Brooke Shields is well known for a number of high-profile touchstones, including but not limited to playing a child prostitute in 1978’s Pretty Baby; 1980s erotic coming-of-age film The Blue Lagoon; the romantic drama Endless Love; not to mention those Calvin Klein ads and that Vogue cover, which, at fourteen, made her the youngest model to ever occupy such illustrious real estate. Over the next thirty-six years, she proceeded to cover a total of fourteen Vogue covers, star in her own television series, which garnered two Golden Globe nods for Best Actress, as well as star in several Broadway performances including Chicago and Cabaret. In August Brooke collaborated with MAC Cosmetics on their “Icon” line, which is currently available at MAC and several other retailers that carry the make-up brand. She was also recently recognized as an “Honorary Muse” at the annual charity auction and dinner event “Take Home A Nude,” which took place at Sotheby’s in New York City earlier in the fall of 2014.
We caught up with Brooke for an exclusive photo shoot with EIC Indira Cesarine as well as interview with style director, Phillip Bloch about her life, career and forthcoming memoirs. Check out the full interview below and pick up a copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 or download the free “Legendary” Issue App on iTunes now!
Phillip Bloch: What do you consider to be the definition of “legendary”?
Brooke Shields: Obviously, longevity is the word that comes to mind. I also believe that ‘legendary’ pertains to an individuality that hits at the right time. We’ve seen when something hits and when something doesn’t, and what endures and what doesn’t. It doesn’t have to mean that it’s ‘new’, but it has to continually have the ability to adapt, just enough, to maintain a sense of longevity. Or the legends that die—they die before being a legend.
PB: Cher, on David Letterman, talks about how dying is one of the best things you could do for your career, which makes you legendary…
BS: I also think that you can’t set out to be legendary; you can’t covet it or attain it. I think, much of the time it happens much, much later—meaning that it gets defined. It takes time to become a legend.
PB: …or even an icon.
BS: Right, I sort of put them in the same category. It is a projected-upon concept. I think it’s something that either society decides or whatever was in the zeitgeist at that time, or whatever the trend is. Why was I the look of the 80s? It’s arbitrary. That in itself becomes the icon, or those legendary eyebrows.
PB: Snooki would have never been “Snooki” in the 1970s.
BS: But there’s a difference. In a decade, in the next generation, are they going to know who they are? Or even who a Kardashian is? I think the actual concept of ‘legendary’ has to go past your time. It has to pass a few generations.
PB: If you could do it all over again, would you choose to be a child model or actress?
BS: I definitely would, because now I see how hard it is. If everybody else hadn’t pushed as much as they had — it hasn’t been easy — but I was the first child at four at a modeling agency, so I had an advantage. I know how hard it is to break in, and I know how hard it is to decide who you want to be when you’re older, so it was sort of decided for me. I’m actually thankful, because it sent me on a trajectory of an amazing life— very high highs and very low lows— but still, there was an extraordinary quality about it. I don’t think that would have happened had I not been a model at the right time and right place at eleven months old.
PB: Do you think it would have happened for you now? It’s all about time and place. If you were eleven months old now, would that happen?
BS: I’m just not sure, because when I was working, I used to not get work because I was too European looking. I wasn’t all-American looking. Now people want European, so maybe it would have been easier for me to do some things. It’s a very weird thing. I don’t think that I would have survived as well if everything happened in this time. If I didn’t have a single mother who knew a photographer and hung out with all the hairdressers and makeup artists, and who hadn’t made it a point to get out of where she was from, and make a name for herself in this city… it all pointed towards me! ‘ME, ME, ME, ME, ME.’ That type of focus, whatever you want to say about it, it did keep this encapsulated career going in some direction. Maybe not always the right ones, maybe yes, maybe no. I have a team of people now, but now and back then, they’re not thinking about me.
PB: Who do you consider today to be a legendary actress that you admire?
BS: I saw Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine; I hadn’t seen it when I first was able to. I was mesmerized. I don’t know who I would pick as an American.
PB: Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett—it’s the Aussies and the Brits!
