It’s very common for people, including celebrities, to take to Twitter to complain about the traffic. But when former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne did it, she couldn’t have picked a worse time. Thorne mistimed her angry tweet so badly, in fact, that actor Rob Lowe screenshotted her words and called them out on his own Instagram. It elevated into a celebrity feud with an extremely painful event as its driving force.
Bella Thorne starred on the Disney Channel’s Shake It Up from 2010 to 2013. For many young actresses, a stint with Disney is a ticket to stardom, and this was the case with Thorne. As a result of her early success, she ended up with the kind of fanbase most entertainers can only dream of. Indeed, her Twitter followers number close to seven million.
Thorne has also had plenty of success outside Disney. She released an EP in November 2014 which made it to number ten on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Furthermore, she wrote a first novel, Autumn Falls, that same year. And she’s appeared in popular films including Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip and TV shows like Scream.
However, her life before stardom wasn’t always an easy one. When Thorne was just nine years old, her father died unexpectedly in a traffic accident. Unsurprisingly, the incident gave her a fear of driving. In November 2015, Seventeen magazine asked her if she had a licence. “No, not yet,” she said. “My father died in a motorcycle accident. I’m not mature enough to accept the responsibility of perhaps taking someone else’s life.”
But perhaps that interview inspired her, because a month later she shared some exciting news: at last, she’d got her driver’s license. “The DMV life! Finally!” she wrote on Twitter, alongside a picture of herself holding up the paperwork. It was a pretty big step for someone who had suffered such a traumatic loss early on in life.
But with a driver’s license comes the difficulties of actually driving. Traffic obstructions can be very frustrating, which is most likely what Thorne was thinking when she posted her tweet on January 10, 2018. “F**k u 101 to santa barbra. I’m missing my boyfriend’s first date on his tour,” she wrote. Her boyfriend was the rapper Mod Sun.
She and Mod Sun, whose real name is Derek Smith, got together in 2017. And ever since then, she’s been excitedly hyping him up on Twitter. What’s more, Thorne did actually make it to his concert that day, as a later post demonstrated. “My baby out there killing it right now on stage I love you so much @MODSUN,” she tweeted at 1:30 a.m. on January 11.
But while Thorne was enjoying the concert, backlash was growing over her seemingly innocent-sounding tweet. There had been a very good reason, it turned out, why the freeway had been closed. “I’m so sorry that you’ve been inconvenienced by the 17 people that have lost their lives. This must be tough for you,” was the angry reply of one Twitter user.
It was, in fact, even worse than that. Deadly mudslides had hit California, causing mass destruction and loss of life. Many people were confirmed dead and many more were missing. Moreover, the mudslides were the second natural disaster to hit California in less than a month. Previously, the area had been ravaged by wildfires which killed more than 40 people.
The wildfires began a chain reaction that resulted in the terrible mudslides. By January 10, the day Thorne made her tweet, members of the emergency services were already frantically working to save people from beneath mud and debris. For those who lived in California, or had loved ones in the area, Thorne’s seeming lack of priorities was exasperating.
But angriest of all, it seemed, was the actor Rob Lowe. He screenshotted Thorne’s tweet and posted it to his Instagram account with a message. “This attitude is why people hate celebrities/Hollywood,” he wrote. “Bella, I’m sorry you were inconvenienced. We will try to move out our dead quicker.”
The day before Lowe reposted Thorne’s tweet, he had made an Instagram post about the devastation in Montecito, California. “More terrible stories of loss today,” the star wrote. “Friends missing, some gone forever. Pray for Montecito and know: EVERY day could be your last. Embrace that.” He was obviously very upset.
Thorne did quickly try to carry out some damage control. She deleted the initial tweet and posted another which implied that she hadn’t actually known about the mudslides. “F**k just caught up on some news had no idea why the 101 was shut down…get home to your family safe,” she wrote, capping the message off with a heart emoji.
Then, the day after that, an unnamed “insider” spoke to the website HollywoodLife. “Bella is so embarrassed right now, she feels really awful about that tweet,” the anonymous person said. “She doesn’t watch the news at all, she really isolates herself because she can’t handle all the bad news out there right now.”
“Her way of coping is to not really pay attention and now she’s paying the price,” the source continued. “She genuinely feels so bad and if she knew about the mudslides that were happening she never would have tweeted that. She’s not an insensitive person at all, it was a really unfortunate mistake.”
The same day as the HollywoodLife piece, Mod Sun also waded into things. The rapper tagged Rob Lowe in an Instagram story and went on a bit of a tirade. “I thought you was cool, man. Out here being whack,” he said. “It’s quiet as f–k over here for, Rob Lowe. Quiet as f–k… Just be nice to each other, man.” Lowe has yet to respond to him.
Moreover, there was actually a good reason why Bella Thorne might not have been watching the news. Just days before her insensitive tweet about the mudslides, she shared a harrowing story on Instagram. In the wake of the #Metoo movement, she had decided to speak about how she had been sexually abused as a child.
“I was sexually abused and physically growing up from the day I can remember till I was 14, when I finally had the courage to lock my door at night and sit by it…” she wrote. “Over and over I waited for it to stop and finally it did. But some of us aren’t as lucky to get out alive. Please today stand up for every soul mistreated.” Following the post, she gained many messages of support.
There’s no doubt that everyone involved in this story has been having an extremely rough and traumatic start to the new year. Rob Lowe may have lost his friends in Montecito, while Bella Thorne has had to recall some of the worst times of her life. Furthermore, California is still reeling from the tragedy. By January 15, 2018, the death toll from the disaster had risen to 20.
Meanwhile, as workers toil to clear up the debris, authorities haven’t given up hope of locating more survivors. Eventually, the 101 Freeway will reopen, too, although no one yet knows when that will be. In the meantime, surely both Bella Thorne and Rob Lowe are sending their prayers.