In the early 1980s, Brooke Shields was the most famous teenager on the planet. She was modeling for Calvin Klein and Vogue during the day and hanging out at Studio 54 at night. She got in the game at a very young age, and her whole future was ahead of her. Apart from the accomplishments she achieved in her life and career, it’s even more amazing that she came out of it all unscathed.
As a child star, her mother took over the reigns as her manager. And with that role came a complicated mother-daughter relationship. Only after Tori Shields died in 2012 did Brooke finally reveal what it was truly like to be the daughter of a troubled mother who both capitalized on and cocooned her. This is Brooke Shields’ story…
At 55, Brooke is still in great shape. Her 5 ft. 11 in. frame gets its daily dose of exercise and yoga. A few years ago, Social Life magazine asked her to pose in classic white Calvin Klein underwear for a photoshoot. The cover image went viral and everyone was buzzing with rumors that Brooke was about to appear in a new campaign for the brand that made her famous back in 1980.
Martha Stewart told Brooke at the CK fashion show, “I can’t wait to see you in Calvin Klein underwear.” This whole photo shoot was kind of a big deal. The original Calvin Klein ad launched thousands of imitations and became the standard for controversial ad campaigns.
In that 1980 commercial, Brooke asked, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” Brooke was only 15 at the time of the photoshoot, which Brooke says was “kind of an in-joke. You know, what answers that question?” Long before Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus, Brooke was the most famous teenager on the planet.
After all, she had been in the business since she was a baby. Before she was even one, she was a shampoo model (at 11 months old). Her first film was at the age of nine, and boy was it controversial. Why? Well, in her first feature film role, in 1978’s Pretty Baby, she played a pre-teen prostitute (and we’ll get into that soon).
After Pretty Baby, Brooke starred in 1980’s The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love in 1981. In 1981 alone, Brooke graced the covers of over 30 magazines. She was the innocent pin-up girl: the girl next door who peered out from her luscious mane of hair. She was both pure and seductive at the same time.
Whether we like it or not, the actress/model’s virginity was something of a national obsession. Thanks to her 1985 autobiography On Your Own–which came out when she was just 20–we discovered who her “first” was. And it happened to be someone whom her mother and manager had a problem with…
When Brooke was a junior at Princeton, she fell in love with the future Superman star, Dean Cain, who was a football player at the university. The pair dated for a few years. In her new memoir, There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me, Brooke revealed that her mother/manager Tori Shields had a real hold over her, including her dating life.
“She loved that I had briefly dated John Travolta, Jimmy McNichol, Leif Garrett, Scott Baio and John Kennedy,” she wrote of her mother, who “trusted that I would keep my vow of chastity.” But when she met Cain, it was a different story.
Brooke was extremely candid in her latest memoir, revealing that her mother was “unjustly judgmental” of her romantic relationship with Cain – that “she feared it on a deeper level.” According to Brooke, her mother wanted her daughter “to stay hers alone.”
She had a real grip on her daughter, and if the young Brooke started dating, falling in love, and getting intimate with men, it meant that she was leaving her mom, as Brooke explained in her memoir. “The night” finally came when Brooke was 22 after she and Cain had already been together “for what seemed like a lifetime.”
Brooke admitted that she felt instant guilt – that it “slapped [her] in the face.” Brooke got so overwhelmed that she jumped out of her bed and bolted out of the room. There she was, running nude down a hallway. She described herself as “running as if I had just stolen someone’s wallet. What a sight!”
Dean ran after Brooke with the blanket in his arms. He caught up to her, covered her in a blanket, and stopped her from running. The lovebirds’ relationship didn’t last too long after that, though. Brooke explained her relationship with Cain ended after college.
Brooke felt guilt for having – as she saw it – betrayed her mother. While it’s not the healthiest of emotions, it could be said that her mother was just trying to keep her daughter safe. Brooke was, indeed, famous from a very, very young age.
