Brooke Shields on Her Mom & Aging

She talks about her mother’s health, her wrinkles and more.

By Jancee Dunn
Photograph: Photo by: Ruven Afanador

This sort of forthright admission is typical of Shields. For someone who has been famous practically since birth, she’s remarkably open. “Brooke is incredibly approachable,” Bushnell says. “She’s gone through a lot in her life and come through it being a very empathetic person. Despite the fact that she’s beautiful and brilliant, she’s also the girl next door. If you go anywhere with her, there’s a constant flow of people coming up to her and saying things like, ‘You met my sister 20 years ago!’ And Brooke is always like, ‘Oh, yes! How is your sister doing?’ ”
   
Shields and her mother: "It was us against everybody"
Shields has worked hard at being normal. Her father, Frank, a longtime Revlon executive who died of cancer in 2003, and her mother, Teri, an ex-model, divorced when she was a baby. Teri raised Brooke in Manhattan, and became intensely—some would say obsessively—involved in managing her daughter’s career. Teri came under fire for, among other things, allowing Brooke at 12 to star as a prostitute in Pretty Baby, and, at 15, to announce that nothing came between her and her Calvins in the famous jeans ad. At the same time, she was constantly on her daughter to mind her manners and to be scrupulously professional.
   
With adult eyes, Shields can now see the roots of her mother’s micromanaging. “She came from Newark, New Jersey, from the opposite side of the tracks,” she says, standing with perfect posture in front of another painting. “My dad came from the upper-crusty side of the tracks. The tracks weren’t even in his neighborhood.” She laughs. “And my mother was always adamant about being perceived as having class, not having been born into it. It plagued her, and I think she didn’t want me to know the insecurity of being rejected. She didn’t want me to grow up as the daughter of someone from Newark. The flip side, though, is that she would constantly throw it out at me. She wanted me not to forget where I came from, and how she was a street fighter.”
   
The two formed an extremely tight bond (“It was us against everybody”), but Teri was also an alcoholic, so their insular little world always threatened to slide into turbulence. As a kid, Shields would tell herself, if I do this, or if I do that, maybe she’ll stop drinking. “I always felt loved,” she says, “but it’s never enough. You’re like a hamster on a wheel.” The duo never quite fit in anywhere (“We weren’t Newark, and we weren’t Upper East Side”) until they found a haven in the entertainment world. “Those are the people we sort of got adopted by,” Shields says. “They became our Thanksgiving.”
   
As a preteen, Shields mixed with a vast array of artists, photographers and filmmakers, including Andy Warhol and Woody Allen. “Not many people know this, but Brooke was in Annie Hall,” Allen says via e-mail. (Shields says she played a pilgrim in a Thanksgiving Day play scene that was cut.) “I’ve been a fan of hers since the night she came up to Diane Keaton and myself at a Martha Graham benefit performance, to which I’d also escorted Betty Ford,” Allen adds. “Brooke was a little girl, very beautiful, very poised, very charming, and there was no doubt in my mind that big things were in store for her.”
   
Feeling divorced from her sexy image

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