BS: I think there’s versatility too. In Philomena, Judi Dench. You see these types of people. I gravitate towards the Brits, and it’s not from jealousy. I watch some actresses, and I’ll get a kick out of them, but there aren’t any American actresses that are given an opportunity to show that they can be iconic in their performances… Natalie Portman? Michelle Williams? There’s a certain generation younger than myself.
Even Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock— I get a kick out of watching them. But I don’t think they’re necessarily given the opportunity [to expand in the scope of their roles]. I do think there are some things that elude them. I think that someone like Natalie Portman did it right, and this has to be taken properly. But I look at her in The Professional, and I look at Pretty Baby, and I look at her next move, whether it was strategic or not, it was Anne Frank on Broadway, including the Ivy League education. She’s the only person who did that. I think we’re going to see really great things from her, but she was in an era where she was allowed to be considered an actress.
PB: You and Jodi broke that barrier.
BS: It was a very odd thing. I pretty quickly became a celebrity in a way. I became larger than life— I became too many things all at once. You can’t very well do a movie with Zeffirelli and then eventually sell hair dryers, but now you can.
PB: Nicole Kidman is selling watches and getting an Oscar.
BS: The crossover is like, TV to film, to the stage, to watches.
PB: Mo’Nique got an Oscar and her next thing is being the moderator of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.
BS: And she’ll probably never get another one. It’s probably the kiss of death. I do think that I was multi-faceted at a time, and people didn’t know what to do with it. But then again, it was really hard to follow up on a movie— a Zeffirelli movie, a Louis Malle movie. Unless you specifically decide, ‘I’m only going to Europe, I’m only going to do this, I’m only going to do that,’ you have to have the freedom financially. When someone comes to you and says you’re going to make an ‘X’ amount to sell blue jeans, you’re like, ‘I can get a car…’ You need to have the freedom to be able to be strategic, and not everybody has that. It was a very different world then.
PB: What was the most difficult performance of your career?
BS: They’re difficult for difficult reasons. Brad and I met during a show that was absolute torture for me. The only part about it was the friendships that I got coming out of it. Because I was miscast and not taken care of, I was put in a position that was impossible for me to succeed. Even though I kept saying it, it was on deaf ears, because they wanted the publicity and the money, and I ended up taking the fall for it. That was an emotional blow. No matter how bad a project is or feels, I can come out of it either having a really great moment of performance and getting noticed for it, or everyone gets blamed or the director gets blamed. Movies like Pretty Baby and Endless Love were the most tedious and the most emotionally droughted and tiring. European directors don’t give you approval. I was like a puppy… ‘Give me a cookie! Give me a cookie!’ However, I don’t believe you have to be miserable to be good. I honestly thought that those were the only two performances of my life that I cared for, and Black and White, which I loved.
PB: Black and White was good; that shifted people’s perception of you.
BS: I was able to distinguish myself for the moment. I don’t think I did any more movies of the same quality. Brenda Starr — I loved the character. The movie wasn’t ever as good as the character.
PB: How has your career changed since you had kids?
BS: I don’t like to leave them for long periods of time. It’s made me pickier about roles that are close, especially on television. I can’t say I’m turning things down, but I also take the rejection a bit… the feeling of rejection doesn’t last as long but it still hits hard and is still constant, but I don’t have time to think about that. I have bigger problems. If I give them the message of ‘Boo-hoo, poor me. I didn’t get picked’, it’s not a very healthy image to impart on your children. It’s so hard not to do, because they see it on a daily basis. My older one, she just won something and she tells me I’m supposed to know, and not supposed to tell anybody. But then she asks me “Are you proud?” and I think ‘Oh God! What if she didn’t get picked?’ It’s how you get through it when you don’t get picked [that counts]. Most of the time you’re not going to get picked. It’s how life works.
PB: Would you encourage your children to get into modeling or in the industry?
BS: It may be unavoidable. I won’t let them not get an education. I will seriously disown them if they don’t go to college.
