IG). Every product is just as glamorous as the woman behind the curtain and handmade with meticulous TLC. Designs take on a plethora of shapes and mediums; funky statement earrings lead the Dreamhouse brand, but the site also lists necklaces, painted purses, stickers, and prints.
“My favorite thing to make is always the next thing – the thing I haven’t made yet,” she tells me. It seems like Dreamhouse was built from pure willpower (with some ADHD sprinkled in). Born from the boredom of quarantine era, the one-woman business keeps its showrunner occupied and inspired. The name Dreamhouse commemorates Barbie, the girl who does it all without surrendering an ounce of femininity. She and Bella have a lot in common – they’re both blonde go-getters with a million hopes and hobbies. When I contend that staying busy can be an intoxicating coping strategy, Bella agrees, but it comes naturally to her. That’s actually what she loves most about fashion: how it’s always moving, always evolving.
Bella’s entrepreneurial confidence is so casual it’s intimidating. Even her website is personally curated, with limited coding experience at her disposal. Aesthetic rainbow pastels and sultry fonts accompany designs that fashion corporations like Shein would kill to dream up. Which is a genuine problem, Bella mentions. She keeps those companies blocked on social media, but she has friends in the small biz community whose designs have been appropriated. Unfortunately, being a twenty-something in 2022 tends to complicate the patenting process.
That’s why originality is a huge tenet of the Dreamhouse operation. “I only make things I would wear,” she says, beaming. So what does a fiddle-playing, bird-watching, Nicki Minaj-loving 24-year-old wear? Only the sweetest eye candy you’ve ever seen. Her most recently released collection, aptly named Forbidden Candy, includes the “almost edible choker,” “funfetti cupcake” earrings, “sweet n sour starz” danglies, and more. Before that, back in the OG COVID-19 time-warp, she went viral on TikTok (99k+!) for a product called “moodz” that cleverly utilized interchangeable magnetic charms to create a novelty jewelry experience.
These dynamic pieces are a testament to Bella’s ultimate mantra, which she had plenty of time to reflect on in the hospital. “Life is about having fun. It’s just that simple.” She laughs, says she doesn’t want to sound like that one Kim K quote about how nobody wants to work anymore. “I’m not a proponent of the ‘grindset,’ but I was chasing money for a while. Now I have something to give rather than something to prove.” Considering she sold her Halloween candy back to her mom as a kid, I’m not surprised. Any successful small-business owner has a soft spot for the bottom line.
Her journey as a heart transplant recipient gave Bella a keen sense of how much (/how little) time we’re given on this Earth. With that notion in mind, she saves her energy for authenticity: for example, her current academic environment (animal behavior studies) feels so right that it’s “like falling in love.” On top of that, she’s freshly single and proud to share that a long-gone version of herself would have stayed. I tell her I admire her commitment to growth, and she admits that it’s hard-won – survival can unleash a hefty supply of imposter syndrome. She explains by paraphrasing Breaking Bad, relating to Walter White’s sentiment of asking “why me” upon diagnosis and “why me” upon remission.
“I felt like a ghost,” Bella tells me. “Time eventually put me back in my own body. I’m lucky to have a close relationship with my donor family, which makes it easier.” The born-and-raised Seattleite was diagnosed with heart problems at the age of 9, but the reckoning came at 17 when she endured a cardiac arrest and stroke in succession. Released after three months, on the day of her high school graduation, Bella walked out of the hospital and down the stage to turn her tassel. A main character moment if ever there was one.
Bella’s trauma made her a more spiritual person. As we finish our boba, we compare ideas about fate and talk about what’s in store for the gal of the hour. (I think it’s worth mentioning that she correctly guessed my entire star chart – evidently I’m relatably mercurial.)
We both agree that trusting the universe is the most important step in achieving your desires. Remember: everything bad happens for the plot.
She hopes her next step (post-graduation) is a zoology internship in Hawaii. But before that, she’ll be vending Dreamhouse at the Octopus Bar on November 30th for their Naughty List Holiday Night Market. My 21-and-over readers, I promise you will not be disappointed. If your Bella Anderson experience goes anything like mine, you’ll walk away twice as wise and twice as stylish.