DL:RP Series: Cartoonist Emma Hunsinger

Dig into another fantastic DL:RP edition today, featuring WFU ‘13 Emma Hunsinger. The cartoonist grew up dreaming of publishing her original work in the New Yorker… and made it happen years later! Enjoy this WFU Magazine feature by Cherin C. Poovey.


So You Want to be in the New Yorker?

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WFU Magazine, June 14 2018, Cherin C. Poovey

Photography credit: Perri Hoffman

In 2015 Robert Mankoff, longtime cartoon editor for The New Yorker, told TIME magazine there were seven simple steps to getting a cartoon in the savvy, sophisticated publication. They included getting a day job, having an unmistakable voice and looking at the world as if you were an alien. Above all, he said, cartoonists who aim to publish in The New Yorker should aspire to have a distinctive style. “It’s not the ink,” he said, “it’s the think.”

With his own pen and idiosyncratic approach, Mankoff, who retired last year, drew one of the magazine’s iconic cartoons: a businessman on the phone consulting his appointment book. “No, Thursday’s out,” reads the caption. “How about never — is never good for you?”

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In the life plan of artist Emma Hunsinger (’13), Mankoff’s “never” was no good at all. As early as grade school she knew she wanted to sell cartoons to The New Yorker and make a living off her work. In 2017, after years of drawing and redrawing, pitching and rejection, the self-proclaimed perpetual doodler’s perseverance paid off when her cartoon, “American Girl,” was published in the Nov. 27 issue. Drawn in Hunsinger’s characteristic linear style, the cartoon depicts a weaponized American Girl doll, dressed in frock and Mary Janes, being confronted by police officers reporting a “417K” — police code for “person with a knife.”

A knife-wielding doll being confronted by the law? Perhaps not everyone’s recipe for a spontaneous belly laugh, but the artist is fine with that. “With any given cartoon there will be a split on people who like it or get it versus people who think it’s silly or could be better,” Emma said. “It’s very subjective how funny it is. I guess I was just thinking about how everyone thinks dolls are really creepy.”

Image credit: Emma Hunsinger/The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank

Image credit: Emma Hunsinger/The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank

Emma came to Wake Forest from New Canaan, Connecticut, a free spirit whose fascination had always been cartoons. Her father, who is in the publishing business, regularly brought home magazines to show her examples. In middle school she pored over a book and CD collection of every New Yorker cartoon from the 1920s to the 2000s. “I read it cover to cover, and I loved them.”

She cartooned for her high school newspaper and arrived at college unsure whether to major in studio art. “I kind of waffled a bit because you could choose drawing, printmaking, photography, video … but there was no specific cartooning focus. I sold myself short thinking I wasn’t good enough to be a fine artist so I shouldn’t major in studio art,” she said. “By my sophomore year I wanted to get better at it. You don’t go to college to stay good at what you’re really good at, so I double-majored in studio art, with a focus on drawing, and in communication.”

After graduation Emma, who lives in Brooklyn, submitted her resume to Condé Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, and she interviewed at Teen Vogue and Bon Appetit. She was hired by The New Yorker as a sales assistant who answered phones, managed emails and fetched coffee. “It was great because you have to be scrappy to be an assistant in New York,” she said.

The position paid off as she began meeting people on the editorial side and got a glimpse of what went on. She started submitting cartoon drafts, and one of her efforts — a flow chart titled “Can I Wear This T-shirt to Work?” was subsequently published online. “I read they get 500 or 1,000 submissions a week and they only buy 12-15 cartoons a week,” Emma said. “It’s an extremely competitive publication.”

In 2016, she left the sales assistant job and started work as a line cook, making pizzas to pay the bills while she devoted herself to her cartoons. “American Girl” was her second sale to The New Yorker and the first to be published in print.

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Emma’s dry wit, along with her intellectual curiosity and knack for constantly questioning, is perfectly suited for The New Yorker, said her Wake Forest mentor, Teaching Professor of Art Leigh Ann

Hallberg (P ’12). “I think in the ‘American Girl’ cartoon she is questioning the cultural assumption that the doll is, well, the epitome of niceness. She just goes, ‘Really?’”

