Career

Meet Isabella Moore - plus-size model and opera star set to make her mark on the world

''Modelling has helped my confidence so much for singing... I felt self-conscious... being a bigger person. But now I'm like, 'I'm awesome as I am.'''

By Lynley Ward

It's little wonder soprano Isabella Moore is turning heads in the operatic world. Some influential divas have had their eye on her since she was a schoolgirl walking the hallways of one of New Zealand's oldest Catholic girls' colleges.

"I went to school at St Mary's College in Ponsonby," tells the statuesque singer. "I saw the portraits of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major hanging in the music block.

"I'd walk past them on my way to singing lessons and think, 'I'm being watched over. I better sing well!'"

A decade later, and after years of training locally and at international academies in Wales, Italy and the US, Isabella is poised to make her mark in performing arts, like that other illustrious line-up of former Auckland pupils.

"I didn't even really know what opera was until I was about 17!" she says.

"I came to grow to love opera, although it wasn't immediate. But the phenomenon of 'how is that big noise coming out of such a small person and filling a whole room' got me straight away!"

With a swathe of awards, including the coveted Lexus Song Quest four years ago, and an audition in front of world-renowned tenor Placido Domingo at Carnegie Hall earlier this year, the 28-year-old confesses she didn't always rate her talent, but enjoyed being part of choral groups.

"I didn't think I was that good," she tells. "I did it as a hobby. I always loved singing in choirs, especially the social aspect. It's like having a second family."

Hitting the catwalk has helped the young diva believe in herself.
Hitting the catwalk has helped the young diva believe in herself.

It was in one of these groups that she met her partner of two years, Amitai Pati, 29, who is one-third of hit pop-opera group Sol3 Mio.

Explains Isabella, "We met in Graduate Choir in New Zealand before either of us sang opera. We both kept encouraging each other to keep singing."

With Amitai set to become a professional soloist, Isabella is having to bide her time, waiting for her voice to mature. She'll be spending the next few months auditioning for young artist internship programmes at some of the most prestigious opera houses in the US.

In the meantime, she's adding to her repertoire, focusing on a new love – modelling.

With Sol3 Mio boyfriend Amitai.
With Sol3 Mio boyfriend Amitai.

After making her catwalk debut for women's clothing brand Augustine at this year's New Zealand Fashion Week, plus-size model Isabella explains she is determined to make a difference when it comes to body confidence, especially for Pasifika girls.

"In high school, I didn't feel like there was a role model that looked like me," says Isabella, who wears size 14-18 clothes.

"I didn't feel fully confident about the way I looked until [US model] Ashley Graham started to appear in the media. It was a breath of fresh air."

Isabella's adding her voice and proudly revealing her voluptuous curves to a new online campaign about body diversity and positivity.

"We Are Bodied is about being healthy rather than your body shape. It's a six-week fitness programme for people of all sizes."

The 1.78-metre beauty believes her foray into the world of modelling will be complementary to her budding classical career and is poised to give the New York scene a crack.

"Modelling has helped my confidence so much for singing. I used to be so worried about doing certain movements or not wanting to do particular staging or blocking in an opera or show because I felt self-conscious about the way I might look doing it, being a bigger person. But now I'm like, 'I'm awesome as I am.' If Ashley's up there strutting her stuff for New York Fashion Week and doing lingerie shoots, then why can't I?"

"New York would be amazing. It's regarded as the hub of opera with The Met and for modelling as well."

As she leaves Aotearoa for the next stage of her promising career, the young girl, who remains never far from the watchful gaze of two of our greatest sopranos, is set to continue the rich St Mary's vocal legacy for yet another generation.

"When I was at school, I never dreamed I would be taking this operatic path. From a student who had stage fright and wanted to be an artist to an opera singer trying to break into the industry abroad, it's pretty crazy!"

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