Isabella Lovestory

Photos by Jill Schweber
Interview by Olivia Whittick

Isabella Lovestory is the musical persona of Isabella Rodriguez, the Montreal-based visual artist turned perreo-pop sex symbol sensation. Rodriguez grew up in Honduras until her family moved her to Virginia, before finally settling in Montreal where she finished her highschool chapter. As part of a fine arts class she took during her undergraduate degree at Concordia University, Rodriguez presented a project that involved the creation of a fictional pop star—and Isabella Lovestory was inadvertently born. Experimenting with making songs initially as an extension of this art school project, Rodriguez began to see music as a more liberatory medium than visual art, the world of which can be snobbish and inaccessible, bogged down by red tape, social maneuvering, and dull politics. Rodriguez put up a few early songs on SoundCloud and, after receiving positive feedback, promptly dropped out of school to pursue making music and performing full time. The visual art origin of Isabella Lovestory lends the project a perceptible sense of concepting and self-aware persona-building, Lovestory existing at once as a commentary on the figure of the pop star just as much as she simply is one. I spoke to her, foils in, as she sat in a hairstylist’s chair in London, having just completed her first major international tour. Isabella is a unique talent, raw and stylish, sexy and rebellious and captivating in that way that all self-assured people destined for greatness are. She is a diamond, and if she’s still in the rough, that’s her intention. 

You’re originally from Honduras, but I read that you moved around a lot growing up. What was that like for you?

I grew up in Honduras until I was 13, and then I moved to Virginia. From there I moved to Montreal when I was 17. Honduras is very traditional, very conservative. My parents weren’t really religious per se, but my extended family is very conservative. I’m the first artist in the family. Honduras was beautiful. I lived in the mountains, it felt like there was a lot of time to grow my imagination. When I moved to Virginia, I was very shocked by American life. There were so many cliques—like cheerleaders and goths—and I’d never seen such a different variety of people. It was a 5000 student school, a real American public school. I was exposed to a lot of different cultures, which maybe made me kind of restless to stay in one place. It made me more independent. 

How did coming of age in Montreal impact you creatively? 

I was always a weird, artsy little kid. I always had really bad ADHD. I’ve always kind of been an insect, this hyper little insect. But Montreal helped me flourish in a way. I made such cool friends when I moved there. Just being in the city, being independent, walking around the streets. It’s very comfortable to be an artist there. I went to Concordia for fine arts, and I used to be more of a visual artist. I dropped out of Concordia to become a musician. It’s a great city to focus on your art and not be hustling all the time. 

You said you’re the first artist in your family. Are your parents supportive of your career?

They’re embarrassed I dropped out of school. They’re still like, “You have to go back and finish your degree!” And they’re kind of like, “What the fuck are you doing, you’re naked all the time.” But they definitely support me now. They see that I’m making money. They also like my music

When did you transition from visual art to music?

I started making music in 2018 when I was still in school. I had this multimedia class called Art X, and I wanted to create a project where I could have all mediums in one. I decided I wanted to create a pop star. I made this Isabella Lovestory character, inspired by Dolly Parton. I had an airport layover in Dallas, I think, and she had all her outfits in the window displays. I was so inspired by that. I wanted to create memorabilia and merch for a fictional pop star, that way I could work with fashion, art, drawing, and video. Then I was like, “Should I actually make music?” It was kind of a joke, and then I started making more and more. I would download beats from YouTube and sing over them on GarageBand. I put them on SoundCloud and this guy from New York, Chicken, was like, “I love your music, we should make stuff.” The first song I put out was on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist and I was like, “Wait, I should make money from this.” I dropped out of art school after I realized music was more accessible. I didn’t really like the art world, it felt very exclusive, and all about networking. Music is too, but it’s more accessible. Anyone can listen to your music. 

Do you have a particular audience in mind when you make music?

