Being Brooke Shields these days is pretty great.
At 57, she still has that same arresting face. Her marriage to television writer Chris Henchy is into its third decade. She’s a doting mother to two girls, Rowan, 19, and Grier, 16. And she’s about to shoot a rom-com with Benjamin Bratt in Thailand.
That’s all in contrast to the tumultuous, scrutinized and at times harrowing life Shields smiled her way through as one of the most famous models on the planet.
That rollercoaster is the focus of “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,” a two-part documentary (both parts streaming Monday on Hulu) that explores topics such as her nude scenes at age 11, the relationship with her alcoholic mother/manager, Teri, postpartum depression and a casting meeting rape.
But what might have broken many ultimately fortified Shields.
“I was in an industry that shoots you to fame and gives you money and exposure, and you hear stories of so many young people who fall prey to addiction and lose their way,” she says. “It was miraculous to me that I didn’t fall into those traps. But it was because I was caring for an alcoholic, and I saw what I did not want to become.”
She’s concerned that today’s girls are ‘overly sexualizing themselves’
“Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,” which premiered at Sundance Film Festival this year, borrows its title from the infamous 1978 Louis Malle film “Pretty Baby” that shot a young prostitute-playing Shields to infamy. The documentary explores the sexualization of women, which Shields laments is worse in the age of self-posted and often highly racy TikTok videos.
“While we may have made progress as a culture in the sense that the messaging from girls today is ‘I’m deciding what I put out there’ in those videos, there is frankly a whole other level of sexualization that to me looks scarier than what I felt when I was a child,” she says. “I was so naive about my sexuality. But I do feel these young young girls are overly sexualizing themselves.”
Which explains why Shields balked when her daughter Grier announced she wanted to get into runway modeling.
“I was adamantly against it for years,” she says. “But I realized she was passionate, and if I’m the mother I’m professing to be, someone who listens, I had to start saying, ‘OK what can I do to help her?’ And I could help with connections to people I trusted.”
Brooke Shields has no regrets about choosing not to report her rape at a Hollywood meeting
A person Shields trusted raped her in Los Angeles during what was supposed to be a meeting about a role. As the actress recounts in the film, she chose not to report the assault, which happened when she was in her 20s. It’s a pre-#MeToo movement decision she doesn’t second-guess.
“There was no way that I would have been able to feel that I would be heard or that it wouldn’t destroy me. I was at a tenuous place in my career, people weren’t getting cast at my age. I couldn’t afford to jeopardize that. So I got on my own journey to come to grips with it, and it’s taken this long.”
Though Shields chose to put the rape in her rearview mirror, she remains keen to revisit relationships that meant something to her.
There was her boyfriend at Princeton University, a football player named Dean Cain who would go on to play Superman on TV. As America’s most famous 20-year-old virgin, Shields felt her relationship with Cain was freighted with more baggage that either of them could handle.
“He was very sweet, and I was able to thank him for that years later,” she says. “I was surprised I got that far with him, considering what I held inside, the responsibility and pressure and the fear.”
Brooke Shields renewed her friendship with Michael Jackson, but ex Andre Agassi remains aloof
She also rekindled her friendship with Michael Jackson, which had been founded on a shared commiseration of the rigors of early fame. That connection ruptured when Jackson publicly implied the two were dating, which she says was not true.
“But my friendship with Michael lasted,” she says. The singer died in 2009 at age 50. “He was the first person to reach out to me when my father (Revlon executive Francis Shields) died in 2003, and he congratulated me when I had my first daughter (in 2003). He always wanted me to feel celebrated.”
The relationship that has not bounced back is the one with tennis star Andre Agassi, to whom Shields was married from 1997 to 1999. Agassi later married tennis legend Steffi Graf. In the documentary, Agassi is depicted as supportive but ultimately jealous.
“I’ve never reconnected with him,” she says. “That was an important stage and relationship in my life and I don’t regret it. It afforded me a lot of space from my mother and gave me this belief in my own talent. That was one of the main beautiful purposes of the marriage. But I don’t know if he does that much reflection on things. People process things very, very differently and I have come to respect that.”
Her casting dream? A guest role on ‘Hacks’
Not that Shields is looking back much these days. She says she’s “ready to work from the minute I wake up,” whether it’s preparing for her upcoming shoot in Asia or an as-yet unrealized dream gig: a guest-starring role on the Emmy-winning comedy “Hacks.”
“I love all sorts of shows, but ‘Hacks’ to me is sublime, as it’s is very much my realm of humor,” says Shields, whose sitcom “Suddenly Susan” ran from 1996 to 2000. “I would hope I could be on it. Maybe not playing myself, but a version of myself maybe?”
Not doubt the version of Shields that, finally, seems content.
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