Child's acting career keeps Viera family busy


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The Helton family, from left, Lee Nessel, Ella Grace Helton and Brandon Helton gather for a family portrait at the family’s Viera home.

Ernest Arico

If you’re a parent, you know raising a child can be very challenging, a full-time job.

But for the parents of a child who works in the entertainment industry, it can be a daunting task, almost like working two or three full-time jobs.

For Lee Nessel, and her husband, Brandon Helton of Viera, taking care of their 7½-year-old daughter Ella Grace Helton, a vivacious, funny and perky child actress, has been an exciting and rewarding experience.

“She (Ella) has been an absolute joy in my life,” Nessel said. “She is so uplifting. She captures the sunshine. She was born to entertain.”

A native of New Jersey, Nessel has successfully combined the roles of motherhood, wife, entrepreneur, teacher and professional journalist all in one. A former sports editor and reporter at Florida Today, the University of Miami graduate now is managing editor of EverythingBrevard magazine, a bi-monthy, local lifestyle magazine based on Florida’s Space Coast.

Her background in communications and social media has come in handy in managing Ella’s career which began about three years ago.

 “So many opportunities came about for Ella based on how I approached managing her career,” Nessel said on the website cinchshare.com. “My instincts on how to market and network, and most importantly, how to share her story, opened so many doors. It’s been a beautiful thing to see people around the world following her journey and truly connecting to her story.”

Also helping out is husband Brandon Helton. He is a software engineer specializing in cyber security for the Harris Corp. 

Meanwhile, Ella’s career continues to skyrocket.

Later this month — Oct. 7 — she will make her feature film debut in Adam Sandler’s Netflix film “Hubie Halloween.” In the movie, she plays 4-year-old Jessa Phillips who goes trick-or-treating. She appears in two scenes in the movie. Ella said she enjoyed working with Sandler.

“He is 150,000 times very funny,” Ella said. “He is the funniest person in the world.”

Earlier this year, Ella starred in a new ABC Studios/Sony Pictures Television sitcom, “United We Fall.”

In that show, she played the loveable, quirky and intelligent Emily Ryan. The show followed the multicultural Ryan family as parents Jo (Christina Vidal) and Bill (Will Sasso) try to make it through each day with their daughters — Emily and Lulu (played by twins Ireland and Sedona Carvajal) — while dealing with opinions of their extended family, including live-in grandmother Jane Curtin of “Saturday Night Live” and “Kate & Allie.”

For the first time, Ella plays a big sister. “It was really fun, and it was exciting, and I loved being the big sister for once,” she said.

Unfortunately, the show, which debuted July 15 and aired its final episode on Aug. 26, was canceled.

“I think Ella is disappointed the show wasn’t renewed because she might never get to see her TV family again,” Nessel said. “That’s all she cared about. Getting to see the people she came to love working with on set and behind the cameras. We couldn’t have had a better group for Ella’s first foray into this world.”

Nessel said the feedback on Ella’s TV performance was extremely humbling and exciting. “She’s just a natural,” she said. “She’s amazing at how she can remember lines.”

To date, Ella has appeared in 14 commercials, including ones for Disney, Marriott, Hasbro and Gerber. She captured the hearts of many people across the country in a 2019 spot for American Family Insurance, where she shared her personal story about her own business — Ella Bella Beads — and her charitable efforts.

In the spot, Ella talks with New York Yankees great and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter about her mission to raise money to combat child hunger while making bead bracelets together. The spot helped raised a lot of money but also catapulted Ella’s career.

“He (Jeter) is really, really, funny and really, really tall,” she said. “It was very exciting to meet him.”

According to the website cinchshare.com, Nessel said her strategic use of CinchShare has played a vital role in the growth of Ella’s social media presence.

In addition to “The Adventures of Ella Grace” (the child actor accounts for Ella), Nessel manages multiple accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via the CinchShare platform.

Nessel uses CinchShare to manage and schedule her personal pages, accounts for Damsel in Defense (a self-defense focused direct sales brand), accounts for businesses she helps manage marketing for, and accounts related to the small jewelry business she runs on the side with her daughter.

“I have so many photos of Ella, and also of our bracelets and her working her business for Ella Bella Beads,” Nessel said. “It’s been great to be able to upload them to Cinch and come back later to manage and schedule them. Any time we make bracelets, we photograph them all in a photo booth and upload them to CinchShare.”

As Ella’s career continues to soar, the family’s bi-coastal life will get even busier. The family is contemplating a move from their Viera home to the Las Vegas area. “L.A. and California is the place to be for movies and TV shows,” Nessel said.

For now, Ella is concentrating on her school work (Nessel is home-schooling her), her six training sessions a week to help her career and bicycling around the neighborhood with her parents.

“We try to do a lot of things together as a family,” Nessel said.

Ella, who is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, is represented by Paradigm Talent Agency and manager Kim Matuka of Schuller Talent LA/NY Kids.