Shorty’s Bella shares her second wedding extravaganza

Having tied the knot once, the actor and Suraj are doing it all again in style!
Bella and partner Suraj both wearing orange standing together in front of a bushPhotos: Robert Trathen

Bella Kalolo-Suraj had been single for six years when she decided to join a dating app to take a peek at what potential love interests might be out there.

She hated it. Turns out, the online talent liked to send her, well, a barrage of photos of what they considered their best anatomical feature.

But before she deleted the app, she noted the Instagram handle of one man who caught her attention for looking “wholesome and a little goofy”. He was wearing a shark t-shirt that read “Jawsome” while comically posing on tree trunks in an open forest.

Suraj standing with each foot on a tree stump, flexing his biceps
Suraj instantly caught her eye.

At 1.30am, Bella summoned the courage and slid into his DMs. That was in October 2020. They married just four months later.

Today they share their whirlwind love story with the Weekly over lunch. It’s obvious talented singer and actor Bella – who plays fiery nurse Selina To’a on Shortland Street – and her personal trainer husband Suraj Kumar, were meant to be.

In a chat filled with jokes and laughter (Bella pretends to stab Suraj’s knee with a fork if he doesn’t say nice things about her), the talk turns more serious when revealing his family couldn’t reconcile their romance with cultural expectations.

Born in India but raised in Qatar, Suraj was destined for an arranged marriage. The former professional swimmer instead chose to follow his heart.

Bella Kalolo-Suraj in her Shortland Street uniform with co-star Theo Dāvid.
With Shorty co-star Theo Dāvid (Vili).

“I respect that my parents had an arranged marriage. As did my elder brother,” tells Suraj, who moved to New Zealand in 2013. “However, I told them when I was in high school that I didn’t believe or was comfortable with it.

“No one in my family has ever married outside of our culture. Because of that, there was no support from them initially because Bella is not of the same religion.

“So I got engaged and married all by myself. That was really hard. I had to go through a lot of difficult moments. But now, after three years, they know she’s a good person and that we’re really happy.”

Pipes up Bella, “Oh, they love me now! It just took a while. I remember that first video call with Suraj’s parents, I was super-nervous. I felt like I had to justify how much I loved him, why I was with him and that yes, I was treating their child right.

“They were asking me the big questions. Now when I make video calls to his mother, I’m like, ‘Hey, Ma!’ They call me Chaya, which means moon, because their son’s name means sun.

“I’m proud of Suraj. It takes a lot of conviction to go against what everyone in your generational line has done. It’s just like the movie Bend it Like Beckham… ‘You used to eat naan and now you eat white bread!’” she quotes animatedly.

Since overcoming his parents’ objections, the fun-loving couple are now excited to head to Chennai, India next year for a two-day wedding in March. The trip will allow Bella to meet her in-laws in person for the first time.

“Usually people in South India get married in a hall or hotel ballroom,” explains Suraj. “I didn’t want that. I wanted a temple wedding with the priests who come and do the prayers. Then our friends from Aotearoa can experience a traditional Indian wedding.

“I’m so looking forward to it,” says Bella, of Ngāti Porou, Samoan and Tongan descent. “I don’t have to worry about anything because over there, it’s all taken care of. Not that I have the right to say, ‘I want two elephants’ – because sometimes they bring the groom in on an elephant or a stallion, eh bub?” she asks Suraj. “Or you just could come in on me!” she quips, before they burst out laughing.

It’ll be a complete contrast to their humble backyard wedding in Wellington three years ago.

But first, let’s back up to their initial meeting after Bella messaged Suraj on social media. The pair began talking and realised they lived only minutes away from each other in Auckland.

“He invited me over, so I took him a full tray of eggs. Oh, and my love,” she winks, “because I was brought up never to go to someone’s house empty-handed.

Suraj and Bella married four months after meeting on a dating app.

“We ordered in food and sat on the couch talking all night. It sounds cheesy, but even though it was the first time we’d met, I just knew Suraj would be my best mate. I thought, ‘You’re not just beautiful, but you give me good vibes.’”

Her husband agrees. “It was just so natural and easy being together. I felt a lot of love there too.”

Two months later, he asked Bella’s sister and brother for their blessing because her parents had passed away.

“We knew we didn’t want to wait. So one night, when Bella was out, I got some flowers and spelled out the words ‘Will you marry me?’ in petals on the bed. She came home early and I hadn’t quite finished.

“I told her to go outside while I put the gold ring in the middle, then when she came back, I got down on one knee. She saw the bed and started crying.”

Bella and Suraj at their first wedding, holding both of each other's hands in their own

Adds Bella, “My sister Fara had asked Suraj to record the proposal on my phone, but he forgot to press ‘record’. We had to hilariously re-enact it and I had to act shocked the second time round.”

Once they met Suraj, she says her family didn’t have an issue with the fact they’d only known each other for a very short time.

“Initially they said, ‘Are you sure you’re not jumping in too quickly?’ and worried because people who are [star sign] Pisces tend to fall in love quickly. But I assured them we were really great together.

“Then my family put together a ‘wedding governance group’ and everyone pitched in. We married on my brother’s lawn in Ngaio with picnic blankets and candles. My nieces and nephews sang us up the grassy knoll and my uncle married us. It was beautiful.”

Although now thriving in the corridors of Ferndale’s fictional hospital, Bella also holds the title of an award-winning singer/songwriter. She’s performed at Glastonbury Festival with her band The Soul Symphony.

Bella dressed in green with a long green cape flowing from her back. There are windmills on the hills behind her
As Mother Nature in the Meridian Energy ads.

With a powerful, soulful voice, she’s worked with the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop, Renée Geyer, Sir Dave Dobbyn, John Rowles, Nathan Haines and Hollie Smith. Her voice also features on Disney’s Reo Māori movies The Lion King and Frozen as Bulda.

In 2015, Bella got the chance to sing with 10-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan when she was playing at a festival in Sydney.

“I’d said to my band that I’d really like to meet her because she’s been an icon forever,” recalls Bella. “After we were on stage, we went back to the green room and the coordinator of the festival knocked on the door. They said, ‘There’s someone who wants to meet you’, and Chaka Khan was standing right there.”

Bella also sang with Your Body is a Wonderland singer John Mayer. They performed as part of a tribute concert for the victims of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. Together, they sang the hymn How Great Thou Art before local performers, The Haka Experience, broke into a waiata [song] and haka.

Bella Kalolo-Suraj with John Mayer
With hitmaker John in Christchurch.

“So many people have asked me, ‘What does John Mayer smell like?!’ I tell them that he smells like a human being with a manly musk,” she laughs. “But honestly, he was amazing. The performance was for the people of Christchurch. Because I’m from there, it was massive for me that I could be a part of that.”

Suraj was quite blown away when found out about his beloved’s famous friends and musical prowess. Now, walking in her world, where she is recognised a lot, he prefers to stay out of the limelight.

“Bella even had to talk me into this magazine photoshoot and then talk me through it because I was quite nervous. It’s my first ever,” he admits.

“No, pandu, you are a natural,” she encourages her husband, using their pet name for each other.

“He’s a great gatekeeper for me and my mental sanity,” enthuses Bella. “We were out somewhere this week and a family was following me around the shop. Suraj could see them in his peripheral vision, so he hid me behind some shelves.

“He’s incredibly patient and loving. The key in any relationship, I believe, is always wanting the best for the other person. And bing-bing-bing-bing-bing – I scored the jackpot!”

Related stories

Get NZ Woman’s Weekly home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 29% on a magazine subscription.