Youth & Foster Spotlight: Child TV star ready for spotlight

Charessa Bottle is ready to have her future written in the stars.

The eight-year-old from Mishkeegogamang Ojibway First Nation has taken up modelling and acting, landing her roles and auditions over the last few months.

In May, Charessa was a background extra in a Christmas Hallmark movie called “Written in the Stars.”

“It was fun because I got to to do art, painting and meet people, and make money,” said Charessa. “I enjoyed every second of it.

The decision for her to pursue this passion at a young age is supported both by her foster parents, Jennifer and Paul Lebel, and her mother. It’s a partnership that has lasted since Charessa came into foster care with the Labels when she was four months old. The Labels, who have fostered nearly forty child and youth with Tikinagan, have also fostered Charessa’s sister and older brother.

“What we found what we enjoyed about (fostering) was the relationship we built with Charessa and her family, right for the very beginning,” said Jennifer, adding that Charessa’s mother would often visit, helping feed and bathe her daughter.

After eight years, Jennifer says they have “an amazing relationship,” adding that it’s “very important that foster parents and their parents work together in raising the child.

“We’ve watched the family grow up, and the accomplishments. It’s just been very rewarding.”

After receiving permission from Charessa’s mother to help pursue Charissa’s career in the spotlight, Jennifer said the response from the modelling agency for her was immediate.

This summer, Charessa has completed casting auditions for a TV comedy drama, which will be filmed in Nunvant in March 2024, and an intergenerational Indigenous film where she would be the featured child in the flashback scenes.

“They were very impressed with how she could go from talking about something very sad to switching over to being a sassy kid,” said Jennifer said of the auditions.

Last month, she did a photoshoot for Manitoba Insurance.

“I had to be in a car seat and be with a family,” noted Charessa.

In the long term, Charessa wants to pursue acting and her dream of being in a princess movie.

She encourages other children and youth who wish to pursue their dreams that they need to be “working hard, loving it (so) you can do whatever you want.”

At Tikinagan’s 2023 Annual Chiefs Assembly in Thunder Bay in September, the Lebels received special recognition as foster parents.

“As Foster Parents, Jennifer and Paul are very open and receptive when it comes to working with our staff,” said Gail Anderson, Tikinagan Director of Services. “They share honestly about their struggles, but know how to reach out for extra support.”

Next up, Jennifer is taking Charessa for another modelling shoot and modelling show where she will have to be on a runway on November remembrance day weekend. This will be in Vancouver BC.

Listen to the full interview here.