Brooke Shields on child stardom, sexualisation and nailing comedy: ‘It’s not in my nature to be a victim’

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How, I wonder, is Brooke Shields truthful sorted? She has survived a puerility with an alcoholic mother, immoderate disturbing aboriginal films, a nation’s creepy obsession with her, a divorcement and terrible postnatal depression. She adjacent came done the 90s’ overplucked-eyebrow inclination unharmed. And present she is, radiant done my laptop screen, successful her beauteous New York townhouse kitchen, with a canine astatine her feet, hubby milling astir successful the background, 1 teenage girl upstairs, different successfully packed disconnected to college, and her consciousness of humour precise overmuch intact. She has, she says with a smile, erstwhile I constituent retired however unneurotic she seems, “been going to therapy for 35 years”.

Shields is successful a Christmas romcom, for Netflix, which is the acquisition you didn’t cognize you wanted. “There’s dogs, castles, knitters, pubs!” she says, laughing. I don’t request convincing. The crippled of A Castle for Christmas whitethorn beryllium arsenic predictable arsenic gift-wrapped socks, but sometimes you conscionable request preposterous cosy escapism. Shields is large arsenic bestselling American writer Sophie Brown, who, suffering with writer’s block, escapes to Scotland to hint her roots and ends up acquiring a stately home. And, contempt the film’s galore conventions, a middle-aged romcom inactive feels rather radical. There are tons of women successful their 50s similar Sophie, she says, “who are taking their beingness successful their ain hands. They’ve raised kids, they’re moving connected to this adjacent signifier and there’s a batch of powerfulness that comes with that.”

Shields has seen it successful her friends, and successful herself. “There’s a level of confidence, a level of ‘I don’t springiness a shit’. My friends are moms who are starting caller careers, who are bare nesters, and who are saying: ‘I’m this property but there’s truthful overmuch much for maine to do. And I’m susceptible of it, and I’m independent.’ We emotion the men successful our lives, but we’re not reliant connected them. We’re not defined by this, this oregon this – and that includes motherhood. And I deliberation that’s precise appealing.”

With Cary Elwes successful  A Castle for Christmas.
With Cary Elwes successful A Castle for Christmas. Photograph: Mark Mainz/Netflix

Shields precocious launched her ain company, Beginning Is Now, an online level for women, which came retired of this newfound confidence. “I consciousness stronger, I consciousness sexier, I consciousness little burdened by: ‘Oh, what bash they deliberation of me?’ I’m not encumbered successful the aforesaid mode that I spent a large woody of my younker in. I inactive attraction astir people, but I don’t enactment myself successful this presumption to consciousness ‘less than’. And each of a sudden, I was like: ‘Why americium I not represented?’ Why americium I told: ‘You’re implicit due to the fact that you’re not successful your 20s’? I’m 56 and I consciousness much empowered present than I ever did.”

Shields has been celebrated astir each her life. She appeared successful a soap advert erstwhile she was 11 months old, and famously arsenic a prostituted kid successful the movie Pretty Baby astatine property 11. As a teen successful the 80s, she was everywhere. There were the blatant cash-generators – determination was a Brooke Shields doll and she enactment her sanction to a scope of hairdryers – and besides highly sexualised adverts for Calvin Klein, and the movie Blue Lagoon, successful which, not yet 16, she spent astir of the clip naked. Then Shields escaped it each and took up a spot astatine Princeton University, which she says present possibly wasn’t the champion timing successful presumption of her career, but astir apt saved her sanity.

Hollywood is littered with the breached careers, and lives, of kid stars. “I don’t cognize wherefore I didn’t,” she says erstwhile I inquire wherefore she ne'er hurtled down that path. “I speech astir it a batch successful therapy, but I deliberation due to the fact that I was truthful …” She pauses. “I had to support my parent alive. The focal constituent for maine was keeping her alive, due to the fact that it was the 2 of america unsocial successful the world, successful my opinion.”

Shields’s mother, Teri, was a working-class miss from New Jersey who, done her wit, quality and unit of personality, had turned herself into a Manhattan socialite. She had go large with Brooke aft a little narration with a antheral from a affluent New York family; they divorced erstwhile Shields was 5 months old. Shields past spent a unusual puerility shuttling betwixt her father’s affluent Long Island beingness and her mother’s penniless bohemia.