PB: What do you think about the recent changes regarding the modeling industry and children? There have been a lot of laws about weight and children.
BS: I think it got out of hand for a while. I think protection is needed for these young kids because, I mean, I had my mom and Ford. Those are bookends you can’t not have. I think the kids need it. I do think that I had a double standard in a way, because I was underage, but it wasn’t close to being as provocative as what it is now. So I think that it went a bit too far. It’s the same thing as when Jackie Coogan’s law went into effect. All those kids’ fortunes got swooped away by whatever. It’s this era’s version of that. If you’re on the runway at that age, and if you’re susceptible, how could you not be? You’re on a road that could be potentially devastating and you don’t have the support system around. There are a lot of bad people around and it’s easy to do. And yeah, if you tell me to take a pill that will make me skinny, I would. I’d smoke cigarettes and have pills for breakfast, too. I grew up learning that that wasn’t the way to go. But if you’re a kid from Brazil, and you’re gorgeous and fourteen, this is glamorous.
PB: I think the one thing great about you, you have a mature beauty and you were tall. You didn’t seem fourteen. You didn’t seem like a child.
BS: The interesting thing about that was my mother was the one; not smoking, but drinking the alcohol and going ‘Don’t tell Brooke.’
PB: You were sometimes the mother in that relationship. You were the responsible one.
BS: I was very responsible, and I thrived on being responsible because I got rewarded. I don’t think it was a sense of superiority. I went to regular schools, and the kids were doing all this stuff, and I was like ‘Oh, that’s just terrifying. I don’t want to do that.’ I was such a nerd, a complete geek, but then I was lucky enough to have a fancy career, where I could be like, ‘See I’m not a nerd. Look, I’m on Vogue.’
PB: What do we see next for Brooke Shields?
BS: I am currently writing a book, my next book. It’s not a follow up but is definitely in a similar memoir vein. That will take me about another year. It’s a long, tedious, frightening undertaking, but I have to do it. I am currently coming out with a new television show that I am very excited about and hopefully we get it set up soon.
PB: Can we still see you on The Middle?
BS: I just did an episode of The Middle and I’m not sure what the fate of the Michael J. Fox Show is. It doesn’t look good, but I think they’re going to air my episodes. I definitely have another musical in me— another original. Or an original remake at least. I’ve done it five times, six times if you consider London. It’s great! I’ve played some of the most incredible characters. I’ve gotten great reviews and I’ve made best friends— and talk about getting in shape. It spoils you, because you get fitter than you imagine being after a run.
PB: It’s almost addictive. If it wasn’t exhausting, it was addictive.
BS: It’s funny because in real life, I don’t know how to do it. I only know the extreme. It’s a bit of a high to thrive on it. The pressure is on!
PB: You thrive on pressure?
BS: Also, someone said something: “Doing Broadway is like, you get up in the morning around 10:00 or 11:00, you slip a noose over your neck, and you just walk around with it. It kind of hangs around, and as the day goes on, you tighten it just a little bit. By the time it’s curtain, you’re just dangling your feet enough to get through it. Then curtain down, and you drop, and you do the whole thing all over again.” There is something very vivid in that imagery and although it is a terrible image— and I lost a friend to that — there is a sense of foreboding that makes you say ‘Why am I doing this to myself, why?’ And then you do it again.
PB: They asked me if I would do Dancing with the Stars. I said ‘I’m petrified.’ I can speak in front of 5,000 people, I can do live TV, but that live theater performance would petrify me.
BS: It’s scary enough for people that it doesn’t petrify. It’s not worth it. You have to love the whole life of it and you have to be willing to sacrifice.
PB: Any more shameless plugs we need to put in here? Can we talk about La-Z-Boy?
BS: I start— on the 27th? I’m doing the next whole installment of commercials, they told me, and I just signed on two more years with them.
PB: How do you make that interesting to you?
