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  • Writer's pictureJessika Brust

Send a Headshot

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

My third cruise contract had just been terminated, and it looked like I was out of work for the long haul. I had a bit of money in savings, so I decided it was finally time to get the surgery recommended to treat the symptoms I'd acquired from black mold toxicity (read that story here). Tonsillectomy recovery for adults takes a month, where you have to be waited on hand and foot, so I figured I'd better get it over with while I didn't have any performance work coming my way.

My brother took pity on me when I lost my job, and offered me a part time position working as a field biologist's assistant, aka a field hand. I accepted the job, because I needed to earn some money while vocally unable to work.

The project my brother's company was working on was to survey the land of the intended routes for the pipelines, to determine if construction fragmented the habitats of endangered species. It was a very political assignment, and required lots of safety debriefings, as land owners were often skeptical of pipeline investigations on their property. What they often didn't realize was that the biologists are the ones you want on your property -- if your goal is to prevent the pipeline from being on your land. Biologists love the specimens they find, and are eager to locate rare species -- and are therefor happy to report their findings to protect the flora and fauna they have dedicated their life's work to. Every precaution was made to keep field workers safe, from military escorts in dangerous "red" zones to safety vests, to employee ID badges.

That's right -- employee ID badges.

After I was initially hired, there came the usual barrage of paperwork, and one of the things requested by the main office was a headshot for the employee ID badge.

When you ask someone with a performance career for a headshot, you'll get yourself a headshot. Performers always keep a current one handy to email out with job applications (aka submissions), and we also keep printed copies on an 8 1/2" x 11" for interviews (aka auditions). It's part of our almost daily existence. Having a bad headshot will prevent you from working, no matter how talented you are; having a fantastic headshot can book you work on the spot -- whether your talent is adequate or not. So my headshot is bangin'. It's sizzlin'. I was all gussied up to work with my favorite photographer of all time -- who was living in Vegas while I was out there for ship rehearsals. We scheduled an appointment and it was his idea to do the shoot in the middle of the Vegas Strip -- and those photos turned out awesome. I got my money's worth ten times over.

So my brother's company requested a headshot for an employee ID badge, and I didn't think anything of it. I sent it in like I did for any other job. That's what headshots are for.

"So, uh, Tim --" my brother's boss allegedly said to him through suppressed laughter before we were sent to our field site in another state. "What's with your sister's photo?"

"I dunno," he allegedly replied. "She works on a cruise ship."

Tim was a new hire at his company, and this was his first assignment as the herpetology specialist (means his expertise is reptiles and amphibians), and I was Tim's first hire as a field hand.

There was much skepticism about my competency after that, and apparently much shit given to my brother for hiring me. Never mind the fact that I had an Environmental Studies degree and a few wildlife rescue jobs on my resume, because pictures speak louder than words, and my photo apparently did a lot of talking. When I began getting assigned to projects that weren't being lead by Tim, the running joke was:

"I don't know who she is."

"You'll recognize her -- she works on a cruise ship."

God only knows what other jokes were made at my expense...

Well no, I wasn't planning on trapping amphibians in a red seductress dress with a push-up bra and false eyelashes. I wasn't going to scale mountainsides in my four-inch tango heels. I wasn't going to wake up my coworkers hours earlier than they intended in our shared hotel room to style my hair. I'm only high maintenance when I need to be. I only dress like a performer when I'm performing.

I guess I should've sent in a grungy selfie, though I thought it would just be easier to send in a photo that was already on my hard drive. Lesson learned.

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