Leigh Ann was Emma’s champion when it came to esteem and self-confidence, encouraging her not to take herself too seriously and to hang on to that sense of playfulness that everyone loved. At the same time, the teacher helped her student perfect drawing technique, question what she was doing and try other things. “She encouraged me to keep making art and keep making silly art,” Emma said. “It helped so much to learn about art history and how people have used art as communication.”

“Everyone loves Emma,” said Leigh Ann. “She’s just one of those people that when they pop into your head, you just smile.” Unlike most students, Emma took her class notes in pictures, not words. As a freshman, “she was beautiful and wild — not lost —never lost,” said her mentor. “She had all kinds of energy and enthusiasm but, like many students, was searching for direction. We just kind of instantaneously loved her; she was very talented.”

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Katie Wolf (’13), Emma’s friend and classmate who is assistant director of the University’s Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, recalled a day when it was pouring rain and she noticed a drenched student, weighed down by a backpack, chugging across Davis Field. She drove closer and discovered it was Emma, then stopped to offer her a ride.

“We were talking about this series of drawings she did called ‘The Angsty Animal Teenager Series’ that I just loved,” said Katie. “The person with bird legs, the kid in the corner with eczema, the jackass guy … I saw it as her sort of poking fun at traditional bullying tactics.” The next day, Emma gave Katie the drawings and said, “Thank you for taking me home; I want you to have these.” “They are some of my favorite possessions,” Katie said.

While Emma spent much of her time in Scales Fine Arts Center, she worked at WAKE Radio and was a member of the Lilting Banshees comedy troupe, calling it the perfect mental gym in which to exercise her comedy muscles. She immersed herself in volunteer work, including Campus Kitchen every Friday.

The student humanitarian trips to Vietnam her junior and senior years broadened her world view and influenced her art. “Just to be exposed to what’s on the opposite side of the Earth was so powerful and gave me a sense of scale about how big I am and what matters,” Emma said. “It really made my brain bigger in a way that’s helpful to a cartoonist. If you want to be funny and smart you’ve got to know a lot and experience a lot. That was huge for me.”

Describing her work as delightful, innocuous and silly, Emma appears to have what editor Mankoff was looking for: a distinctive style and the think, not just the ink. “That’s the work I want to be making,” she said.

Still in her 20s and published in The New Yorker, Emma has already accomplished the cartoonist’s equivalent of pushing a piano through a transom. But don’t be surprised if there’s another piano on the drawing board. Never will never be good for her.

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DL:RP Series: Marc Blucas

The DL:RP Series continues with another inspiring alumni account, written by WFU Magazine’s Carol L. Hanner.

Marc Blucas (WFU ‘94) came to WFU on a baskteball scholarship, earned a business degree, then banked left for Hollywood. Slam dunk.

Image source: Buffy Angel Show Online

Image source: Buffy Angel Show Online

‘I have to know if I can make it’ - Marc Blucas ('94) took the long shot from sports to Hollywood, and he nailed it

by Carol L. Hanner, posted 3/19/19

On paper, Marc Blucas says, he never should have made it to where he is now.

Blucas (’94) was a small-town boy from Butler, Pennsylvania, who played basketball on scholarship for Wake Forest, graduated with a business degree and played abroad, but he soon set his course toward law school. He also had a partnership with NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Sr. to start a company advising professional athletes on contracts, endorsements and financial planning, with the help of Bern Beatty (P ’88), now a professor emeritus of business.

Then Blucas got a phone call from John Justus, who was the University’s sports information director. A filmmaker needed a basketball player for “Eddie,” a 1996 movie that was shooting in Charlotte with Whoopie Goldberg (and a cameo by a guy named Donald Trump). “I went down and auditioned for this movie, and I got it. And then the cliché happened. I caught the bug.”

Image from WFU Magazine original post

Image from WFU Magazine original post

Blucas gave up law school, even though he had never acted. He gave up flying to races in Earnhardt’s private jet to work with him on the business plan. He gave up the world of sports that had been his passion since childhood. “On paper, I’m the dumbest person on the planet,” Blucas says, laughing. “I had everything you could want at that time coming out of college teed up for me, and I chose something where I had no experience, no relationships, where I knew no one.”