BS: Because I get a really good director, I have complete approval of the storyboards, the beauty team, and the direction. I have a good filmmaker, people to direct, people who directed a lot of music videos. I make sure that there is a true thread of humor through all of them. Whether I’m doing a prep fall with an elephant or a girl is whacking me every time I say it’s La-Z-Boy, there’s a physical humor to it. When I signed on four years ago, I said, listen, we are both American brands, we are joined forces and we have to be willing to not make fun of ourselves, but take the piss out of it. You have to draw attention to the thing, and that’s why there was the elephant in the room. There was a definite layer of humor. I got to do this crazy practice fall— it’s always funny to see some glamorous person fall on their face. They’re really a lovely company. They manufacture in America; they are generous. They’re an old family business that endured time, and it was a good fit. I don’t go there and dread it. I go there and ask, how can we make this better? How can we make this fun? It’s a collaboration. I’m sure when Mizrahi first went into Target, people were like, oh really? Now it’s the coolest thing. And now Cindy Crawford…. I guarantee you if you ask any of these actresses considered in my age bracket or around, they would die for a contract like this. People are clamoring for a campaign. There is potential for growth in this relationship for me. I look at everything in terms of the long haul. I have just designed a really beautiful linen line bedding and linens—and it’s for Walmart. For instance, I did this house. I loved it and I love decorating; I love having my own line. I’m working with the company Hometex, and I poured over and over all of the piping. Then you have to talk out the thread count and you have to say, okay, what’s the price point for this at Walmart? People want things to look rich; they want to feel like they’re living like so-and-so. It’s so much fun to be involved in the creative end of it. While I have my hand up saying, ‘Pick me!’ and it’s not happening, I’m able to work on the next chapter of my book without too much over saturation.
PB: I call it the 401K… Once you have these collections, these things go and go.
BS: They have been burned by a lot of people, and I think I’m the person who wants to go into the factory, and they love it. So, it’s nice to work; you’re putting the money back into the economy.
PB: You are a full-service kind of girl. You really think everything through.
BS: One stop shopping gal. I have a great team that cross-reference each other.
PB: Men are considered for their iconic character or power, as well as their accomplishments. Women seem to mostly be iconic for their fashion, their sense of style, beauty, or even just the men they marry, like Princess Diana, Jackie Kennedy, Liz Taylor. It’s so hard for women, you know? When you think back to who were the iconic women, like Audrey Hepburn, what do we think? Oh, black shift dress. We don’t think of women as icons for their accomplishments. We don’t really sit and think, oh, Mother Teresa. You and I do, but most people don’t.
BS: We think about money, which is interesting. Who are the iconic men? The wolves of Wall Street. It’s interesting that a lot of them have a huge downward spiral as well, but there is something that is archetypal-iconic in the male breadwinner. Women have been using the power of beauty since Aphrodite. It’s in every single Disney and Grimm’s [tale]— Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella— these are the wiles of beauty and the power that it possesses.
PB: Hillary Clinton is not a style icon, but…
BS: You know what? She doesn’t want to be, and she’s doing okay for herself. It probably empowers her in a weird way, because she probably thinks that ‘If that’s the level of criticism that I’m getting, wow I’m so far ahead of the game.’ There’s also something to be said for learning how to use that element. Sometimes I have played the dumb, clueless ‘I’m just a pretty child star’ and my eyes have been scanning the room the entire time. By the end of it, I have everybody’s number, and I’m batting my eyelashes all the way to something good for myself.
PB: The La-Z-Boy contract!
BS: I’m not saying I’m disingenuous. You can weed out the assholes by letting them think you’re clueless. But, it’s an interesting thing. The thing I am the most proud of when I look back is my education. Now, my degree wouldn’t count for anything in this generation, it just allows me to be on any platform and not be threatened.
PB: What have you gained from some of the icons you’ve known? John Travolta for instance?
BS: Personally, his loyalty towards his mother and family, and his sense of blood being thicker than water. To a certain extent, maybe he carries that into his beliefs, I don’t know. It’s rough because when you’re out, you’re out. But there is something to be said for that loyalty.
PB: For me, it was his consideration of the fans. Whenever I see him touch people and they say ‘Oh my god! I love your movies,’ he asks ‘Oh, what movie did you love?’ He always turned it back to them.
