The way a celebrity arrives for an interview can be very telling. In Brooke Shields’s case, she alights with a friendly wave from a New York taxi. No limo. No hovering handlers. No BlackBerry. No giant sunglasses, no makeup (she is fresh from a Spinning class). Just Brooke, who strides over with a big grin and an outstretched hand. This is going to be fun.
Of course, despite the lack of fanfare, Shields’s arrival causes a ripple of excitement at the New Museum, on the Lower East Side of New York City, where we are spending the afternoon. After all, this is a woman with one of the most recognizable faces in the world, someone who has spent all 43 of her years in the spotlight, from her debut as a baby Ivory Snow model to her most recent gig on TV’s Lipstick Jungle. But she’s cheerfully oblivious to the whispers, preferring to focus on the exhibition of work by American abstract artist Mary Heilmann. “I’ve been meaning to come to this museum forever,” says Shields, as she studies a vibrant pink and black painting called Tomorrow’s Parties. Six feet tall, slim and toned, she is wearing a simple and chic outfit: Earnest Sewn jeans, black Prada turtleneck, black boots. Her trademark lush hair, still wet from the gym, spills in waves down her back. Her face is as striking as ever, accented by slight creases at the corners of her eyes; Shields is clearly going the European age-with-dignity route rather than opting for the Hollywood plasticized model.
Life after Lipstick Jungle
Today she is happy to be distracted by a museum, as the fate of Lipstick Jungle hangs in the balance. The show, based on a novel by Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell and starring Shields, Kim Raver and Lindsay Price as high-powered New York friends, had a shortened first season due to the writers’ strike and struggled to pick up viewers in its second year, even as its story lines became richer. Hearing rumors of cancellation, a phalanx of fans protested by mailing tubes of lipstick to NBC. Shields and her costars “talk every day” about how they hate the uncertainty; she adds that she just sent NBC Entertainment cochairman Ben Silverman an e-mail asking, “What the fuck?” (She mouths the obscenity; it’s strange, somehow, to see Brooke Shields using the F-word.) She’s gratified by the women who have written to say how much they identify with her character, Wendy, a film executive who tries to juggle work, marriage and caring for two kids. That isn’t too far off from Shields’s real life: For eight years, she has been married to TV writer and producer Chris Henchy, with whom she has two daughters, Rowan, six, and Grier, three.
At press time, the show’s future looked bleak, although NBC refused to confirm cancellation. Shields, with her usual equanimity, doesn’t view the show as a failure. “There’s so much I’ve reaped from it, both personally and professionally,” she says. She’ll do what she has always done: pick herself up, dust herself off and tackle a new venture. Indeed, few stars have been as resilient in their careers. Along with television (before Lipstick Jungle, she proved herself a gifted comedienne on Suddenly Susan), Shields has acted in films (Pretty Baby and Endless Love are her favorites) and on stage ( Grease, Cabaret, Chicago, Wonderful Town), and she’s tried her hand at writing (most recently, her best-selling postpartum depression memoir, Down Came the Rain, and two children’s books).
Learning to be fearless
For her, the fear of missing out on an exciting experience trumps the fear of failure. “I have to jump in and worry later,” she says. “Sometimes that just means going for it, even if the end result isn’t what’s usually termed successful. If I come out of it learning a skill or being really proud that I subjected myself to something most people would be afraid of, then that’s a reward. You just keep going where there’s a new challenge, and you surprise yourself. It’s the only way I’ve been able to survive.”