The star of Shake It Up! and The DUFF is encouraging kids to visit their national parks
Sure Bella Thorne has her share of glamorous moments these days, but at heart, she’s a down-with-nature kind of girl.
Growing up near Miami, “We’d go camping,” the Disney star, 17, tells PEOPLE. “I’m a camper, not a glamper!”
The actress’s outdoorsy attitude made her a perfect face for the National Park Service and National Park Foundation’s #FindYourPark campaign, which encourages kids and families to visit and enjoy America’s national parks. First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush are serving as honorary co-chairs of the campaign, which also recognizes the National Park Service Centennial (happening in 2016).
“It’s important to get the younger generation involved,” Thorne says of visiting and volunteering at parks. “Everybody’s always on their phones, on Instagram, not being social or active with their friends. I hope that through Find Your Park, people my age will rediscover the national parks and be inspired to volunteer and truly understand the importance of preservation.”
For her part in the initiative, Thorne was photographed in her favorite park, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California. “People don’t even realize that parks aren’t just parks, they can be monuments, mountains. At the Santa Monica Mountains there’s even a portion of the ocean that’s part of the park.”
These days, the actress doesn’t have as much time for camping (“I’d love to go sit in the mountains for a couple of days,” she admits), as she was recently cast in the new series Famous In Love, a series of books being adapted for TV by the team behind Pretty Little Liars. The plot focuses on a college student picked to star in a major movie franchise, and all of the craziness that comes along with it.
“I relate to her in many ways,” Thorne says. “She gets caught up in this harsh world with the paparazzi and media and everything else, and struggles with how to handle it. It’s something I’ve dealt with and it’s hard. I like that we see her whole way in.”
But what’s not that hard? Casting the guys who will play her character’s love interests (one of her picks: Teen Wolf star Dylan O’Brien). “All of the guy characters have to be heartthrobs,” she contends. “And as I’ve heard, a six-pack isn’t enough; nowadays it has to be a 12-pack!”