to say that Brooke Shields was objectified during her early years, which would be the understatement of the century. It’s hard to understand how any of this happened, or how anyone thought it was okay, through a contemporary lens – modeling nude at age ten, becoming “the world’s youngest sex symbol” at age 12. Appearing nude in Branded, a major Hollywood motion picture, at the age of 15 she was able to achieve any semblance of normalcy, let alone graduate Princeton and become a powerful voice for mothers everywhere, is extraordinary. Is.
“You know, my professional life is such a life force in me, because it’s the only thing I’ve ever known,” Shields said in a new documentary. “Sometimes I wonder I got away with any of it.”
in Pretty Baby: Brooke ShieldsIn the two-part documentary premiering at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and later this year on Hulu, the former child star takes a candid look at her commodification and coercion, finally being allowed to control her own narrative .
Shields first began modeling as a child, appearing in an advertisement for Ivory soap. As she grew up, though still a child, cultural forces began to sexualize her in disturbing ways—a response cultural critics in the film suggest to be second-wave feminism. By the time she was 11, Shields was cast as a child prostitute beautiful baby, directed by the late French filmmaker Louis Malle. In one scene in the film, her character is brought out on a literal platter and auctioned off to the highest bidder. In another, she kisses actor Keith Carradine, an adult man.
“We had the first kissing scene. I had never kissed anybody before,” Shields recalls in the film. “I thought, Oh my God, I must know how to do this, but I don’t know how to do this. keith every time [Carradine] Tried to kiss, I would turn my face up. And Louis got upset with me.
It was a common theme: very young men controlling the Shield. At the age of 15, she appeared nude in the film blue Lagoon, a warped fantasy film about two teenagers who fall in love on a deserted island. Shields, who at the time had not had sex with a man, described it as a “reality show” where they wanted to “sell my real sexual awakening.” that year he also shot endless LovePlayed by the late Italian filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, who became so frustrated with Shields during the film’s sex scene that she wasn’t giving him what he wanted that he began to twirl his toe.
“Zeffarelli kept grabbing my toe and, like, twisting it so that I could see it… I feel ecstatic? But it was more anger than anything, because it was hurting me,” he remembers.
Shields was guided by her mother Teri (her parents divorced when she was young), a bohemian “force of nature” from Newark, New Jersey, who struggled with a severe drinking problem throughout her life. . Shields’ childhood friend, actress Laura Linney, describes in the film how they both used to hide in Shields’ bedroom as children when Terry was drunk and out of control.
“I didn’t enjoy that much success in the ’80s. I didn’t think, ‘Oh, I’ve done it.’ Shields says that all the things she was associated with these ‘sexy’ personas didn’t make her feel like who I really was. “I don’t blame my mom, but I wish she had a little more, ‘Oh, let’s see what that means. And will it come back to bite us?'”
director Lana Wilson (miss americanaShields’ entire journey throughout the film’s 136 minutes, from her highly publicized relationship with Michael Jackson (“It was very childlike…we were just friends”) to her sitcom success suddenly susan and serving as a public advocate for mothers suffering from postpartum depression, much to the chagrin of a certain high-ranking Scientologist.
One of the scariest parts of the doc deals with an episode involving photographer Gary Gross – an apt name if ever there was one. When Shields was ten years old, Gross, believed to be a family friend, took nude photographs of her in a bathtub, which were published in a book by Rizzoli. By the time she was 16, and had become a global superstar, Gross attempted to sell photographs. Therefore, Shields and her mother sued him in a New York court.
Shields, who was only 16 at the time, was cross-examined on the stand for two days and reduced to tears. At one point, Gross’s attorney even asked him, “You were having a good time getting naked at that point, weren’t you?” (She was 10.) To make matters worse, the court sided with Gross, maintaining that she owned these nude images of a child and had the right to do with them as she saw fit. .
Shields offers, “I was more hurt by the breakdown of trust and friendship than I was uneasy about the nature of the photo.” “That’s how I was treated by the men involved with the whole thing. It was kind of low-rent, low-grade — it had zero integrity, and to me it was very infuriating and hurtful. I mean, the entirety of my life, over and over and over again, it was, ‘She’s got a pretty face.’ ‘She’s a sex symbol.’ And that always bothered me because at the core of the creative and intelligent person that I was, I was kind of stupid.
By the time she graduated high school, Shields had taken back some control of her life. She went to Princeton (where she graduated), wrote books, and became a spokeswoman for teen girls.
“It didn’t really occur to me to hold my opinion for long. I thought, just listen to everybody and take in what they say,” says Shields. “I spent my life causing things to people and doing whatever they wanted. In the end, I asked myself: who would I be if I didn’t allow this anymore?
After graduation, however, she found that film roles had dried up. She says she was “vulnerable”, and around this time, was sexually assaulted by an unnamed filmmaker under the guise of meeting for a part. It’s a story he’s never shared publicly before.
“I absolutely froze,” she shares. My one ‘no’ should have been enough. And I just thought, ‘Stay alive, and get out.’ And I just closed it. And God knows I knew how to separate from my body. I practiced it.
She continues, “I wanted to erase the whole thing from my mind and my body, and stay on the path I was on. And the system never came to help me, you know? Had to be strong on my own.
And he did. Shields discovered she’s got a knack for comedy, first guest starring Friend as Joey’s hunter-girlfriend, and then with her own hit NBC sitcom suddenly susan, which ran for four seasons. She fell in love with tennis player Andre Agassi, who proved jealous and controlling, and then found true happiness with comedian Chris Henchy, whom she married in 2001.
After the birth of her child, Shields became the public face of postpartum depression, writing a book and running talk shows to discuss it, giving a voice to mothers around the world who had experienced similar issues. Shields also helped pass The Mothers Act—a groundbreaking piece of legislation that dedicates additional resources to helping mothers with postpartum depression. Hers is a remarkable story of overall resilience.
“I feel like I’m ready to say, ‘You all think I can’t do this, but look at me,'” says Shields. “And I think that’s what was happening in college as well. You know, ‘She’s not going to be serious.’ ‘She won’t be so shiny.’ But I thought, ‘You know what? Not only am I going to surprise them, but I am also going to surprise myself.’”