Would you shave your head in an anti-smoking campaign if you could gain fame and fortune in the process? A William Woods University student did just that.
Christy Pinz, a senior theatre major from St. Peters, Mo., spent last fall in New York City doing a “Semester on Broadway” internship. While there, she was given the opportunity to participate in an anti-smoking commercial. It meant the chance to appear on national television and earn upwards of $50,000.
But there was a catch—a big one. The brunette beauty had to agree to have her long tresses cut off and her head shaved.
Christy agreed—for a number of reasons.
“I lost a grandfather and two aunts to cancer,” she said. “Also, I made a friend in New York who was from London. She was a heavy smoker and she told me she’d quit if I actually shaved my head—and she did.”
The other benefit of shaving her head was that she was able to donate eight inches of hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
In addition to the altruistic reasons, there was the matter of money—potentially a lot of it.
“$1,500 for a day’s work is not too shabby,” Pinz said, referring to the amount she received just for shooting the commercial. If the commercial airs and she’s recognizable, she could earn as much as $50,000 in residuals.
The commercial was produced by “thetruth.com” for MTV, Fox and UPN.
The Semester on Broadway is an opportunity that William Woods has been offering its top theatre students for more than 30 years. Students must meet the academic criteria and pass a faculty screening process to participate in the 15-week internship. Pinz received 15 hours of class credit, a typical semester course load.
The internship is a way to “create a greater sense of professionalism in the student and make the student a more well-prepared, professionally oriented member of the theatre,” Joe Potter, WWU artistic director of theatre and assistant professor of performing arts, said.
In addition to filming the anti-smoking commercial, Pinz worked 9 to 5 at a talent agency, took voice lessons and acting classes. She auditioned for parts in the soap opera Guiding Light, the Broadway hit “Rent,” bits on the WB channel and a few shampoo commercials. She also appeared in an industrial Screen Actors Guild (SAG) film, sponsored by American Legacy Foundation, for the Internet.
Her boss at the talent agency supervised her work, but she also met weekly with Todd Potter, Joe Potter’s brother, who works as a set designer in New York.
When she wasn’t working or taking classes, she was attending Broadway shows.
“I got to see 16 shows while I was there. For some, I had second row seats; for some, I got to meet the cast. It was incredible.”
To prepare for her semester in New York City, Pinz spent hours on the Internet last summer researching talent agencies. She signed with the first one that contacted her—“a small, up and coming agency where I had an importance.” She said she knew people doing internships at larger agencies that were treated “like gofers.”
She also worked four jobs during the summer to make the money for New York, where she rented a room for $900 a month.
“Nothing was going to stop me, and I’m so glad I went. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I now have a better sense of how the industry works. I gained so much knowledge and experience.”
After saving some money, she plans to return to New York City in a couple years. But first, she has a semester to complete before her May graduation and summer wedding. She is doing an internship at ABC 17 in Columbia in the meantime.
Her fiancé, Troy Boulware of Auxvasse, Mo., is a fellow student at William Woods with a bit of an acting streak himself.
He went to New York to help her move back to Missouri and while there, he took her ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza. Once on the ice, he announced he was going to perform a Triple Sow Cow. He pretended to take a spill, and when she came to his rescue, he got up on one knee and pulled out an engagement ring.
“It was like a scene from a movie. People were applauding. I was crying. We felt like little celebrities,” the future actress said.