HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Actress Aniela McGuinness said her first paid acting job was for an infomercial that sold sex toys. Since then she has booked roles in "Rock of Ages," "Burn Notice" and "Charlie's Angels."
The sultry red head also does modeling and stand-up comedy. She said improv kept her sane while her mother was dying of ovarian cancer.
"I had been performing for seven years prior to that, but in those hard moments improv gave me permission to laugh," she said.
Her mom died July 5, 2013. She knew she had to find out if she had inherited the cancer risk. Just like Angelina Jolie Pitt, whose mom also died of ovarian cancer, McGuinness tested positive for BRCA1, a genetic mutation that increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
As she moved forward with plans to undergo the preventive surgeries, the unexpected happened. She learned that although doctors recommend that annual mammograms start at 40, it was possible for a 31-year-old fit woman to have breast cancer.
McGuinness documented the roller coaster that followed on social media. There was a breast-shaped pinata and a party at the doctor's office. A week after the traumatic surgery to remove her breast, she was topless on Halloween.
"Spreading awareness," she said, as she wore only black pants and a tall black-and-white "Bride of Frankenstein" wig.
On social media, her courage has prompted messages of support from as far as Italy and a steady flow of gratitude and solidarity from both men and women of all ages.
In a video with nearly 40,000 views, McGuinness set up a conversation between herself before and after losing her hair. She was in tears, as she held a pair of scissors to cut her red locks.
"You got a bald guy from the other side of the ocean crying," YouTube user Maarten Happel said. "Wish you all the best."
Doctors caught the cancer early and she completed her treatment, but she is still recovering from the experience. On Wednesday, she released a new project.
Makeup artist and hair stylist Brynn Berg, who has worked in "Vampire Diaries" and "Devious Maids," recreated her "Bride of Frankenstein" look with some special effects that included hand tying fake stitches.
"I wanted to change the images that women saw of mastectomies. No more before and after photos," she said. "I wanted them to see the evolution, the life and the humor in this dark situation."
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