“I was famous from the neck up,” Brooke joked of her early years in the public eye. “I was a kid. I was in a cocoon with my mom.” She described in her memoir just how enmeshed she and her mother were. Brooke’s parents had divorced when she was only five months old, and Teri raised her alone in Manhattan.
Brooke said her mother “drank and cursed like a construction worker.” She would sometimes haul her out of bed in the middle of the night for a heart-to-heart. Teri would interrupt a journalist in the middle of an interview because her 20-something daughter had to “go tinkles.”
Teri guarded her daughter around the clock, taking full control of her career, fending off agents and men alike, fearing that it would mean the end of her control over “little Brookie.” Brooke revealed that she “didn’t know where my mother ended and I began.” Brooke’s immaturity was, after all, part of her “brand.”
Brooke Shields was only 14 when she filmed The Blue Lagoon, the infamously scandalous film about two young teens with raging hormones stranded on an island. The film was, without a doubt, shocking to pretty much anyone who saw it. When it debuted on July 5, 1980, it was a jaw-dropper. Over 40 years later and it still raises eyebrows.
Even after The Blue Lagoon wrapped and debuted in theaters, issues related to Brooke’s age at the time of filming lingered. Years later, she testified before a U.S. Congressional inquiry that body doubles (who were of legal age) were used throughout filming.
Still, there were tons of scenes in which a body double wasn’t possible. And considering that Brooke was just 14, it meant the production team had the challenge of keeping her covered up, especially since her character Emmeline was frequently topless. Costume designers came up with a plan to keep her covered up at all times: They glued her long-haired wig to her body.
There was also another plan put in place for getting the two main characters to like each other. Because the chemistry between the two was vital to the success of the film, director Randal Kleiser came up with a way to make the teens’ budding romance believable on-screen.
Kleiser (who also directed Grease) found a way to get Christopher Atkins feeling a bit love-struck with his co-star by putting a picture of the young starlet over the young actor’s bed. Staring at Brooke every night apparently did the job and roused some feelings of attraction.
Reportedly, there was a bit of puppy love off-screen between the two while filming. “Brooke and I had a little bit of a romantic, innocent sort of romance in the very beginning of the film,” Atkins confessed to HuffPost. “It was very nice — we were very, very close friends.”
Despite the co-stars’ early attachment, Brooke and Atkins began bickering non-stop. “Brooke got tired of me,” Atkins admitted to People in 1980, the year the film came out. “She thought I took acting too seriously. I was always trying to get into a mood while she would be skipping off to joke with the crew.”
Kleiser (a master manipulator of sorts) even capitalized on the fact that his two stars were butting heads. He used the tension to fuel the more frustrating scenes, making the tougher scenes as real as the romantic ones were. Critics weren’t too impressed by Brooke’s acting, though. She “won” a Razzie Award for her role.
When the Brooke Shields doll was in production, Teri insisted that they alter the doll’s torso to make the chest flatter. On the other hand, Teri, who passed away in 2012, also pushed her daughter towards risque material. She commissioned a photographer to take nude photos of her when Brooke was only 10 (which led to a lawsuit).
“It was a really interesting disconnect,” Brooke recalled. “I didn’t know she was so broken until later in life.” Letting her daughter take on a role such as the one in Pretty Baby is something the actress only later came to realize wasn’t the best decision. That said, Brooke has no regrets…
Brooke was only 11 when she filmed Pretty Baby in 1978, the controversial drama about a child prostitute. She starred as 12-year-old Violet, who lives with her prostitute mother in a brothel in 1917 New Orleans.
The film obviously created a lot of buzz, but Brooke was shielded (pun intended) from the controversy ignited by her nude scenes. Teri saved every article and review that was written about her daughter, never sharing them with her. If Brooke ever hinted that she heard negative comments about her or the film, her mother would say, “Are you proud of what you did? Well, then f*** ‘em.”
