Famous as a 12-year-old, thanks to some controversial movie roles and ad campaigns, Princeton graduate, mom-of-two and author Brooke Shields has had a varied career. And her style has been just as eclectic over the years. In fact, her fashion journey has taken in every genre conceivable, and her transformation since that first film appearance is little short of incredible.
In a career spanning more than five decades, Brooke Shields has pretty much done it all. Appearing in movies and ad campaigns, and on TV, magazine covers and even Broadway, she’s had quite the varied career and has been successful in every field at which she’s tried her hand. As the star told online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter in 2018, “Each time I do something new, I’m surprised by how far I get.” And her talents don’t end there.
In addition, Shields somehow found the time to earn a degree in French literature from Princeton University, regularly support the troops through United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) shows, raise a family and write not one, but two books. And while as an adult, the star’s career has been smooth sailing, her early work caused some serious controversy.
Born in New York to parents Teri and Frank Shields, the future star’s career got under way while she was still an infant. Her mom, whom she would later describe as “the original momager,” was heavily involved in her daughter’s career from the off, and put her in front of the camera for the first time at just 11 months old.
Shields’ first-ever commercial shoot was a print ad for Ivory soap in 1966. From there, she continued to model successfully, and is even credited with the creation of the child division at her agency, Eileen Ford. In 1977, however, the youngster’s career shifted direction when she won her debut movie role.
The young actor had landed a part in Annie Hall, directed by Woody Allen. Her part, though, was edited out of the final version. Undeterred, Shields continued to look for work before landing what would become her first official movie. And that film would end up causing quite the controversy.
Set in turn-of-the-century New Orleans, 1978’s Pretty Baby was controversial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was set in brothel, and depicted prostitution in both adults and children. Shields played an underage sex worker, which was bad enough, as she was only 12 at the time. But the movie also contained some other, rather more risqué elements.
Playing the 12-year-old daughter of another prostitute, Shields also appeared nude in the film, raising questions about child pornography. Perhaps signalling very different times, Shields’ shared her own contemporary point of view about its release in 2018. Talking to Net-a-Porter, she said, “I don’t think Pretty Baby would [get made now].”
Of course being famous so young may well have influenced the youngster’s fashion choices. At the time, she could often be found wearing outfits reminiscent of movie characters, such as Annie Hall and Sandy from Grease. On camera, however, her modeling work was far more mature and stylish than your average movie-struck pre-teen.
Working couture shows as a 12-year-old, Shields’ style was startlingly mature. And it’s perhaps down to this perceived maturity that she made two more controversial movies in the next few years. First came 1980’s The Blue Lagoon. In the film, the youngster played a teenage girl stranded on an island with only a slightly older boy for company.
The movie instantly became infamous for similar reasons to Pretty Baby, in that it featured underage nudity. Despite the use of a body double for some of Shields’ nude scenes, the film still raised questions about minors taking their clothes off for the camera. Then, just a year later, the teenager caused yet more outcry.
Shields’ next movie, 1981’s Endless Love featured the youngster as a girl who falls in love with an obsessive boy; its themes include underage sex, voyeurism, arson, death and prison. Once again the star filmed love scenes: this time, though, the controversy also involved the movie being terrible. The star has since shared that all three of her risqué movies feel tame to her now.
Shields told Net-a-Porter in 2018, “[The movies] were actually so vanilla compared with the porn you can find so easily everywhere now.” Of course, it wasn’t just the teenager’s acting career that caused controversy all those years ago. Around the time of The Blue Lagoon’s release, she starred in an ad campaign that shocked the public.
In 1980 designer Calvin Klein hired Shields to be the face of his new line of skinny jeans. Just 15 years old at the time, she posed in denim with a bare midriff and a shirt that was almost completely unbuttoned. While the print ads were fairly tame, it was the TV spots that ruffled feathers. During the commercial, the teenager had just one line, and its implications upset many.
Dressed in the same outfit as the print ads, during the TV commercial, Shields said: “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The teenage-commando implications of the line upset enough people that the ads were banned by two channels in New York. Klein, it seems, was unperturbed. He reportedly said of the controversy, “Jeans are sex. The tighter they are, the better they sell.” The campaign is widely credited with launching the designer to superstar status.