BS: Clinton has it as well. It’s this gift that makes you feel as though you are the only person in the room. But also, John is really smart; he was really kind to my mom. And it isn’t a manipulative thing, either. He was so close to his mother and he really valued that.
PB: What about Liam Neeson?
BS: To me, there was a tragedy in him, and I fed right into it. I was beyond smitten. I couldn’t see straight. It’s actor’s angst. The romance to it, and the dirtiness to the romance was liberating for me. There was a sense of liberation. It was a decadent period of time, where I hadn’t seen myself as a sexual being. Everyone was afraid. There was a shroud surrounding me in all of that. There was a poetic angst to it. I was doing shepherd plays in college, I was taking acting classes all day and drinking all night. There was that liberation that was short-lived.
PB: Michael Jackson?
BS: The laughter for sure, as well as the rejoicing in our trust for one another to play, to laugh, and to not take everything so seriously. I would give him whatever he needed on a child-like level, and it was fine. You know, watching movies and eating candy. I knew that I didn’t want anything from him; I knew how to make him feel safe. I didn’t want a thing and he wanted me to have everything. I think it was hard for him to deal with, because he didn’t know what to give. I wasn’t asking for anything.
PB: Calvin— did you learn anything from him?
BS: I learned from the experience from him. From the whole experience, it was that you can push the envelope with regards to the rules. We made commercials to be played in movie theaters. They didn’t play them, because they said, ‘It’ll never happen, you’ll never see advertisements in movie theaters.’ We were the first! I had to memorize minute long speeches and I learned more. I didn’t spend as much time with him as I did with Dick [Richard Avedon].
PB: People don’t understand that about the business. People must think that Brooke and Calvin hang out all the time.
BS: We did one cover with People Magazine. He hoisted me on his shoulders and that was it. And that one party with Warhol, at Studio 54, with that group, and that was it. Whenever we were together in that world, they would take a picture. We were together.
PB: Richard Avedon, what did you learn from him?
BS: He nurtured my perfectionism. He was just a myopically-focused artist, who didn’t waste any time with frivolity. My work ethic was so honed, through him, through Vogue and that whole period.
PB: Any women? There are a lot of guys in your life.
BS: I had fewer women mentors. There were women, but women like Grace Coddington, and Grace Mirabella surrounded me. They scared everybody and I watched how they maintained their success with a very hard edge, but at any given moment they didn’t sacrifice me. I watched them make assistants cry and I used to think ‘Oh my god, boy, I’m going to have to work this out. I’m going to have to figure out how much I want whatever it is.’ I don’t think there was anything to learn from it, but I witnessed it and saw how there was a level of fierceness and ferocity. It was more of a ferocious quality that these females had.
PB: It has something to do with the times. I think you had to be stronger to get somewhere.
BS: It’s always been hard but it’s super hard now. It was also super hard then.
PB: You had a very privileged life. How do you give back?
BS: I’m always signing on to some charitable cost. What I’m trying to do is streamline it a little bit more. I try to make sure that I always give back in a small way every day. Yes, I do all the charities and I do all the events. Raise money for this, or speak at that. I will always do that. I’m always donating to whatever, but I also try to be charitable in my own way.
PB: Random acts of kindness?
BS: Random acts of kindness and also just, you know, speaking to one of those garbage guys or workers. One time, they were chipping through the ice that was packed in and I walked by and I said ‘Oh my god! I just want you to know how appreciative I am that this is happening!’ and he goes ‘What?’ and I said, ‘Thank you!’
PB: You were a big part of the sexual revolution in the late 70s and early 80s. Do you think society gave you your props for being a courageous, groundbreaking girl?
