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Mara Culley

There’s a buzz of activity as Mara Culley effortlessly juggles phone calls, texts and emails. Then the frenzy suddenly stops. “I think I just made a huge mistake!” says Mara, who’s not only mom to Kason, Kale and Karli but also wears the manager hat for the boys’ acting and modeling careers. She explains that she just accepted a job offer for both boys but forgot to tell the casting agent that Kale, age 7, is sporting double-leg casts to correct a genetic bone disorder. “We’re trained just to say yes and then find a way to make it happen,” she says with a shrug, as she quickly fires off another few emails to sort out the problem.
 
This Corinth family is fairly new to the performance world, but success came fast, with both of the boys regularly booking major ad campaigns as well as winning national recognition for their hip-hop dancing skills. It would seem that these apples haven’t fallen far from the tree. With a mom who sang opera for the Tulsa Ballet and a dad who played in the NFL, talent has come easily for this family.
 
Natural talent might be the only part that’s been simple. Although they have agents and mentors to help them along the way, most of the scheduling and logistics falls to Mara, who also juggles a part-time job as a physical therapist. Keeping it all under control requires extreme flexibility and constant planning. “I keep a crate in the car packed with hair products and audition clothes so we can be ready at a moment’s notice,” she says. “I always have a plan A, B, C and D.”
 
It would be easy to get caught up in the glamour of the lights, but Mara cautions that acting and modeling definitely aren’t for the faint of heart, for both child and parent. More than the rigorous scheduling, it’s the pain of rejection that hits hardest. “When God has given your kids extraordinary talents, along with it comes extraordinary highs and lows,” Mara says. With deep contemplation, she explains that the personal toll for the kids gets harder as they get older. Rejection doesn’t just come from the studios. Kason, a sixth-grader, finds it hard to connect with friends because he has to limit after-school activities. He’s often teased by his classmates, who don’t seem to know how to react to his media role. With these drawbacks in mind, Mara keeps a close eye on how life in the spotlight affects her kids: “The minute it’s not fun for them, we’re out!”
 
This fast-paced world has cost the mom of three personally. Recently, she put her singing career on the back burner so she’d have more time to focus on the kids. Although she misses her days on the stage, she’s certain she is fulfilling her life mission by sharing her experiences and faith with others. This newfound calling makes the frenzy of the audition scene a little sweeter for Mara, and she treasures the private moments with her kids. “Seeing their beaming faces after a performance and knowing that they are doing something that is fulfilling for them makes my day.”