To this day, regardless of all the complications that surrounded Pretty Baby, Brooke remains resolutely proud of the movie. The film by Louis Malle made a lasting impression on the pre-teen star, just as she was presenting herself to the world in her first starring role.
According to Brooke, it was the best creative project she’s ever been associated with and the best group of people she’s ever worked with. Still, Brooke almost decided to quit making movies afterward. The intensity of making and promoting it, as well as the trauma of faking an on-set family only to see it break apart when shooting wrapped, was hard on her at the time.
By then, Brooke had done modeling, commercials, and a few made-for-TV movies. She was promptly killed off in her first-ever film, 1976’s Alice, Sweet Alice. She also got edited out of Annie Hall (she was sitting in the classroom next to the girl who was “into leather”).
For Louis Malle, the award-winning director of controversial films like Elevator to the Gallows and The Lovers, Pretty Baby was his first American film. The film’s R-rated content wasn’t an issue for Teri. Apparently, she taught her daughter to appreciate foreign films.
During the 1970s, the mother-daughter pair were living in New York, which meant that they knew sleazy and gross when they saw it. For them, Pretty Baby was neither. The film was actually based on a real place and inspired by the life of E. J. Bellocq, a photographer who documented Storyville prostitutes.
In the film, Bellocq’s character falls in love with the young Violet and sets up house with her. Susan Sarandon played the mother, and Keith Carradine was Bellocq. “We knew this was a labor of love,” Brooke said of making the film. “More than anything, we felt we were part of something special.”
Brookes also revealed in her memoir that there was plenty of drama on the set. There was a point where an attempt was allegedly made on her mother’s life following a report Teri made to the labor board that her daughter was being overworked.
Brooke said two experiences were traumatic. The first was the dissolution of the family unit they created on set when it all ended. “I remember being on the plane just sobbing.” She also had to endure the Cannes Film Festival, where the movie created an uproar.
At one point, someone from the crowd emerged with scissors. He was restrained when he tried to cut Brooke’s hair. “I hated everything about Cannes,” she recalled. “I had never seen frenzy like that. It was so obscene but absurd. I couldn’t identify with it… the attention was really scary.”
Teri was attacked for allowing her daughter to star in such a film. On the Phil Donahue daytime talk show, audience members yelled out, “This is terrible you let your daughter do this!” Teri responded by asking, “Have you seen the film?” But people would say, “No, I would never go see a movie like that.”
Whereas the public sent out hate, film critics gave both the movie and Brooke good reviews. The film even inspired a song: Blondie’s Pretty Baby. It’s actually something Brooke didn’t even know until she met Debbie Harry at a magazine shoot in 1981.
Brooke, of course, went on to make more movies, but Pretty Baby set a high standard. Her next film was Tilt, where she played a teenage pinball wizard runaway, and it was “so disappointing” for the young star. Before Pretty Baby, Brooke was doing commercials. Her first job was for Ivory soap.
She was a successful child model with agent Eileen Ford, who stated that she only started her children’s division because of Brooke Shields. By 14, she was appearing on the cover of Vogue. A year later, she shot that controversial Calvin Klein jeans ad.
Those ads catapulted both CK and Brooke to superstar status. Those years, as exciting as they were, were tainted by lawsuits. Between 1981 and 1983, Brooke, her mother, photographer Garry Gross, and Playboy Press were involved in litigation over the rights to photographs that Teri had signed away to Gross in 1975.
Gross was the photographer of that controversial set of nude images. They were taken of a then 10-year-old Brooke with the consent of her mother, and they were to be part of the Playboy press publication Sugar ’n’ Spice.
The images portray a nude Brooke, standing and sitting in a bathtub, wearing makeup and covered in oil. The courts ended up ruling in favor of the photographer. Apparently, there was a strange twist in New York law. It would have ended differently had Brooke been considered a child “performer” rather than a model.