But it worked. He has a successful acting career. He plays the romantic interest of star Robin Tunney in a TV legal drama called “The Fix,” which premieres tonight on ABC. When we talked, he was in Connecticut, working until 4 a.m. every night in the bitter February cold for a Christmas special for Hallmark Movies, where he has had multiple starring roles. He has acted in numerous movies alongside such stars as Mel Gibson and Katie Holmes and in many TV shows, including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” where he played Riley Finn.

Marc Blucas with Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"  - Source, WFU Magazine original post

Marc Blucas with Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" - Source, WFU Magazine original post

Blucas lived for about 14 years in Los Angeles but moved seven years ago to a 15-acre farm in rural Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife, Ryan Haddon Blucas. She is a former producer who recently turned years of volunteer counseling into a practice as a hypnotherapist and life coach. They live with their two daughters, 4 and 7, and Ryan’s two teens from an earlier marriage. Blucas gets his workouts through chores and renovating their 300-year-old farmhouse, which he much prefers to slaving in the gym in L.A.

He says he loved Los Angeles after the first difficult year. “From 25 to 35, it was a great place to be. I was single. It’s the heartbeat of the industry I was in, and I needed to learn it and make the relationships.”

But after five years, an exit strategy already was bubbling in the back of his mind. “It’s Groundhog Day in L.A. … It’s 70 and perfect all the time. But you can’t really mark time. There’s no cycle of life and death. The leaves don’t fall off the trees. After a while, you blink, and five years go by, and you don’t even know it because the trees don’t grow.”

Tax credits and technology dramatically changed the industry, he says. “It used to be just Harrison Ford could leave town and live somewhere else.” But Blucas says in his last six years in Los Angeles, he filmed there only one day because his locations were spread out across the globe, from Atlanta to Capetown, South Africa.

He met Ryan in L.A., and she, too, was ready to move to the East Coast to be near family. Today, they have a rule — no more than two weeks apart, even if it means Blucas flies home for just a day. “My family’s always going to be more important to me than my career, and right now my kids are at an age where they want to be around me.” He even negotiated to appear in fewer episodes of “The Fix” to ensure that he had time off to go home.

Blucas knows his pursuit of acting seemed crazy when he started. He had tried for small theater roles at Wake Forest, but the sports arena always trumped the stage. “We’re playing Duke, and I’m ‘Hey, (theater) guys, I can’t make it. I got to go get my (butt) kicked by Grant Hill tonight.’”

Acting psyched him up in the same way basketball did. “It’s just an energy and the excitement of having the pressure to perform certain things,” he says. Live sports events change spectators’ emotions, and so does storytelling. “You want to enter a theater and leave it changed, somehow.”

Both were big challenges. Acting is “one of the hardest businesses in the world to break into,” Blucas says. “It was almost the same decision that I had coming to college. … I wasn’t the Rodney Rogers (’94) and Randolph Childress (’95, P ’20) where you know you’re going to be a star. My choice to come to Wake Forest was, ‘Look, I know I’m going there to be a role player at best, but I have to know if I can make it.’”

Marc Blucas with Katie Holmes in "First Daughter," a 2004 movie.  - Source, WFU Magazine original post

Marc Blucas with Katie Holmes in "First Daughter," a 2004 movie. - Source, WFU Magazine original post

He pushed through the steep learning curve in acting. “I went from being sports and math and science to suddenly literature and stories and characters, and I wanted to succeed.” He treated his acting coaches like his basketball coaches, urging them to tell him if he didn’t have “the quality, whatever IT is.”

He got a call from a casting director who flew him from his hometown to Los Angeles for his first big audition, for “Jerry Maguire,” the 1996 film starring Tom Cruise. Blucas didn’t get that part, but he got enough encouragement to keep his focus, dedication and work ethic revved up.

If acting ever becomes tiresome, he’ll stop. He approaches it just as he did basketball workouts. “If I didn’t like getting up at 5 in the morning for two-a-days and going through all that stuff for practice, I would have quit it. It still has to be fun.”

He has other skills he can employ. He says Wake Forest prepared him through its commitment to a liberal arts education, exposure to diversity and a concern for “turning out good human beings.”

“I always felt that sense of community at Wake. I had a very specific platform for that on the basketball side, and I had another one in the fraternity world (Sigma Phi Epsilon) because I wanted to make sure I had a ‘normal’ college experience other than just locker room friends.”

