Shelley wears a bathing suit by Galamaar, earrings by Georgina Trevino, and gloves by T Label

Shelley Hennig is moving on

Jumping from her world of dance, to a pageant, to her space of actress in which she currently resides (and has for some time), Hennig has been holding onto any possible opportunity and running with it. “Until you figure out what you want, take advantage of at least what is right in front of you. It’s a simple concept, but actress Shelley Hennig has shown how effective it can really be. Like a skilled poker player, she’s called all the bluffs and played the right hands, but we can’t help but wonder what cards she’s been holding so close to the chest. Submission beauty talks to multi-talented actress Shelley Hennig about her career and private life as she finally gives us a glimpse of her stacked hand. 

STYLING MALEEKA MOSS using vintage and sustainable designers @maleeka.moss @11thhouseagency
HAIR ANDRE GUNN @888dre @artdeptagency 
MAKEUP ZENIA JAEGER using @makeupbyzeniajaeger

Can I call you a celebrity, is that okay? “I don’t know,” laughs Shelley. “I feel like we’d have to google that, I don’t want to get it wrong.” At 3.2 million followers, a Miss Teen USA title, and more than a few cult status shows and movies under her belt, you’d think the answer would be quite clear. But, having been in the limelight from the age of 16, it seems like she’s been flying too close to the sun to notice the difference. We settle on the phrase “popular person” and continue our conversation. 
From our talk so far, I’ve learned that her rise to stardom was not as direct as I thought. More of an opportunity presented to her in a string of fortunate events stemming from her passion – dance. “Through the dance community and my mentors within it came other opportunities that allowed me to be a part of things that not every teenager is exposed to, like where it began: the Miss Teen Louisiana USA pageant. Somehow I won that thing and didn’t realize it went further to Miss Teen USA then I won that and started traveling, which was really exciting to me being from a pseudo-small town in Louisiana. I wanted to do something larger than myself, but this was definitely my dance teacher’s idea and thank God bc that’s how I found acting.” Going from the community based dance world she knew, to the international stage of Miss Teen USA at 17 must not have been easy. When I ask her about the pressure she must have felt, she recalls a time of vulnerability and responsibility. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I remember how vulnerable I felt at a young age. I was 17 when I won Miss Teen USA, and I was public speaking about adult subjects a week later. People were listening to me, and it felt really bizarre, and to be honest sometimes embarrassing, speaking to my peers in a tiara and a sash. But I took it seriously and really did put it all out there in the most relatable way I could (like breaking the Miss Universe rules and taking off my gear.) That was most important to me. That and to see how proud my community was of me to be representing Louisiana on a national level. I was never going to disappoint them.”
Shelley wears a dress by Teatum Jones, earrings by Georgina Trevino, stylist’s own fishnet tights, and vintage shoes, courtesy of Lidow Archive
Vintage bodysuit, courtesy of Lidow Archive, gloves by T Label, stylist’s own fishnet tights, and vintage shoes, courtesy of Lidow Archive


“Currently, I am in a pool, naked, on the phone with you. Which is only awkward because I told you. But for me, self love is self care. I love the water. I hate swimsuits. Interviews make me nervous. So I’m finding a way to make it more comfortable. Also as a recovering perfectionist, something that has helped me love myself more is to be ok with being wrong and more importantly being willing to be taught. Maybe not surprisingly, in the past, there was pressure on me to answer and inspire. Now that I’ve taken more responsibility for what I want, I’m naturally more curious. And I’m super thirsty for inspiration and knowledge from others. Letting go of the past is a very vulnerable thing and it feels like I’m doing some really hard work that feels like is paying off. I feel like I’ve done a lot of things backwards in my life. So it’s no surprise to me that I feel like a newborn baby right now. Same amount of crying, probably less shitting, needing to be held constantly, so much to learn, but happy to be here at the end of the day.”

Having to let strangers see into her life during her adolescence, and even take on a role model persona, was a concept so foreign to me. Even though she wasn’t a teen pop-star, a vision of an unlucky Hannah Montana flashed through my head (one without the privilege of a double-life that a good-ish wig could afford). 

Nowadays, with any kind of fame comes all kinds of visible unwanted, and sometimes unwarranted, criticisms. Could her wonderfully private and carefully curated adult life stem from her understanding of the need for self-preservation? At first, she doesn’t seem to think so. “I would say there’s a responsibility that comes with having a following. I do keep it real, but I definitely keep it a little close to my chest and I feel safe with that.” I ask her if that’s why she’s created the bubble. To ultimately preserve and protect her true self. She pauses, then laughs. “That’s a good question. I’m not sure what came first. I think I’m trying to nurse my responsibility hangover with light entertainment- speaking about the repercussions of drinking and driving as Miss Teen USA very shortly after losing my brother to it, I think did a number on me. I was happy to step away from that but then social media was born and then I felt pressure again. I think right now, the people who follow me, appreciate the break from the real tough shit in life. I guess I save the most vulnerable parts of myself for my work as an actress.” 