Teri and Brooke Shields successful  1978.
Teri and Brooke Shields successful 1978. Photograph: Robert R McElroy/Getty Images

Shields was past – arsenic present – beautiful, and Teri recognised this, shepherding her daughter’s career. “She had this babe that looked this way, and that’s however we survived,” says Shields. “My looking a definite mode paid the bills.” Did that consciousness similar a large responsibility? “I conscionable loved the approval. And I loved moving and I loved being connected a set. We had fun, we travelled everywhere. So it wasn’t arsenic if I felt the work arsenic overmuch as: ‘Oh my God, we get to get a car. Oh, we bought a house. We bought different house.’ Like, if I bash this, we get this. That’s the mode it went for decades.” There was ne'er a plan, she says, and she stresses Teri wasn’t pushy. “As agelong arsenic I was happy, we kept doing it. I ne'er did thing I didn’t privation to do.”

But immoderate of the things Teri consented to connected her daughter’s behalf – oregon adjacent acceptable up herself – look truthful damaging. When Shields was 10, Teri commissioned a photographer, Gary Gross, to instrumentality nude photographs of her for the Playboy work Sugar’n’Spice (later, Tate Modern removed an artwork based connected the photograph, made by the creator Richard Prince, from an exhibition). When Shields, past 11, appeared successful Louis Malle’s movie Pretty Baby, playing a kid who grows up successful a brothel and is past auctioned disconnected to the highest bidder, she was filmed naked. Teri got a tempest of disapproval for allowing her girl to beryllium successful the movie – and for Blue Lagoon a fewer years later, successful which Shields and her co-star Chris Atkins are marooned connected an land arsenic children, spell done puberty and make a intersexual relationship. Shields had a assemblage treble for the enactment scenes, but the full happening is uncomfortable (off-screen, Shield wrote successful her memoir, she and Atkins were being encouraged to autumn successful emotion for real; she was 14, helium was 18). There is simply a misogynistic inevitability to the grade to which her parent was blamed, alternatively than the men who really made these films, but still, you person to wonderment what Teri was thinking. Would Shields person fto her daughters bash a movie similar Pretty Baby? “In 1977, probably,” she says. “Now, I don’t cognize if I would. It was a antithetic era.”

Does she look astatine the movie with antithetic eyes now? Shields, who wrote a thesis connected Malle’s enactment astatine college, is arrogant of the movie (through her mother, she grew up with an appreciation for European arthouse films). She talks for a portion astir its “cinematic portrayal”, but acknowledges: “I conscionable don’t cognize if you could marque that movie today. I conjecture you’d person to person an histrion who was older, playing younger.” She adds: “I’m not rather definite what the rules are now”, arsenic if it’s an HR issue, alternatively than a societal one. “But I besides wasn’t personally scathed by it.”

With Chris Atkins successful  The Blue Lagoon.
With Chris Atkins successful The Blue Lagoon. Photograph: Columbia Pictures/Allstar

Did she not consciousness it was damaging adjacent being exposed to those themes? “Not erstwhile you turn up successful New York. I mean, it conscionable takes 5 minutes to spot – connected the aged 42nd Street – what prostitution was. And besides I was precise sequestered from each of it successful my existent life. I was a virgin till I was 22, truthful it was each unreal successful my mind. I was an actress. I didn’t endure privately astir it.” But much widely, does she look backmost – astatine the films, the photos, the ads – and deliberation however damaging it is, arsenic a culture, to sexualise young girls similar that? “I deliberation it’s been done since the dawn of time, and I deliberation it’s going to support going on,” she says. She seems a small detached and world astir it, saying: “There’s thing incredibly seductive astir younker … I deliberation it conscionable has antithetic forms and it’s however you past it, and whether you take to beryllium victimised by it. It’s not successful my quality to beryllium a victim.”

If Teri was controlling, an upshot was that it was protective. Shields ne'er “had a #MeToo moment”, she points out. Her parent would adjacent travel with her to nights retired astatine Studio 54. “I could conscionable creation and person a truly bully time, and she would marque definite I got home,” says Shields. “I had schoolhouse the adjacent day. She protected me, like, cipher got adjacent me.” For each their antithetic situation, Teri tried to support a grade of normality for her girl – they stayed successful New York, alternatively than moving to Hollywood, and Shields attended mean schools – which astir apt explains wherefore she seems grounded today. Teri, says Shields, “had her issues, but I felt loved by her”.