Shields’ modeling career also had its less controversial, but equally impressive, milestones. Aged 14, she became U.S. Vogue magazine’s youngest-ever cover star and by 1981 was reportedly commanding $10,000 a day. What followed were tons of magazine appearances, prompting Time magazine to bestow a unique title on the model.
With a face that had graced the covers of all the big magazines, Time declared that Shields was the epitome of “The ’80s Look.” And it’s easy to see why. Growing up in front of the camera, her previous Hollywood-inspired style evolved into pure 1980s chic in the course of just a few years. Glance at any contemporary images featuring the model, and you’ll bathe in big hair, bigger shoulder pads and massive skirts. But it wasn’t just her clothes that were bang on trend.
As befits the face of the ’80s, Shields was friends with some of the decade’s biggest stars, including Michael Jackson, Carrie Fisher, Bob Hope and Matt Dillon. She had become a Hollywood staple and had the style to match. Bigger hair and puffier dresses were joined by plunging necklines, as well as more demure styles. But those outfits were hiding insecurity.
Despite what Shields did for a living, it seems she never saw herself as a model. She told Net-a-Porter in 2018, “My mom… would say, ‘Why don’t you move your fat ass?’ So, I’ve always believed that I have a fat ass.” And that, perhaps, led to the star’s attitude about her work. “I was a cover girl, not a supermodel. I was neck-up: the face, the eyebrows.”
During the 1980s, Shields enrolled at Princeton and earned a degree in French literature. And while she continued to act, her insecurities refused to budge. In 2009 she revealed to website Health.com that she had put on weight while at college because of it. “I had the public and all this pressure. [I] had issues with weight. I carried this protective 20 pounds [in college]. It was all connected.”
All of which may well explain Shields’ less-hectic work schedule for the remaining years of the decade. Making mostly cameos in movies such as The Muppets Take Manhattan, allowed her to make the most of her time elsewhere. This included touring with the U.S.O. shows, which allowed the youngster to rock that Top Gun look.
Shields kicked off the 1990s with guest spots in TV shows including time-travel classic Quantum Leap and horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt. In 1993 the star began a relationship with tennis star Andre Agassi; with a serious partner for perhaps the first time, the ’80s style icon suddenly grew up.
The big hair was replaced with sleek shoulder-length locks, the dresses became miniskirts, which Shields rocks like no one else on Earth; the make-up was understated and barely there. Fresh-faced she may have been, but this outward change seemingly masked some much darker truths, and not just for the model.
In the 2018 Net-a-Porter interview, Shields candidly explained why she ended up with Agassi. “I needed André to separate from my mother.” It seems the star’s relationship with Teri, an alcoholic, was often a rocky one. And that might explain why, in 1997, she married the tennis star, despite his addiction to crystal meth.
The star went on, “I’d spent my life, 24/7, being so worried that my mother was going to die, and my whole world was wrapped around keeping her alive.” But while dire, according to Shields the situation still had one positive result. “That probably saved me and kept me on the straight and narrow… But I still had so much growing up to do.”
Shields’ marriage to Agassi fell apart after just two years. Her career, on the other hand, was taking off once again. Following an hilarious cameo in full ’90s vamp mode in an episode of hit TV show Friends, the actor discovered her talent for comedy. And the networks agreed, giving the go-ahead for her very own sitcom, Suddenly Susan in 1996.
The show ran for four seasons, and on-screen, Shields’ style was sleek, expensive and oh-so-chic. Off-screen, the star emulated that successful woman-about-town look. Clean lines, sleek hair and vampy make-up made her the epitome of 1990s female empowerment. It was an attitude that seemed to resonate with the industry, as the sitcom star was nominated for not one, but two Golden Globes for her role.
During Shields’ time on Suddenly Susan, she met the man who would become her second husband, screenwriter Chris Henchy. They married in 2001, and their first child, Rowan, followed a couple of years later. While her daughter was still a toddler, the star appeared on hit TV sitcom That ’70s Show looking exceedingly trim, and laughing at the style of the decade in which she became famous. But once again, the star was hiding a dark secret.
