Do your kids or grandkids spend countless hours watching American Girl or Polly Pocket videos on Youtube? Perhaps their favorite toys are Hello Kitty and Chanimals.
Chances are one of Blackshear’s very own has been creating those episodes and music videos centered around characters the youngsters in your family love.
Lena Thomas DeLoache moved to Los Angeles a decade ago in hopes of breaking into the entertainment industry as an actress, but in recent days she’s transitioned into a rewarding career as a creative developer and digital content producer for Mattel Toys.
“I’m really happy in the way my career is moving right now … It’s creatively fulfilling in a different way (than acting), and I’m excited about pursuing a career in executive development,” DeLoache told The Times during a recent interview.
DeLoache has produced more than 500 content pieces in the form of short episodes, mini movies and music videos for Mattel since joining the toy company full time in 2019. She has worked for several different toy brands including American Girl, Polly Pocket, Cave Club, Cloudees, Lotto Looks and more.
DeLoache often draws from her experiences growing up and attending school in Pierce County when she’s producing content for Mattel, noting many of her contemporaries grew up in metro areas and more diverse communities.
“I can see things from a more small town perspective in a way other folks on my team may not recognize,” she says.
DeLoache works to incorporate that perspective in the projects she collaborates on.
She hadn’t been working for Mattel but a few months when the entire company sent their employees to work from home because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, but DeLoache and her team adapted quickly, even winning a company innovation award for their efforts.
When live action shoots were canceled, DeLoache worked to create 2D and 3D animation films. Her team also set up remote recordings with actors as they ramped up efforts to produce do-it-yourself videos (DIYs), activities and songs teachers and parents could use for virtual learning during the pandemic.
“We created resources for teachers and parents while they were figuring out this insane pivot to virtual, at-home learning,” DeLoache says. “(We wanted to) give parents something they can go to where they know the content is safe and educational, something that is going to help their kids feel more inspired and not lose the power of play — the joy that comes with being a kid.”
A year later, DeLoache is still working from home, but sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Mattel has set a return to office date for this summer. In the meantime, DeLoache turned her nursery into a remote office and is thankful she was able to keep her job and work remotely.
DeLoache lived the life of every aspiring actor waiting for their break into the industry before accepting a job with Mattel. She worked dozens of odd jobs while auditioning including as a telemarketer, birthday clown, stylist and secretary.
“You say yes to whatever you need to do to keep going. This is definitely the kind of career that takes perseverance and resilience more than talent,” DeLoache says. “A lot of people think if you’re a talented person everyone is going to see it and you’ll get rewarded, but it’s mostly the luck of the draw and can you afford to wait, sustain yourself in whatever way possible?”
And, while she’s happy working as a digital content producer for Mattel, DeLoache hasn’t shut the door entirely on acting. She worked once with John Hamm on a Madmen episode and acted on web series Wish It Inc. DeLoache also loves the thrill of live theatre and found helping children find their voice through acting while volunteering with Zip Zap Zop Enrichment one of the most rewarding moments of her career.
The Pierce County High School graduate (2005) was involved in the theatre program, symphonic, marching and jazz band in high school. She earned a bachelors of arts in theatre performance from Columbus State University. She worked closely with Springer Opera House in Columbus as a teacher, development assistant and fundraiser for their children’s theatre. She also performed there and worked as a stage manager before moving to LA.
DeLoache recently celebrated three years of marriage with her husband, Shawn. The couple welcomed a baby boy, Felix, last July. Ironically, Shawn is also a Georgia native and grew up in Rome, but the couple met in San Diego.
“I moved thousands of miles away to marry a Georgia boy,” DeLoache says with a laugh.