Anchored Amidst The Storm
may not recognize her name, but I’m sure that you will recognize the
numerous movies and TV shows that she has appeared in. Karla Droege has
amassed an impressive resume that includes supporting roles in Big Fish,
Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby and co-staring roles in TV shows
like House, America’s Most Wanted and Foxworthy’s Big Night Out. Given the
success that she has found as a professional actress living in Los Angeles, it
would be so easy for Karla to get swept away in the glitz and glamour, but her
faith keeps her anchored.
Karla Droege spent her
childhood immersed in the charming Midwest town of Valparaiso, Indiana where
she lived with her parents and extended family. With a population of less than
thirty-thousand residents, Valparaiso is a far cry from the hustle and bustle
of Los Angeles.
“Growing up in
Indiana was a wonderful childhood,” Karla shares.
“I was so blessed to be raised by amazing parents amidst a very
supportive extended family. They
have always been there for me, cheering me on. The town I grew up in,
Valparaiso was a safe and lovely community.
I don’t know what it is to be going through the difficult teenage
years today, but I certainly speculate that it is much more challenging.”
However even in
this idyllic setting, her teen years were not without some rough patches. She
still had to deal with challenges such as body image, but emerged with a great
outlook that really helped to ground her.
“ I know when I
was a teen it was hard to feel good about body image,” Droege explains.
“It must be monumentally more intense now. Being a part of the
entertainment industry, I am constantly making choices about the projects that
I will and won’t participate. Will my choices matter? Maybe not, but I
believe it is important for each of us to try.”
For Karla, living
life is more that a spectator sport. In the words of Emile Zola, “one is not
living if they don’t live life
“I feel very
strongly about not living chained by your fears,” Karla offers. “I believe
that our greatest dream will always hold our greatest fear – there is
farther to fall. There is no guarantee that you will always get what you want
when you follow your dreams, but going after it will guarantee you a life of
excitement, challenge, learning, growth, great joy and great sorrow…a life
lived out loud. Please don’t let me get to the end of my days and look back
and wonder ‘what if I had tried…?’ I want to look back and, win or lose,
know that I sucked the marrow out of the life God gave me.”
Karla is the
first to admit that the strength to follow her dreams comes from her deep
faith in Christ. It is this faith that has allowed her to remain grounded
amidst the seething torrent that is Los Angeles and the entertainment
“My faith is
the foundation of who I am and every choice I make,” Droege boldly
proclaims. “I’m grateful everyday for this touchstone, especially in Los
Angeles where it is incredibly easy to get swept up in the tide. One of the
first things I did when I moved here was to find a home church. It took me a
few months of searching, but I finally found an amazing place called Ecclesia.
For me, the centeredness of going to church, being around and accountable to
other Christians, and worshipping God are what make me who I am.”
love of acting came at an early age. As a child, Droege felt called to the
stage. This calling was a constant in her life throughout high school and
college, where she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater
Arts before ending up in Los Angeles. Despite the struggles, she has come to
realize that acting is more than just something she enjoys doing. For Karla,
it truly is a calling.
“It’s not so
much that I chose acting, but more that acting chose me,” Karla explains.
“As a child, I always gravitated towards the stage and found great
joy in it. Once I got into it, I realized how incredibly difficult an industry
it is to break into. I tried to quit a few times and do something else, but I
always came running back. However, one day I realized that I loved it so much,
that it was impossible for me not to do it…No matter the outcome.”
This sense of
call has permeated the entirety of Karla’s life, including how she defines
success. True to her struggle to live life out loud, Karla defines success in
terms of doing what she loves and building relationships, not simply garnering
accolades and collecting a paycheck.
“I am now smack
dab in the middle of a place and a culture that puts high value on youth,
fame, money and being thin,” Karla says.
“It has been enormously difficult to combat that. Recently, though, I
had the amazing opportunity to be in a stage production of a play called Leading
Ladies. We had the most marvelous time both in the rehearsal process and
during performances. The character I played, Meg, was a dream role for me, and
I have spent the last three months walking on air.
This project led
me to a paradigm shift in what I qualify as success and for me it certainly
includes having the opportunity to perform, but along with that is the sense
of being a part of something, to be building relationships, and ultimately to
be doing work that glorifies God. I’m not any younger, any more famous,
certainly no richer and not any skinnier – but I can absolutely say that I
feel incredibly successful.”
What advice would
this accomplished actress offer to young adults: be an active participant in
your own life.
the time to figure out who you are and what it is you want. Pray about it. Ask
to visit those who work in jobs you think might be interesting. Read. Keep
looking until you discover it – doesn’t matter how old you are when it
happens. Everyone around you will have a different opinion, so if you look to
others you will never find peace.
Once you do know,
do it. Know that it might not turn out exactly as you thought, but if you pay
attention and stay open to the possibilities, I’m willing to bet something
amazing happens along the way. God is pretty wonderful that way. And even if
it doesn’t, you won’t be sorry you tried. But I can guarantee you will be
sorry if you don’t. This is your one chance…take yourself on the great
adventure. (Which is my life’s theme song – The Great Adventure
by Steven Curtis Chapman – give it a listen. Good stuff.)
Finally, while on
that adventure, we don’t always have control about what happens to us, but
we have control over our reaction to it. Choose to be happy! I’ve known
people facing the most dire circumstances who always have a smile. Not a fake
one, a real smile because that is one thing you can control. So choose to be
happy. That, in and of itself, is success right there.”
It is so easy for us to become obsessed with fortune and fame that we store all of our treasures in clay pots. However, we forget that we have treasures so vast that they will never fit into any vessel, such as the love of our family and friends and the love of a gracious God. Karla’s life is witness to this fact. She cherishes the journey that she is on and the ability to follow her dream, wherever that dream might lead. Wherever she may find herself, she knows that Christ walks beside her and encourages her to live life out loud.