She thinks her mother’s alcoholism – successful her memoir she writes painfully astir Teri’s erratic behaviour – astir apt steered her distant from portion oregon drugs, inadvertently alternatively than consciously. “I deliberation that it seemed similar a discarded of time. Being not present, to me, seemed similar a waste; she missed retired connected a lot.” Shields writes successful her publication that her vocation would person gone otherwise – oregon astatine slightest determination would person been a coagulated program – had she had a due agent, alternatively than her mother’s scattergun, moneymaking attack (at 1 constituent Meryl Streep’s cause wanted to instrumentality Shields on, truthful agelong arsenic she near Teri and committed to being an actor, alternatively than a celebrity; Teri refused to fto her bash it). “I deliberation my endowment would person been much guardant than my fame,” she says now. Then again, she adds brightly, “the fame trajectory” – the 1 that relied connected the products, and mag covers, and gossip astir dating Michael Jackson – possibly explains her longevity. “So connected the 1 hand, I deliberation it would person gone differently, but I’m not definite I would inactive beryllium here, oregon applicable oregon working.”

Shields with a Brooke Shields doll, successful  1982.
Shields with a Brooke Shields doll, successful 1982. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

It indispensable beryllium truthful unusual to person ne'er truly known anonymity. Did she consciousness capable to go her ain person? “I don’t deliberation I became my ain idiosyncratic until I got large with my archetypal kid,” says Shields. That was successful 2003. “I yet present americium my ain person. It’s taken this galore years, due to the fact that if you turn up being accountable to a persona, accountable to the public, there’s truthful galore antithetic things that we are encapsulated in. And past I had my archetypal kid, and nary 1 could archer maine truly however to bash it. Like, I’m liable for that person. I’m doing this with this kid, and you conscionable anticipation you don’t fuck them up.” She laughs.

It is besides astir getting older, she says. “For the past astir 20 years, I’ve been coming much into my own. I don’t walk clip with radical I don’t privation to walk clip with immoderate more. I don’t walk clip doing things I don’t privation to do. I don’t marque movies that don’t marque maine happy.” How overmuch of it was breaking distant from her mother? “I was similar a summertime distant from being Grey Gardens with my mom,” says Shields of the 1975 documentary astir a reclusive parent and daughter, some named Edie, who lived together. She says her archetypal husband, the tennis subordinate Andre Agassi, who she got unneurotic with successful 1993, “really helped maine benignant of individuate from my parent and instrumentality ownership of my vocation successful a proactive way. I deliberation that that started maine knowing that I could instrumentality power of my career, that I could absorption connected things that I wanted to do. So the individuation process from my ma was a batch aboriginal than most.”

Her matrimony to Agassi broke up successful 1999. In 2001, Shields joined the screenwriter and shaper Chris Henchy, with whom she has had 2 daughters. In her career, she recovered a location successful comedy; her starring relation successful the sitcom Suddenly Susan brought her 2 Golden Globe nominations. Her quality to nonstop herself up is evident connected her societal media accounts, and A Castle for Christmas would astir apt person been atrocious without Shields’s comic charm. Comedy, she says, “is wherever I americium the happiest”.

Teri and Brooke astatine  Studio 54 successful  1978.
Teri and Brooke astatine Studio 54 successful 1978. Photograph: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Was it a absorption against the teen sex-symbol image? She insists not, much that she’s portion of a agelong tradition. “The ocular of a beauteous miss falling connected her look someway is truly appealing. That’s been successful drama for a agelong time; Lucille Ball was a quality queen. My representation went done truthful galore antithetic machinations. I mean, it was like, I was the Lolita, past I was the astir celebrated virgin. Whatever anybody wanted to statement maine as, they did. Now I’m the slump person, due to the fact that I spoke astir postpartum depression.”

Shields wrote a book, Down Came the Rain, astir her acquisition of slump pursuing the commencement of her archetypal daughter, astatine a clip erstwhile fewer women, particularly movie stars, spoke astir it. “I conscionable acceptable retired to beryllium honest, due to the fact that I was suffering and I saw different radical suffer, and cipher was talking astir it, and that angered me,” says Shields. “I was like: wherefore should I beryllium made to consciousness similar I’m not a bully ma erstwhile nary 1 told maine astir this? So I decided to beryllium accountable and speech astir it, due to the fact that the shame surrounding it is truly unfortunate. And it did help, which I’m told rather frequently. I privation that determination had been thing that I could person read. I wanted to springiness radical forgiveness from it, I needed to beryllium fto disconnected my ain hook.”

In a vocation that has spanned much than 55 years, Shields – grounded, sensible and with a willingness to spot the ridiculous successful things – takes the agelong view. She realises that to effort to support her teen occurrence going would person been a immense unit arsenic good arsenic impossible, and that careers, if you’re fortunate capable to person a agelong one, spell up and down. “Nobody truly tin support it, but I learned that astatine a young age,” she says. “I’m not chasing it.”