By the age of 16, Brooke was one of the most recognizable faces in America thanks to her dual career as a provocative fashion model and child actress. Time magazine reported in a 1981 cover story that the young teenager’s daily rate as a model was $10,000.
But controversial movies, ads, and photoshoots weren’t the only projects that the young actress/model was doing. It was during this period that Brooke became a regular at the nightclub Studio 54 in New York City. And anyone who knows Studio 54 knows that it was by no means a place for minors to be. Brooke insisted, though, that she stayed drug-free and was always in bed by 10 p.m.
The child star was introduced to the wild side of Hollywood (albeit in New York City) very early. Brooke, who was unaware of her surroundings (thanks to her mom), would find herself in all kinds of situations. She would get invited to industry parties and events.
“I would get invited to Studio 54, but I’d leave before all the craziness and drugs happened. I never saw the bag passed around,” she insisted. The club’s regulars, like Andy Warhol “and all those guys,” were very sweet to her. “There was something about me that they wanted to protect and uphold,” she explained.
Before Dean Cain, Brooke was seen out with a number of famous guys. One of them was Michael Jackson, a fellow child star in the midst of a media frenzy. The two met when she was 13 and he 19. In 2009, she spoke at his memorial service, giving a speech that detailed how the two met.
They became fast friends who “just felt safe with each other,” she said in her speech. She described how they watched movies, ate candy and laughed at the craziness around them. “We loved each other, but it was not at all romantic.”
Brooke spoke about their friendship and the time they spent together. Whenever they were out together, there would be a caption of some kind that read “an odd couple” or “an unlikely pair.”
As Brooke pointed out, to her and Michael, it wasn’t odd at all. They felt as though it was the easiest of friendships. “Michael always knew he could count on me to support him or be his date and that we would have fun no matter where we were.”
Michael and Brooke shared a bond that most young friends never experience: Both of them needed to be adults very early, “but when we were together, we were two little kids having fun.” In her eulogy, she spoke of an occasion when she was his date for one of Elizabeth Taylor’s weddings.
The pair snuck into Taylor’s room to get the first look at her wedding dress, only to find Taylor asleep in the bed. Brooke also joked about his famous sequin glove. Her eulogy was tear-filled and sincere, despite the fact that Brooke had last seen Michael at Taylor’s eighth wedding in 1991.
All that was from Brooke’s perspective. Even though she described their relationship as platonic, Michael told Oprah in 1993 that he was dating Brooke at the time. Apparently, he asked her to marry him numerous times and to even adopt a child together.
In 2001, Michael said that Brooke was “one of the loves of [his] life.” He said he had pictures of her all over his wall, his mirror, “everything.” Michael said that he met her at the Academy Awards, and she asked if she wants to go to the after-party with her. There, they danced, exchanged numbers, and began a relationship. They just seemed to differ in opinion as to the true nature of it.
When Brooke and Scott Baio, the Happy Days heartthrob, were together, they were two teen idols. They seemed like a real “it couple,” but as Brooke pointed out in her memoir, their dates were just for show. Baio also admitted that Brooke was “just a friend.”
“We were both puppies,” Scott once said about their time together in the spotlight. At the time, Brooke was about 13 or 14, and Scott was 18 or 19.
Brooke and John Travolta were an item when they both had films coming out (hers was Endless Love, and his was Blow Out). At the time, her publicity-hungry mom played matchmaker between her 16-year-old daughter and the 27-year-old actor in 1981.
Although the relationship was reportedly platonic, the two did develop an affection for each other. “Brooke exudes goodness,” he said of her in an interview. “She’s untainted. You don’t want anyone to hurt her or say the wrong things because she’s special.” (I must say that it sounds a little creepy coming from him, but I’ll leave it at that).
When Brooke graduated from Princeton (where she majored in French Literature) and ended her relationship with Cain, she was wooed by another future star, Liam Neeson. He won her over, apparently, with poetry and wine.
