UNC Greensboro junior Grace Holcomb was somewhat of a celebrity before she could even walk or talk.
At eight months old, the Wilmington, North Carolina native landed the role of Jenny Jagielski on the popular teen drama “One Tree Hill” – now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Holcomb’s mother is an actor and was a stand-in for “Dawson’s Creek” character Joey Potter, played by Katie Holmes, which led to her infant daughter getting the role on “One Tree Hill.” Both shows were filmed in and around Wilmington and aired on UPN/The CW.
“Honestly, I never really thought about the show until about middle school when all my friends started watching it,” says Holcomb. “They all watched and came to me and said ‘Oh, my gosh, is that you?’ So, I started watching and it was cool seeing myself in that moment.”
YOU’RE BABY JENNY!
It wasn’t until 2019, when Holcomb attended a “One Tree Hill” convention in Wilmington, that she fully grasped the popularity of the show.
“The first year, I was super nervous. People paid $20 for a picture with me and $15 for an autograph so then I realized that people know who I am, which was weird,” Holcomb says.
Holcomb does not remember filming the show, but she’s seen photos taken during that time and her father also took video on a personal camera. The convention allowed her to meet the cast – including Hillary Burton Morgan, who portrayed Peyton Sawyer.
“I was fangirling over her. Everyone was just so nice,” says Holcomb. “I would introduce myself to them and they would say ‘No way, you’re baby Jenny!’
Holcomb enjoys returning to the convention to reunite with the cast and meet fans of the show.
“It’s two different worlds,” she says. “Once I step into that building, I feel like a different person because everyone knows who I am. But then in everyday life, I can hang out with my friends, and no one knows me. It’s a brain puzzle.”
BABY BUZZ TO BRYAN SCHOOL
The baby Jenny character gave Holcomb recognition, in addition to an opportunity to start a business. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Holcomb was feeling restless and found an old candle making set in her home. She soon discovered making candles was therapeutic and could also be profitable.
“This was right after one of the conventions and there was a lot of buzz about me and baby Jenny, so I thought, why not capitalize on that and start a business?” Holcomb says.
Her hobby turned into the “Baby J Candle Company,” named after her “One Tree Hill” character.
“The best part is seeing the reviews from the fans who buy them,” Holcomb says. “They post pictures of the candles and say, ‘This is made by baby Jenny.’ It’s always super fun.”
Holcomb’s original plan was to go into the medical field, but after discovering a love for business through the candle company, Holcomb is now a marketing major in the Bryan School of Business and Economics.
“I had the chance to create my own Instagram for the business and my brand,” she says. “It was real-world experience.”
FRIENDSHIPS ON THE GREEN
“I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t golfing,” says Holcomb, who started playing the sport at the age of four. “My parents aren’t golfers, so I picked it up by myself. My parents noticed I was hitting the ball straight and I just kept practicing.”
At eight years old, Holcomb began playing in local tournaments, then traveling around the country to compete. Now, she is a member of the UNCG women’s golf team.
“I started the recruiting process in seventh grade and UNCG was one of the first schools I contacted,” she says. “In middle school, I would come for orchestra camp and that was my first exposure to the University. I always loved UNCG’s campus and community.”
The team has allowed Holcomb to travel all over the world and make strong connections with her teammates: “I’m basically best friends with all of them.”
Baby Jenny eventually found a new home in Savannah, Georgia after a custody battle between her two on-screen parents. But Holcomb’s real-life story is no teen soap opera. She found a home at UNCG.
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications
Additional photography courtesy of UNCG Athletics and Grace Holcomb