Brooke Shields, Chris Henchy headline family weekend event

The duo, who are parents of a sophomore at Wake Forest, shared advice with an audience of over 300


Evan Harris

Chris Henchy (left) and Brooke Shields (center) spoke to an audience of over 300 in Broyhill Auditorium.

Hope Zhu, Staff Writer

Actress and producer Brooke Shields, along with her husband, screenwriter and producer Chris Henchy, were welcomed by more than 300 faculty, staff, students and parents in Broyhill Auditorium in Farrell Hall on Sept. 27, during family weekend. 

Shields, one of the 1980s’ most renowned stars,  was well-remembered by the many parents attending the event. Her acting and modeling career began when she was only 11 months old, when she shot a commercial for Ivory Soap. Throughout her career, Shields has graced the cover of hundreds of magazines, including Time, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and other worldwide publications. She also starred in films including “Pretty Baby” (1978), “The Blue Lagoon” (1980), and “Endless Love” (1981). 

Henchy has written and produced television sitcoms like “Spin City”, “Entourage” and sports comedy “Eastbound & Down”. Through her partnership with Gary Sanchez Productions, Henchy is also the co-founder of Funny Or Die, a premium independent studio in Los Angeles, California.

Parents of Wake Forest students shared their excitement at the opportunity to see a Hollywood icon of their generation.

“Being part of the parent’s council, I am really proud that Wake Forest is celebrating the arts,” Nicole Sheehan, mother of a freshman at Wake Forest, said, “Bringing speakers like this to campus is a great opportunity for both students and parents.”

The light-hearted conversation began with brief introductions by Wake Forest President Susan Wente and Vice Provost of the Arts and Interdisciplinary Initiatives Christina Soriano, followed by a dance performed by Henchy and two Wake Forest cheerleaders. They were received by waves of laughter and applause.

Dressed in a Wake Forest sweatshirt, Shields’ appearance seemed no different from any other mother attending parents’ weekends before she walked on stage. She discussed the anxiety of sending her daughter, sophomore Rowan Henchy, to college.

“I can’t stop crying when I drop her off here,” Shields said. “But I think the thing about college is to encourage them to try so many new things. [It is about] trying and failing, and trying again.”

Next, Soriano brought a list of questions from students on stage. When addressing inquiries about how they approach their professional life, both Shields and Henchy admitted the arts industry is ever-changing and challenging.

“It breaks my heart when someone says I want to be an actress,” Shields said. “Because I just think, ‘oh, dear God, you get rejected so much more than you get accepted. You just have to bounce right back up fresh, heal your wounds and then just go forward again.’”

Henchy echoed her sentiment from a producer’s perspective.

“It probably takes two years to dwell on an idea,” Henchy said. “Thinking about it in my head, spending the year writing it and putting it on the shelf. Sometimes you don’t have one idea, but 

a bunch of them, and you have to have one favorite, one other shift around and figure it out from there.”

He continued: “But we are all here today. We all figured it out.”

Many students who submitted questions sought advice from Shields and Henchy about their possible careers in the art industry. One of the questions, described by Soriano as “heartbreaking”, read: “For students wanting to pursue a career in the arts, but don’t have parents or family who are supportive, what advice can you give?”

Shields answered the question by pointing out it is hard for parents that are not inside the industry to understand it. 

“Sometimes parents are just scared,” Shields said, “But also, you cannot stare at the phone and wait for it to ring. You have to pave your own way, try to be specific about what you want to do and just go after that. ”

At the end of the conversation, Soriano sent a gift package, containing wooden pens made from 80-year-old oak trees from campus and cards of artwork from the university art collection, on behalf of Wake Forest, to Shield and Henchy. 

“One of the truly distinctive features of Wake Forest is the value that we place on the liberal arts, educating the whole person regardless of students’ future career path might be,” President Wente said. “We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to call upon leaders and experts in many fields to bring them to campus, to show our students what opportunities there are in the liberal arts as part of their future. ”

Correction Oct. 27: A previous version of this story contained a misspelled name in the headline.