BS: Well, it’s weird. I think it was definitely two-fold. If I was truly cognizant of being groundbreaking, maybe. You know, the Gagas of the world, the Madonnas, or whoever who set out to shock, or set out to make a difference, to F the system. None of us in that period of time were setting out to be iconic. We were all involved. We were presented with certain things. We attached ourselves to them for whatever reason: three months in Fiji, doing cool commercials with the IT photographer, whatever it is. I don’t remember ever setting out and saying, ‘I’m going to do a coming-of-age story, and therefore allow the children of my era to feel good.’ There shouldn’t have been agitation or crucifixion. I was kind of given a lot more credit on both ends. I was given credit for destroying the morality of America. I was given credit being the face… you know, what does all that really mean? I think that the people I valued, artists that I worked with— the Warhols, Keith Herrings, and the Horsts and the Mapplethorpes— they gave me a nod of approval. They spent time with me and on me, and they celebrated something that they wanted to celebrate.
PB: You were a team player.
BS: Yeah, I looked to them to a certain extent. I didn’t read a lot of the shit about me, but I was being crucified all the time. My mother was being raped over the calls, and I get it actually, I totally understand it. On the flipside, I got to have a conversation with someone like Grace, or any number of them, and engage with them. And we got to say, “Look at this!” It was something we had done. Robert Mapplethorpe took one of the most incredible profile pictures of me that no one has ever taken a profile before or since. You know, they’re going to still say what they’re going to say. They’re still going to blame me for whatever.
PB: You’ve been in some scandalous films and commercials, was any of it really that scandalous? Or was it just people’s perceptions and hang-ups at the time?
BS: I don’t think they were that scandalous because I always had body doubles. The one movie that I sort of didn’t have full body double was Pretty Baby and I was eleven. It was also a period piece. Everything after that, I was so adamant of proving that they were just movies that I cut myself off so emotionally from the content. I’m very capable of doing that. I’m a child of an alcoholic and I’m textbook. Honing that talent from a really young age was probably what saved me emotionally. But counterintuitively, I never really nurtured my talent as an actress because I never allowed myself to commit emotionally. I was so afraid of getting lost or swept away or destroyed. It was my source of survival. Whether I could have articulated it like this thirty years ago? I don’t know.
PB: Moms are human and as a kid you think they’re godly. How do we accept their faults and see they’re not perfect? Then to be a child of an alcoholic, how do you deal with that and have them in your life?
BS: This is what my book is about. Without giving anything away, I don’t think you do accept their faults. I don’t think, as children, we justify them. You make them work for you. You take on their faults yourself. You forgive them, but it’s not really accepting their faults. You go, ‘No, No! That’s not it! That’s not their fault!’ And so there’s this thing that happens. If you acknowledge their faults, your world is not safe.
PB: Well, you have no faults…
BS: My mother loved to say that I fired her. It was probably more of a divorce. There’s no easy way to do it. I had this impression that she was going to understand, but she turned into this completely accepting non-threatened person. I did a cold turkey. I sawed off a limb, and she never forgave me and there was no way back.
PB: How do you come back from that?
BS: You don’t come back from that. You try to find another path in, and kids helped. She got in some medical stuff and I had that and I had kids. That became the bridge. The kids sort of became a good bridge. I also understood that she was not a healthy person. I don’t think she ever got over it, to be honest. I will never get over it, but there was no other way to do it. It was chew off your arm…
PB: Or die! With Miley Cyrus, you got to be the momager of the show. How was it to play the character?
BS: They were the same producers that produced Suddenly Susan. It was like our old stomping grounds. So, that was really easy. She was so sweet and such a sweet girl. I got to sing with her. It was a very wholesome kind of time. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed her. She was sweet to my daughter. I only had one at the time.
PB: As a child star to another child star, did you ever have that conversation?
BS: No, she was doing her own thing, she was fine. She didn’t need my advice. I wasn’t going to be like ‘Listen kid, this is what you should do.’ It’s obvious that she was going to do her own thing. Which is fine. It is what it is.
Interviewed by Phillip Bloch for The Untitled magazine
Photography by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Styling by Phillip Bloch
Hair by Zaiya Latt
Make-up by Hector Simancas
Manicurist: Martha Fekete
Photographed at Norwood
For more photos of the beautiful Brooke Shields, check out the spread in The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 and watch our exclusive behind the scenes video below!