Fabulous! Orbit Gal And Model Employee Judge Vanessa Branch On Encouraging Contestants To Get Dirty

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Were there any challenges you felt bad about making the contestants take part in?
When they had to chop up the rats [to feed the sharks at Mandalay Bay]. There’s not a lot that I don’t think I could do–I would have been fine with the sharks, I would have been fine doing almost all of these challenges–but I don’t know if I could have done that, especially when the rat babies started falling out. That was disgusting. I have a lot of admiration for them for doing that and not complaining so much.

That’s not exactly something you had to do in your Orbit days, right?
Oh, God no! There was a huge amount of travel, though. I did have to work with a lot of animals–a goat, penguins, ostriches. Ostriches and penguins are really mean, which a lot of people don’t know. I had the ostrich running behind me, and they can kill you. You see penguins and you think that because they are tiny they wouldn’t hurt you, but they have incredibly sharp beaks and they bite.

How did you feel to switch places and evaluate other people’s skills for a change?
It’s so fun, I love it. I love being able to show my own voice because I am so used to being an actress and speaking other people’s words. I love being able to give advice and I love seeing–because they are so much younger than I am–women at that age, and looking back at how I was and knowing the things I could have done better.

What was been the best professional advice that you received early on in your career?
Working on a soap opera was one of my very first jobs. One of the women on there was horrible to me–she was one of the longtime soap ladies. One of the main actors, my love interest, showed me to deal with it, which was literally to ignore it and to move on. If you continue to show a great face and be kind, eventually the other person has a choice to make: to knock it off. That was really valuable.

In addition to acting in commercials, you’ve been a part some major television and movie franchises. What was it like to work on the Pirates of the Caribbean?
Of course Pirates of the Caribbean was amazing to work on. It’s kind of a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl: I told my 12-year-old self that I was going to be in the Caribbean working on these amazing sail boats and working with someone like Johnny Depp. I’m not sure if I would have believed myself… it was such a great time and I’ve made amazing friends through that project. Everyone was super raunchy and fun and we had great nights in the Caribbean. That was such a blast.