He loved the small classes and professors who were never condescending to him. He learned “the best way to solve a problem or to have success is through communication and surrounding yourself with the right people, and all those things I feel like were so cemented at Wake for me.”

He hopes his kids will find the same inspiration. “Wake athletics does a really cute thing, and when a former player has a kid … you get a national letter of intent,” Blucas says. “They think it’s a joke, but I’m holding them to it.”

DL:RP Series: Melissa McGhie Proctor

Introducing the DL:RP Series

There’s some amazing alumni out there, and we don’t want you to miss a single story about their moves. DL:RP, the DeacLink Repost blog series brings you the top tales from around WFU’s vast and brilliant commmunity.

We’re leading off with Zsakual Arrington’s feature on Melissa McGhie Proctor (WFU’02) for WFU Business School’s ‘Newsroom’ page - enjoy!


From ball girl to CMO, Wake Forest alumna shares her career journey to the Atlanta Hawks

by Zsakual Arrington, posted 3/25/18

Authenticity, persistence, and perseverance. These were the guiding themes Atlanta Hawks CMO Melissa McGhie Proctor (’02) shared during a workshop she hosted at Wake Forest University School of Business on Tuesday, March 28. Proctor shared her career journey, beginning with her determination to become the first ball girl for the Miami Heat professional basketball team. Along the way she earned her communications degree from Wake Forest University and worked at Turner Broadcasting for more than a decade before becoming Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the Atlanta Hawks and Phillips Arena.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. Growing up as an artist in high school in Miami, Proctor wasn’t very familiar with basketball but fell in love with the NBA after her cousin introduced her to the sport. The introduction launched a dream Proctor described as “wanting to become the first female coach in the NBA despite never having played basketball.”

In pursuit of this goal, Proctor wrote many letters to the Miami Heat seeking an opportunity to work with the team. “Eventually my persistence paid off,” Proctor said. When the Heat called her back, it was for an undefined position because, at the time, the team had only ball boys and wasn’t sure how to incorporate Proctor. Because of this, Proctor admits that she was slightly discouraged, but on her first day she learned so much and has been in love with basketball ever since. Ultimately, she became the Heat’s first ball girl, which the team renamed “team attendant.”

Proctor credits this opportunity to her ongoing persistence and finding ways to market her authentic self to the organization creatively. Her creativity stood out, and she served as an intern with the Miami Heat for six years up until she graduated from Wake Forest in 2002.

After graduation, Proctor began her professional career with Turner Broadcasting Systems in Atlanta, Georgia. Her first year in Atlanta, she also worked part-time as a ball girl with the Atlanta Hawks. During her time with Turner, Proctor served a variety of positions and built her brand along the way, earning many professional achievements and accolades.

A decade at Turner earned Proctor a solid reputation and invaluable connections and relationships, and there came a time when she was chosen to lead a health and wellness startup within the organization. When the company went in a different direction, Proctor and the entire business unit were laid off. She shared with the students in the audience that this time was a difficult period in her life, but Proctor persevered because she believes everything happens for a reason.

While unemployed, Proctor remained involved in the marketing industry and continued to network. During an event, she encountered a former colleague who had recently left Turner and for the Atlanta Hawks. One conversation led to another, and she was invited to consult with the Atlanta Hawks. Proctor consulted for a few months and was ultimately brought on as VP of Brand Strategy. Proctor said she relishes the irony of the situation because she knows she was in the right place at the right time.

To the students in attendance Proctor offered this advice:

  • Be your authentic self, find ways to market yourself, and stand out.

  • Be persistent, prove why you belong in the organization.

  • Persevere through tough times and stand tall. Everything happens for a reason.

“It was truly humbling to hear Ms. Proctor share the journey that led to her position as the Atlanta Hawks CMO,” said Elton Jonuzaj (MA ’18). “She is a perfect example of being authentically yourself and still proving to others the quality of your work. I believe this comes from her starting from the bottom which gave her the experience to understand what it means to be a great leader holistically.”

Mellisa McGhie Proctor WFU ‘02  Photo credit: https://medium.com/@msmelissammm

Mellisa McGhie Proctor WFU ‘02

Photo credit: https://medium.com/@msmelissammm