Shields had suffered with post-partum depression following the birth of her daughter and spoke openly about it for the first time in 2005. She published a book on the subject that same year, and her honesty regarding antidepressants caused a bitter feud between the star and Tom Cruise. He later apologized for criticizing her use of medication to heal.
Having rocked Madonna’s Earth mother look easily as well as Madge herself, Shields’ next style evolution couldn’t have been more different. Playing the sexy and refined Dr. Faith Wolper on TV show Nip/Tuck clearly inspired the star, as she carried the character’s look into real life. Little black dresses, perfectly tousled hair and vampy, no-nonsense make-up blurred the line between fashion and fiction. And she looked great.
Later in the decade, Shields became one of the most famous moms on TV when she took on the role of Hannah Montana’s late mother. Despite having passed away before the show started, the character often appeared in flashbacks and visions, rocking a flowery shirt and denims. Off-screen, the star incorporated that laid-back aesthetic into her own look, often sporting jeans and a t-shirt on chat shows.
During the 2000s, Shields began to shape her signature look: leather biker-style jacket over excellent tailoring, asymmetric necklines and dresses with deep slits, finished with knee-high boots. And it was about this time that she took on a role that couldn’t have been more at odds with that chic woman. Spending a decade guesting on TV sitcom The Middle allowed the star to really let loose.
Playing beer-swilling Rita Glossner on the hit sitcom, Shields left her model looks far behind. Donning mullet, Daisy Dukes and the worst fake tan ever to grace a TV screen, the star clearly loved every second of her time on the show. In real life, her signature look continued to evolve, encompassing Capri pants, bodices and spike heels, often teamed with her trademark leather jacket.
In between movie and TV roles, Shields has also spent a fair amount of time on Broadway, starring in musicals such as Grease and Chicago. And, in a roundabout way, it’s this part of her career that led her to return to her roots. In 2018 following an injury she sustained while working in the theater, she had to have knee surgery. But in order to make sure she was as fit as possible before the operation, she did something she hated.
As the star told Net-a-Porter in 2018, she hired a trainer. But that’s not something she enjoyed. “I hate trainers. I hate gyms.” Despite that, though, the hard work that she put in paid off in an unexpected way. “I worked so hard, so consistently, that I’ve now got some campaigns, at 53, that I might not have otherwise.” That’s right, in her 50s, the star is once again a professional model.
And not just any modeling either. Shields’ return to the field was in swimwear, a prospect she found quite daunting. “I modeled swimwear when I was 15, and even then I didn’t think I had a swimsuit body,”the star revealed to Net-a-Porter. So a return to the profession led to even more work. “I really prepared. I stopped drinking beer and wine, and I worked out three times a week.I was the best version of myself. I was also hungry.”
That hunger, though, hasn’t stopped Shields from working out on a regular basis, partly as a way to help heal her knee. Posting lots of social media updates from her gym, the star astounds many with her gravity-defying exercise regime, including crunches performed while upside down. She also uses kettle bells to achieve her incredible arms and resistance band training for her legs. But a 2019 post set the internet alight.
Clearly, all that gravity-defying work is paying off, if an image Shields posted during summer 2019 is anything to go by. Bikini-clad, svelte, rocking abs and a tan, the star looks amazing. And the internet definitely agreed. One commenter raved, “You look AMAZING. You’re an inspiration for women of all ages.” Another said, “You never age at all.”
And all of this came about thanks to Shields’ knee surgery. As the star posted on Instagram in 2019, “It’s been a long road from my knee surgery last year to now – I’ve learned so much about my body and I’m excited to share more of my wellness journey with you.” And, it seems, the star shows no signs of slowing down.
Having squeezed in a book about her childhood in 2014, following Teri’s death, Shields has since starred in two series, and launched her own clothing line for mature women. She told Net-a-Porter, “I have years of access and knowledge, and the idea is that I bring my own aesthetic.” And with that, the star described her perfect style evolution, “Well, if I could, I would want to wake up one day as a Parisian woman.”