Isabella Cuda: “Never give up!”

Do your best and the rest is out of your control, for example, you can have a really good audition, but casting is now looking for something else because the character changed. That doesn’t mean that they won’t remember you for other roles in the future 🙂 As part of our series about pop culture’s rising […]

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Do your best and the rest is out of your control, for example, you can have a really good audition, but casting is now looking for something else because the character changed. That doesn’t mean that they won’t remember you for other roles in the future 🙂

As part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Isabella Cuda.

Isabella was born in Virginia on November 9th, 2005 and has triple US/Swiss/Croatian citizenship. After moving to California, her parents enrolled 4 year old Isabella in a children’s theater group where she discovered her passion for acting. While having dinner at a restaurant one night, she pretended to be a waitress and took orders from the customers. One of the customers happened to be a talent agent and was immediately impressed by her outgoing personality. 6 months later she booked her first national commercial with pro golfer Phil Mickelson with many commercials and TV shows to follow. That’s when she discovered her other passion for golf and made a PGAJr. Team at 7 years old. She shot her first Hole in One (126yards) during a NCJGA tournament at Lomas Santa Fe Executive Course two years later. Isabella plays the Marimba in her High School Marching band. She also speaks some German, Croatian and French. Luckily her family enjoys free flight benefits and gets to explore the world. Her favorite vacation spots are Switzerland and the family’s beach house in Croatia.

Isabella was born with Spina Bifida Occulta and a tethered Spinal Cord. She has endured 3 spinal cord untethering surgeries, the last one in 2018. In 2020 she had to have reconstructive foot surgery .

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Reston, Virginia on November 9, 2005, my mom is a retired United Airlines Flight Attendant and my dad is a corporate pilot. I was born with Spina Bifida Occulta and a tethered spinal cord. At 6 months old I had to have 2 spinal cord surgeries by world famous Dr. Ben Carson who later became the Secretary of Housing and Development under the last administration. When I was 2 years old, my dad got a new job and we had to move to California. I became a Girl Scout, started taking ballet lessons and participated in the yearly Nutcracker ballet for several years. I’m a typical SoCal girl who loves going to the beach with friends. I used to go golfing several times a week, I’m hoping that after I recover from my last surgery, I’ll be able to play again.

When I turned 12, I had a major growth spurt and started tripping a lot. My balance was off and at first we though I was just clumsy but then my right foot started to look strange and deformed. An MRI confirmed that my spinal cord had re-tethered and that I needed another major surgery. My neurosurgeon Dr. Danielpour at Cedar’s Sinai said that my nerve endings looked like a bowl of spaghetti. He had to untangle them under the microscope in an 7 hour surgery. I had to be on flat bedrest the whole summer of 2018 and had to relearn how to walk. Spinal cord nerves take up to 2 years to heal and it took more than 100 hours of physical therapy to get me walking again. Unfortunately my right foot was still deformed and it made it difficult to walk, therefore I needed another surgery, this time Dr.Cidambi at Rady’s Childrens Hospital completely reconstructed my foot. That was just last December and I now have to wear an AFO (Ankle Foot Orthotic) brace to be able to walk. I am in physical therapy several times a week and I’m working really hard on being able to walk without any assistance.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

We were having dinner one night at a local restaurant where I pretended to be a waitress. I was taking orders from customers even though I didn’t even know how to write yet. One of the customers that night happened to be a talent agent who was really impressed by how outgoing I was. She walked over to my parents table and handed them a business card. My parents didn’t know anything about this business and had to do some research first but after a few weeks we ended up meeting with that local agent. I ended up booking the first audition I went out for, a national commercial with Pro Golfer Phil Mickelson.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After shooting my first commercial with Phil Mickelson, I fell in love with golf. It was my first time ever being on a golf course and I had so much fun with him, I asked my parents if I could start taking golf lessons. I ended up joining a PGAjr. golf team at age 7 and shot my first Hole in One that year during a tournament at Lomas Santa Fe Executive course on Hole 1, 126 yards. I probably would have never started golfing if it hadn’t been for that commercial

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In the movie “Eternal Salvation” I had a scene where I got baptized in the ocean. I wasn’t supposed to get my hair wet as we were just rehearsing the scene but I had so much fun, I did it anyway. The hair and makeup lady had to dry my hair and redo a very time consuming hairstyle with a lot of flowers in my hair. Oops!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I haven’t worked in the last couple of months because I am still recovering from my foot reconstruction surgery in December of last year. My last project I worked on was on Disney Channel’s “Bunk’d”. Ironically, we taped the episode a week before my actual surgery. I play a girl in a wheelchair that just had surgery. I had an amazing time on set, everybody was so kind and helpful. The cast and crew stayed in touch with me and kept checking in on me and sending me lots of well wishes. It was a dream come true, I hope I get to go back and tape more episodes in the future.

I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Inclusion is very important, now more so than ever. People want to see real people on tv, people that look like them and that they can relate to. I also think that a person’s disability should not always necessarily be part of the story line, I would like to see that the actor is just accepted for who they are, period.

From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

Educate your family, friends and peers and be outspoken about diversity. Include and welcome different disabilities, ethnicities, cultural background, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, language and education.

Hire diverse backgrounds and empower people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different

Diversity promotes inclusion and appeals to a larger audience, it’s a win/win situation

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

There are a million reasons why you didn’t get the job and it had nothing to do with your performance. Casting directors have really hard jobs because they have to find people who can embody these roles, while also matching their pretend families, age, etc.

It’s a marathon and not a sprint. if you expect immediate success, you’ll be very disappointed. It takes a long time to find a role that is perfect for you.

Never give up!

Have other hobbies and interests, it will keep you well balanced and grounded. For example, I play percussion in my school’s marching band and I play golf.

Do your best and the rest is out of your control, for example, you can have a really good audition, but casting is now looking for something else because the character changed. That doesn’t mean that they won’t remember you for other roles in the future 🙂

Have fun and it’s ok to take a break sometimes, don’t stress yourself out too much about auditions, acting is supposed to be a fun experience, enjoy it!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Have fun, do your best and don’t compare your life to others. There’s no comparison between the sun and the moon, they shine when it’s their time.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Bringing awareness to kids with disabilities is one of my main goals as an actress and influencer. Especially these days, people want to see actors who are real and look like them, and people with disabilities often get misrepresented, or they will have an able-bodied actor portray a person with a disability. So my main goal is to spread awareness of disabilities, especially Spina Bifida. It’s important to know that there are different levels of Spina Bifida and several other problems associated with it. Luckily I was born with the mildest form of SB, some kids are always wheelchair bound and others need a wheelchair occasionally based on the activities.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am very grateful for my parents, I couldn’t be where I am today without them. The amount of hours my mom has spent driving me up to LA for auditions, sometimes several times a week is a huge time commitment and she is always there to help me with self tapes. I also would like to mention my friend and manager Annet McCroskey at Artistic Endeavors who has always had my back, through thick and thin. I’m grateful for my team at Zuri Agency who work hard on giving me opportunities to audition for great projects.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, I’ll always get up after I fall. And whether I run, walk or have to crawl, I’ll set my goals and achieve them all” Chris Butler

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

If I could have lunch with anyone in the world, it would have to be Billie Eilish. She is such an inspirational artist, has such a kind heart for those in need, and she is amazing with her fans. I love her music, it’s inspiring how she started out at such young age and to see where she is now. She also inspires me because she has raised awareness about people with Tourettes syndrome just like herself.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

IG: @isabellacuda

twitter: @isabellacuda

tiktok: bella.c1234

fb: @isabellacudaofficial

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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