Jenny Paruso

Scissors and a flat iron are tools Jenny Paruso might use during her work at Dunwoody’s Salon Colour, but she uses a whole different set of tools  for protecting  high-profile celebrities in her moonlighting career as a bodyguard.

Dunwoody resident Jenny Paruso has taken moonlighting to a whole new level. After a 10-year career as a hair stylist, in January she began a second career as a licensed bodyguard, also known as a close protection agent or a private security agent.

Now, Paruso, who loves hair, fashion and travel, often packs her bag and hits the road on an assignment with just two hours’ notice.

Paruso first became interested in the private security profession several years ago when she started meeting the bodyguards who accompanied various celebrities who came into her salon.

“All my childhood friends were married with kids,” she said, “and I wanted to do something different.”

Because of Atlanta’s vibrant movie industry and music scene, the metro area is full of celebrities needing protection, especially when they go anywhere in public – such as a nightclub, a mall, a restaurant or a red carpet event.

While Paruso loves her hair styling job at Salon Colour in the Shops of Dunwoody, her adrenalin starts pumping when she receives a call to go on assignment, either locally or out of the country.

The job, according to Paruso, has many aspects. If she is taking a client somewhere, her job requires detailed planning – such as running routes, learning traffic patterns and advanced risk assessment.

“I need to know the area,” she said, “the routes I’m taking, the alternate routes and where the hospitals, police stations and other safe places are. I also need to have a network there.”

In addition, once there, she needs to have already scoped out the restrooms and selected the most secure tables.

Being a female bodyguard makes Paruso stand out in a field populated by few women. On the other hand, being female gives her advantages when working with female clients.

Sometimes she dresses in high-fashion clothing, complete with stilettos, and looks more like a celebrity’s publicist or make-up artist.

Her femininity gives her an added advantage in that she can go places a male bodyguard can’t go, such as dressing rooms and restrooms.

For Paruso, becoming a bodyguard has been “a big adjustment.” Sometimes she has two hours to pack for a two-week assignment. The biggest adjustment, however, was learning to shoot a gun – something she had done only once in her life before beginning her training in January.

“At first, I was terrified,” she said.

Luckily, she trained at one of the top academies in the country, where she started with plastic weapons until she had mastered the basics. Now she’s comfortable with firearms and shoots at least once a week at different ranges with different instructors.

Paruso believes good training is the key to success in the private security profession. Now, even in a legitimately dangerous situation, she feels no fear.

“When I’m working with a client in a situation that could potentially go bad, my instincts and training kick in,” she said. “It all comes naturally because of my training.”

Paruso works with clients that include Fortune 500 and 100 CEOs and other high net-worth individuals, as well as celebrities. The CEO jobs are usually riskier, because of the constant threat of kidnapping, whereas celebrities worry more about over-zealous fans and aggressive journalists.

About half the time, she works on assignment alone. The rest of her jobs involve being part of a team. On a few occasions, she has served a client as both hair stylist and bodyguard.

In the short time that she has been doing her second career, she has worked with not only celebrities and CEOs but also important people from other countries, whose names and roles she cannot reveal.

Paruso considers her dual existence “a lifelong thing.” She sees herself as “always doing hair.”

As for her bodyguard work, “I love everything about it,” she said.

If she ever wants to slow down, she will concentrate her efforts more on logistics than riskier fieldwork.

For now, anyone looking for a hairstyle that comes with interesting conversation can make an appointment with Paruso by calling 404-661-3912.

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