Alumni Outlook Magazine



When Tara Heston came to UW-Stout to major in retail merchandising and management, her goal was to open her own women’s fashion clothing store.

She’s still committed to that dream but has put it on hold because another dream, an even bigger one, has taken precedent. These days Heston is putting all her energy into being a Hollywood actress.

Judging by recent successes, she’s headed in the right direction. The 2006 UW-Stout graduate was the lead actress in a 2011 independent feature-length film, “The Watermen.” Also, she recently became a member of the prestigious Screen Actors Guild and slowly but surely is building a solid film acting resume.

“There are a lot of exciting things happening. When you become part of SAG, you’re playing with the big dogs,” Heston said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where she lives. “Since joining SAG I’ve gotten better agents and better films. It’s been going really well for me.”

“The Watermen,” an action-thriller, hasn’t been released in the U.S. Heston spent two months in Newport News., Va., where it was filmed in 2010. It since has been bought by Lionsgate Films.

Heston plays “Diane,” one of a group of young men and women on a stranded boat abducted by sadistic men in another boat. The men want to grind up the young people to use their flesh as fishing bait.

“I learned a ton from ‘The Watermen,’ ” Heston said about her first starring role. “I thought it was really good quality acting, and the story line was OK. I worked with some really good actors on that. Reviews were mixed.”

That film opened doors to other work. She since has been doing commercials, short films and guest appearances. She was a guest star on the HDNET show “Deadline” and lead actress in a dark comedy short film, “Unusual Victim,” that could become a feature film, she said.

“I’m very determined and persistent with making sure things happen. If I meet someone, I always follow up,” said Heston, who has shed her Minnesota accent and has an acting coach.

“I tend to believe my acting is a huge part of it. A lot of people think it’s really easy if you’re pretty, but you’re not going to succeed if you’re not working on your acting. I’m constantly working on my acting.”

Jean Heston of Frazee, Minn., wouldn’t bet against her daughter someday realizing her dream of becoming a famous actress. “When she has something on her mind, she can do it. I knew she would do something big. She’s done it on her own,” Jean Heston said.

Tara grew up in Frazee, about an hour east of Fargo in north central Minnesota, and started modeling at age 14, often making the four-hour trip with her parents to Minneapolis. “I made a plan when I was really young that becoming a model would help get me into acting. My whole goal was to become an actress.”

She was accepted into a California fashion school but also was recruited to play basketball at UW-Stout. She liked UW-Stout’s retail merchandising and management program and decided to stay closer to home. “I didn’t feel I was ready for California,” she said.

She ended up not playing on the Blue Devil basketball team but focused on school, concentrating on fashion marketing and buying and product management. “It’s exactly what I was looking for. Stout gave me everything I expected and more. I thought Stout was a great, great school for fashion.”

While at UW-Stout, she worked at the student-run retail store, The Niche, worked part time in the Office of International Education, landed a co-op work experience at The Buckle in Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka and played intramural basketball. She also continued modeling in Chicago and Minneapolis but did not try out for any school plays.

After graduating, she went to the Twin Cities for two years. She became an assistant manager at the same Buckle store, but she also made progress with her acting career, doing commercials, short films and her first feature-length film, “A Dark Return.” Eventually, she attracted the attention of a couple of agents, leading her to move to California.

Her next big goal is to “is to get into another feature film as a lead,” she said.

She also is a lingerie model for Frederick’s of Hollywood.

If her career continues to ascend like it has, she could envision herself opening a retail store in five to seven years, finally realizing her other dream and putting her UW-Stout degree to work.

“I always thought it would be fun to have a fan base and open a store. Then you’re almost guaranteed success. I thought of all this when I was really little. It’s really crazy. It’s an exciting time for me,” she said.

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