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Stars can shine at any age

The Studio in the Mountains discovers local, talented individuals and age is no barrier, with the youngest in the agency nearly 4 years old and the eldest, Ooltewah resident Wilma Hudgins, turning 81 this May.

“The whole thing has surprised me because I never dreamed about starting a new career at my age,” said Hudgins. “Who would have thought of an 80-year-old model?”

Lifestyle modeling is for people over the age of 30 and Studio in the Mountains owner Deann Foltz said naturally attractive and graceful individuals like Hudgins are bound to be popular. Foltz accepts individuals into her agency who are 4 years old and older after a private audition.

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The Studio in the Mountains staff members find and support local talents. From left are Serita Watkins, Jennifer Derryberry-Stokes, Deann Foltz, Kimberly Hendry and Jim Vandergriff.

“Our job is to get the talent exposure to agents, music managers or casting directors,” said Foltz, who recently celebrated 40 years as a national talent scout. “Right now the lifestyle age is really popular. We’re getting a lot of calls for that age group.”

Foltz said each age group has its own strength: children learn quickly, teenagers are energetic and enthusiastic and adults have a lifetime of experience to keep them grounded and focused. Hudgins originally approached representatives from The Studio in the Mountains during a modeling event at Belk, hoping they would like to meet her granddaughters.

“Deann came around and said ‘I want the grandmother,’” said Hudgins. “I’ve always tried to stay in the background, but she told me there weren’t many women my age, in my health, with my looks.”

Foltz molds her charges into marketable entities by arranging lessons and workshops to improve their natural talents. She also helps create comp cards similar to small posters with each person’s professional pictures and talents listed for interested agents.

“There are so many singers and dancers, people with talent, and when they get to a certain place, they don’t know where to go after that,” said Foltz. She said she has worked with thousands of talented people, including Lee Ann Rimes, whom Foltz remembers as a 6-year-old singer with spunk and a bright future. “Then there are people out there who don’t know they are talented. We take them all to another level.”

Foltz presents her charges through two main venues. The first is a quarterly talent showcase that is choreographed like a Broadway show with 40 to 50 participants accepted and at least six agents invited. The next showcase, Fling into Spring, will be April 17 at the Chattanooga Convention Center with $3,500 in prizes and gifts for the show’s top talents. Foltz is holding private auditions for interested participants.

“I’m here to take care of them,” said Foltz, who has invited Hudgins to participate in the spring showcase as well as the upcoming Global Stars Network convention. “Ninety percent of the people I work with get work.”

The convention is hosted on a Carnival Cruise ship twice each year, with the spring cruise shipping out May 2-6 with up to 350 nationwide contestants who meet and perform in front of no less than 35 agents, music producers and casting directors. The cruise is filled with workshops, seminars and personal interviews with agents. Foltz will be picking top talents like Hudgins for the cruise throughout February.

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