One day in early April, Carie Keller’s cell phone rang from the Bronx; it was her aunt, telling her about the hottest news in the most recent People magazine. Elizabeth Taylor, pictured on the cover, had passed. The legendary magazine had bid its farewell to the Hollywood goddess.
But what compelled Keller to virtually buy out the entire stack of that particular issue at her local supermarket, what she and her aunt found so captivating about the particular edition, was not the news of some famous celebrity, like Taylor and the extent of her life’s accomplishments. Keller’s hook, however, was inked into the glossiness of page 115 – a picture of her ten-year-old son, Blake, in a baseball uniform running the bases in an Arm and Hammer advertisement.
Keller accredits her son’s early success to his look as the “All-American kid,” who is actually a true-to-life baseball player, a pitcher and shortstop for C.C. Wells’ Mustang baseball team.
According his mother, who is an ER “tech” at Chippenham Medical Center, Blake’s first break came months after not getting a part during a Disney audition in New York City, hearing instead from an interested photographer who noticed a unique quality in Blake that day.
“…And we got a message on the my phone that she really liked Blake’s look and wanted him to come audition for an Arm and Hammer ad,” Keller said.
Before long they found themselves returning to New York for a live photo shoot at a park in the Bronx, a trailer and a crew of 20 people waiting for him once they arrived. “It was just crazy,” said Keller. “It was a huge shoot.”
And she had her own modeling experience to help give him some perspective, especially with what Blake was experiencing at such a young age. Keller, now in her early thirties, had her three children – Madison, 8, Zack, 11 and Blake – by 22, the age she started modeling and acting, and knew the camera fairly well.
Keller found herself approached by a modeling agency in Richmond, Wilhelmina, in 2005, after an agent noticed her when Madison was competing in a beauty pageant. Since then she has been cast to play a role as a nurse in ABC’s Richmond-filmed “Commander and Chief,” alongside Gena Davis and Donald Sutherland; a role in the parody “What Would Jesus Buy,” directed by Rob Vanalkemade; and played a young mother in a “Desperate Housewives” episode “Live on Wisteria Lane,” which was filmed live in New York City for the WE channel. Keller also played a role in the horror independent film “The Backwoods.”
Once the family obtained a DVD of the “Backwoods,” and watched it at home, Blake was the most captivated of the three Keller children by what he saw his mother doing on the television screen.
“They used to see me doing stuff like that and wanted to do it, and I didn’t want to be one of those moms who pushed them so I let them get a little bit older,” said Keller.
“Blake, who is actually the middle one, he really wanted to pursue it.”
Then they went through her agent, the one she had in Richmond, and Blake began to audition for various roles and modeling endeavors, finally landing the role in the Arm and Hammer advertisement in People.
Despite how nice it feels to have a sense of accomplishment and see himself in the magazine, Blake still gets his fair share of adversity from kids at school, some of them being his own friends, said Keller.
“Some are jealous,” he said. “I just brush it off …”
Perhaps this mentality should serve him well since, after all, what he most wants to be once he grows up will certainly invite a plethora of public criticism.
“I either want to play sports or act,” said Blake, shyly and with a raspy voice, “but I want to do acting more.” He has already auditioned for role for a kid in a Sandra Bullock movie and finished in the top three for a role in a Robert DeNiro film.
“He does want to be on the big screen, but he wants to be a doctor, too,” she blurts. “He seems to always leave that part out, and being on the honor roll and being placed in advanced math.” He is considering attending Cosby High School since their specialty program prepares students for careers in the health profession.
Blake doesn’t quite make straight A’s, however, he did have one B last grading period, and the rest were A’s. He is looking forward to being a fifth-grader next year at C.C.Wells, but right now is enjoying the start of his baseball season.
From time to time Blake gets offers for auditions but they have to turn down a lot because they can’t travel all over, said Keller. They get offers for them to go to Miami and New York. “It becomes exhausting and I can’t do it all. I want to for him, but I can’t do it all. So I guess whatever knocks on the door tomorrow.”
The family is anticipating the advertisement to be in other publications as well, soon to come out in Southern Living, and feels hopeful that more offers could potentially come their way.
Of her three children, Keller feels Blake’s future is up to him and not necessarily due to the offers he gets or the famous magazine in which he is pictured.
“I don’t know with this one – the sky’s the limit with him. He’s got a lot of things going for him. If he sticks his mind to it, and is persistent at something he truly wants, he can have it. That’s what I tell him: If you really want something then you have to work very hard for it.”
At this time, Blake’s father, Shannon, an investment banker, is more than supportive of his son fulfilling his dreams, but Keller feels her personal modeling/acting experience helps her son the most.
“He is [supportive] but I think it’s more so me because I know how hard it is, I know how tiring it is and I know how it feels to be turned down; and like how when one door shuts and another one opens. Like the Disney shoot, he didn’t get it, but the photographer loved him and got him for this. It just goes to show that you never know who’s going to see you at any given moment.”