“…people will do their research, and I felt like what was out there about me, was about me and not from me.








…I saw the opportunity for me to take hold of my image.”

Regardless of how close to the chest she’s decided to portray herself in the media, she’s definitely fulfilled her desire to entertain. I tell her that a five minute scroll through her IG always leaves me appreciating her unique brand of humor and connecting with the human behind the popularity. “I’m so happy to hear that. The only thing revealing about my social media is my clear love for the nudist desert lifestyle. I am inspired by others that dive a little deeper and I love to share the hard work they’re doing. I honestly just want to do a variety show.” 

Hennig has been quite successful at shaping her image in an authentic way while still offering herself some protection. “Part of the reason I got an Instagram account was to fix my google image search if I’m being completely honest. It didn’t represent who I was at all. It always confused people when they met me in real life and I hated that. When I first started in all of this, it was a time when you had less control and whoever was in control was more concerned about fitting you into a mold than allowing you to express yourself. It was a different time though. Now you have more say and you’re expected to contribute and the alternative sounds ridiculous. I do keep it pretty simple in my personal life. My natural state is probably Britney Spears’ gas station paparazzi look which screams comfort. We grew up not far from each other and we go barefoot where we’re from. At an event I love to wear a great dance or ice skating number/vibe, and when I’m developing a character I use style as a way in and I’m willing to take more risks when I’m doing that.”


“I think Gen Z is changing what “beauty” means and I’m here for it. There’s no mold. As far as surface shit, I got tired of all the fuss. I don’t miss wearing a bumpit in my hair and my foundation is a little more see-through. I’m enjoying being more revealing and less complicated. I’m happy this is where we can be right now. Except for when I go home to the south. My bff is always like, “Where’s your eyeliner!?” ” 

Shelley wears a vintage bodysuit, courtesy of Lidow Archive, sunglasses by Akila, earrings by Susan Alexandra, gloves by T Label, stylist’s own fishnet tights, and vintage shoes, courtesy of Lidow Archive
Bathing suit by Galamaar, earrings by Georgina Trevino, and gloves by T Label
In my mind, the actress Shelley Hennig has no problem taking risks or being versatile. I thought, as a super fan of ‘The Secret Circle and lover of Ouija board horror, she could do it all. It’s not until she speaks of her current and future roles as a kind of growth that the box those roles created for her begins to show itself. “I’m not playing teenager anymore. Every title I’ve had has had the word “teen” in it. Now, I’m doing a project called “The Woman in the House”. I’m not The woman in the house, but I’m not playing a teenager anymore obviously.” I ask how it felt to be living in an adult world while playing these teen roles, and she answers almost instantly, without hesitation. “It was fun! It was an escape. And it was safe. It’s feeling anything but safe what I’m doing now and that’s exciting too.” 
From her voice, it sounds like she is right where she’s meant to be. She’s excited to put in the work needed to grow, to dig deeper, and stay true to her most authentic self. “Somewhere the perfectionism stopped working for me. It got me very far in a very intense industry, but it stopped making me happy. I’m trying to be more present now. I’ve had to work on relinquishing control because it was making me sick. I’d been trying to figure out what this locked up feeling was, and it was pressure. But when I thought of who was putting the pressure on me, I realized it was myself. Now, I’m telling myself to shut the fuck up and live my life, and it’s easier said than done, but it’s giving me more meaningful relationships, making me a lot happier and I think is making my work more interesting.”
Shelley wears a dress by Teatum Jones, earrings by Georgina Trevino, stylist’s own fishnet tights, and vintage shoes, courtesy of Lidow Archive
Vintage bodysuit, courtesy of Lidow Archive, gloves by T Label, stylist’s own fishnet tights, and vintage shoes, courtesy of Lidow Archive


“A never ending journey that takes a lot of hard work and support from loved ones. I haven’t always stayed secure in my sense of self. It was easier for me when I was younger and harder as I’ve grown. I’m not trying to figure it out though. I’ve been enjoying imagining what we’re going to do when the world opens up again. I’m trying to be open which hopefully will bring me to my most authentic self because I think theres a lot of uncharted territory.”