“I was so impressed with going out with a real movie star,” she wrote in her memoir. “We got serious after only three months. He asked me to marry him without a ring.” Soon after their fling fizzled, Neeson moved on, finding and falling in love with his co-star and future wife, Natasha Richardson.
Brooke’s first marriage was with tennis pro Andre Agassi. They met in 1993 when she was in her late 20s and were married for only two years, from 1997 to 1999. Amusingly, they began a courtship over fax! “We began to communicate via long rambling faxes about life and God and the strange burden of fame and overpowering parents,” she revealed.
But soon enough, love turned to jealousy. Friends fans might be interested in hearing that Agassi made a scene on the set of Friends when Brooke played an obsessed fan of Joey’s. Nevertheless, the couple wed two years later.
Brooke married the then-Spin City supervising producer Chris Henchy after working together on the NBC special Christmas in Washington in 1998. After her 1999 divorce to Agassi, her romance with Chris blossomed. A few years later, in 2001, they tied the knot.
In fact, they walked down the aisle in a surprise ceremony in Marina del Rey, California. “If there’s a moment when I’m starting to feel insecure, all he has to do is say, ‘You know, you look beautiful,’” Brooke revealed to People Magazine. “And I know it’s coming from a sincere place.” Brooke and Chris have two daughters and have been together for about two decades.
In the spring of 2005, after the birth of their first daughter in 2003, Brooke spoke to magazines and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to speak publicly about her battle with postpartum depression. She wrote about it in her book Down Came the Rain, in which she attributed a number of factors that led to it.
The depression may have been triggered by the death of her father three weeks prior to her delivery, which she said was a traumatic childbirth. She was also dealing with stress from in vitro fertilization, a miscarriage, and a family history of depression.
On top of all that, there are all the hormones and life changes brought on by childbirth. After her public statements about her struggles, actor Tom Cruise (a Scientologist) condemned her, both personally and professionally.
He criticized her for using and speaking in favor of the antidepressant drug Paxil. Cruise said: “Here is a woman, and I care about Brooke Shields because I think she is an incredibly talented woman; you look at and think, where has her career gone?” Brooke’s responded that he should “stick to fighting aliens” and let mothers decide the best way to treat postpartum depression.
Her daughters, Rowan and Grier, are now in their teens, and Brooke understands the desire to keep them safe from the seductiveness of Hollywood. “I want to put a chastity belt on my girls; I get it,” she said with a smile.
She finds it particularly difficult with her older daughter and the men who stare at her and her body. But, it’s important to note that her relationship with her daughters is far from the one she had with her own mother. Brooke says she is amazed to see how independent her girls are – something she definitely was not at their age.
Believe it or not, Brooke Shields has faced criticism about her body for a long time, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that her mother made Brooke question her looks from an early age. “My mother would get drunk and say, ‘Why don’t you move your fat ass?’ So, I’ve always believed I had a fat ass,” she explained.
According to Brooke, it was her husband, Chris, who finally helped her see her own body in a positive light. She admitted that she would walk backward out of rooms, and Chris would say, “No, I want to grab onto you.”
In February 2021, Brooke revealed that she had broken her leg. Apparently, it was due to a freak fall on a balance board. “I was on one of those balance boards that I have been doing every day,” she explained. “It was just something that I like to do.”
Brooke said that she’s done it on Instagram and “stupidly” switched her focus and flew up in the air and snapped her femur, “you know, the largest bone in the body.” Ouch. The femur is the big bone in your thigh if you’re curious.
Brooke posted a photo on Instagram when she was still in the hospital, showing herself in the hospital gown with a walker: “Beginning to mend,” her caption read. “No matter what your challenge is, make a positive choice, for yourself, to move forward.”
During the lockdown, Brooke made the most of a bad situation with her in-home workout videos on Instagram Live. She also has an upcoming romantic comedy on Netflix called A Castle for Christmas. At least by then, she’ll be able to make red carpet appearances on both legs!