Now I know who my audience is, which is basically the gay latino community, and I make songs for them. Those communities are still really oppressed in their countries so it makes me feel good to empower them. But of course I stay authentic to everything I do, regardless of my audience. I like to exploit things I’ve done in the past because I like to exploit things. I like to exploit what I’ve created. Not only business-wise, but artistically too. 

Like by being self-referential?

Or expanding on who I am artistically and pushing it to the extreme. I used to be more like, “I need to be unique and original,” but I also want to exploit trends. I want to create something really shiny, a collage of things. That’s what I love about K-Pop. It’s this really shiny candy that’s really extreme but accessible. 

You just finished your first major tour. How was that?

I did baby tours that were like four dates before, but this one was like 23 dates. It was amazing. It was really surprising to see people singing my songs in random places. Like McAllen, Texas or, like, Vienna. It was really inspiring. Seeing people sing along to my songs was really beautiful. 

What were the high and low moments?

The tour started kind of cursed because my luggage got stolen with all of my tour costumes that I had sewed myself. It was a few days before the tour started, someone stole it all out of the trunk of a car. I had been working with a seamstress in Montreal, we had been designing and sewing things. And there were years and years of thrifting in that luggage. It really hurt. But then a lot of people sent me clothes, and fans made me stuff with my logo on it. You have to focus on the beauty of life rather than focus on material stuff. 

Having fan-made stage outfits is so cool.

I know, it was so cute. The fans were amazing. The outfit in these photos was made by my Hondurian friend, House of Perception, from Santiago. He made me this look with his friends. 

Do your fans make art for you?

Someone made me a doll of myself. Lots of little letters that are really sentimental. Fans have bought me a lot of K-Pop photo cards of the idols. 

I feel like you’re working your way back to your Art X school project. This is funny. It’s like the seed of that art project grew into your actual life.

I know it’s really weird. 

What are three words that summarize your personal style?

Eccentric, eclectic…and now I need another “e” word. 


Yeah, erotic. Totally.  

What is your favorite thing to wear on stage?

Mini-skirt, bikini…classic. But it has to be shiny. And I like movement. 

Where do you usually source your stage clothes?

There’s this one amazing sex shop in St. Hubert Plaza. I won’t say exactly which one. But they have old, deadstock sexwear. It’s very sun-bleached and falling apart. That’s what makes it cute. I’ve never had as many new clothes as I have now after losing all my luggage. I’ve always thrifted. 

Since you’re getting your hair done, do you have any beauty secrets you want to share with our readers?

Eyeliner. I like my eyeliner, always. I like the Benefit liner. 

Liquid or pencil?

Liquid! Always liquid. And I like to put lipstick on my cheeks. The same one I have on my lips. 

Is there any distinction between you and Isabella Lovestory? Is she a persona or is she just you?

It’s definitely me. But I want to exaggerate that to make it more exciting. To be more visually curated. I exaggerate aspects of myself to make things more fantastical. If it was just me waking up in the morning and drinking my coffee, it would be cute, but it wouldn’t be how I want to represent myself. It’s a projection of who I feel like I am inside. 

An idealized version?

Isabella Lovestory is in my head, and I’m a vessel. Or a projector. And I project that I’m her. 

That sounds fun. Maybe everyone should develop a considered character for themselves. 

I think everyone wants to be a pop star ultimately. 

I can’t tell if I do, but I like thinking about it. I do think everyone should be more glamorous in general.

I think it’s really fun to care about how you portray yourself. Of course, I think it’s cool to not care, but it’s also fun to create a fairytale out of yourself. 

Is there any part of you that wants to subvert the figure of the pop star? Is there a kind of commentary happening in your project?

I’m tongue-in-cheek in everything I do. I want to exploit myself. I’m not trying to critique something constantly, because that would be exhausting. But my personality is sarcastic and dark humor vibes, so that peeks through. 

Is it like camp?

Yeah, but I’m not always trying to be camp. My mind is just camp.