NOTE: This is an updated version of the article titled, “Why, Thank You,” that first appeared in the October 2017 issue of EverythingBrevard.com magazine.
Asking why is part of human nature, and it starts immediately. We bombard our parents with that question many times as our developing minds explore the wonders around us.
Our “why” morphs as we live. We develop passions, and in the ideal setup, we get to pursue our dreams — motivated by more than just earning a paycheck. I know my why changed the moment I became a mother.
Until I became a parent, I had no idea how much the love for and from a child could complete me. Having lost my two brothers — one who lived only six years with severe cerebral palsy and the other who died in a head-on car crash the week after he turned 21 — I saw my parents live a life of devotion to family. It’s a whole different journey with a child who has special needs.
I grew up observing and understanding their why. It was us, the kids. Now, as a parent, it makes even more sense. Ella’s birthday, March 9, 2013, was the day my life changed, and it was no longer just about me (and my husband, of course).
Ella was outgoing and expressive from her earliest days. Oh the faces! The dancing, the singing (check out this video of her telling Mom to stop helping her sing at 22 months old. She’s not even 2 here!) I called around to find any activity that would take her but all said come back at age 3… all except The Viera Studio for the Performing Arts. They agreed to meet Ella and welcomed her into their musical theater class at age 2.5.
Thank goodness they opened the door. Soon afterward, my husband and I were in awe and full of tears as Ella, who turned 3 just two months earlier, did her thing with her class at our local performing arts center. It was her first performance that involved an audience beyond her parents, and a new why staked its claim on that stage.
We knew at that moment — Ella belting out a song at the top of her lungs in front of a few hundred people, and then her teacher needing to escort her off stage so she’d stop curtsying and blowing kisses — what our mission as parents needed to include.
I’m often asked, “How did you get your daughter into [modeling and acting]?” I respond, “I didn’t. This is her path, we are just here to clear the way for her.” And then I add, “In two years, she could change her mind and not want to do this anymore. But for now, we are all in.”
To have a child involved in show business so early is unique. And it is hard! It’s not a life I willingly pursued because it’s a lot of work… and I already work. Being the “momager” or “dadager” absolutely is like another job in terms of the demands of tasks and time. Not to mention the travel adventures that surface with short notice.
Fly to New York City or Los Angeles with two days’ notice? Yup, been there, done it — to both cities. Relocated across the country and split the family for months at a time? Yes, we are experienced in this, as well.
Why was I given this tiny child with a huge personality? That’s not the why I focus on. I live each day excited to see how I can nurture what’s within her and allow her freedom of expression. Since writing the original version of this article three ago in Oct. 2017 (and now updating in Jan. 2021), Ella has expanded her artistic expressions. She sings, dances, does fine art, aerial arts, music, improv, sketch comedy. She is starting to write her own scripts, design her own graphics, write her own poems and songs, choreograph her own dances, design her own jewelry and even has come up with some wacky recipes of her own.
I’m grateful to have front-row seats to the “Ella Show.” For that, I say, “Why, thank you.”
Ella's mom, Lee Nessel, authors this blog. We are constantly learning and sharing the many lessons and stories along the adventures of Ella's performing journey. If you reach out to Lee with a question, it's likely to wind up a blog post, to help the greater child acting community.