Tragic Things Revealed About Brooke Shields

The following article includes details related to child abuse, sexual assault, and rape.

While it may seem glamorous, life in Hollywood isn't always what it seems — and no one knows that better than Brooke Shields. At just 11 months old, Shields was launched into the entertainment industry as a baby model. As a child, she went on to become a model and actor, known for roles in "Pretty Baby," "Endless Love," and "The Blue Lagoon." In each of these roles, the young actor was sexualized and forced to take part in intimate scenes. The media dubbed the young girl the "next Lolita" (via Vogue).

Despite the damage of being sexually objectified at a young age, Shields went on to have a successful career and family life. Nevertheless, her journey has been anything but easy. In the 2023 two-part Hulu documentary, "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields," Shields opened up about her experience as a child actor in Hollywood and the lifelong difficulties that came with it.

Brooke Shields was introduced to the toxicity of Hollywood at just 11 months old

How young is too young to be introduced to Hollywood? This question didn't seem to trouble Brooke Shields' mother, Teri Shields, who started her daughter off as a model when she was only 11 months old. Shields' parents divorced when Brooke was 5 months old, and her mother was, in many ways, the ultimate stage mother. "I just knew she'd be a star," Teri once said (via CNN).

Brooke's first modeling gig was in an ad for Ivory soap. "As the story goes, they interviewed hundreds of babies and the client didn't like any," Shields told The New Yorker. "I don't know how that's possible." Apparently, the photographer, Francesco Scavullo, was friends with Teri, and he asked her if Brooke would be the model. 

For Brooke, this very early start in the industry meant that she never knew any other way of life. "I never knew anything different," she said. "I've seen actors go from anonymity to fame overnight, and the shock to their system is what undoes them — whereas I only knew working, and I only knew school and jobs."

In Pretty Baby, Brooke Shields was hyper-sexualized as a child

Brooke Shields was just 11 years old when she played the role of a child prostitute in "Pretty Baby." At only 12 years old, Shields was forced to act in several inappropriate scenes, including one kissing scene with an adult actor. "I mean, at 11, I didn't know what I was doing," she told NPR. "And so, you know, I kept scrunching up my face and I kept, like — you just don't know what to do."

Later, in the "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields" documentary, she explained the lasting impact of making the film. "I learned to compartmentalise at an early age," she said (via the Evening Standard). "It was a survival technique."

Despite having to do several uncomfortable things on set, Shields retains an appreciation for the experience. "The research that went into all the wardrobe and the — we had one of the best cinematographers in the world and — you know, so the caliber of talent on that set and really putting the film together was just unlike anything that I've ever experienced again," she said (via NPR).

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Brooke Shields also hated the working conditions on Pretty Baby

Even though Brooke Shields didn't always understand that she was being sexualized in "Pretty Baby," she was old enough to realize that working conditions on the set were far from ideal. As the actor told Vogue, she frequently spent 12 to 15 hours filming and was forced to wear painful period shoes. She also alleged that her co-star Susan Sarandon insisted on actually slapping her for one scene — apparently, it took nine takes. 

"During the slapping scene, I remember that's when I switched the way that I reacted toward her," Shields said of filming the scene (via The New Yorker). "I thought, O.K., you're just going to sit here and take this, and you're going to not flinch. It was all internal. I just sat there as I repeatedly got slapped in the face. And I felt, at the end of it, like I had won, because I was unfazed." Whatever you might think of the film, these certainly were not safe working conditions for a child.

Brooke Shields was mistreated on the set of Endless Love

After making "Pretty Baby," Brooke Shields starred in Franco Zeffirelli's "Endless Love" at the age of 15. Once again, it was an overly sexualized role — and once again, the set wasn't exactly a safe space for the young teenager. In fact, Shields had to film a sex scene for the film. Even at the time, the actor felt uncomfortable. "The physicality and the exploration of sexuality felt really dangerous to me," she said in her documentary, "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields" (via the Daily Mail). "I didn't trust the director to create a safe environment for me." During the scene, Zeffirelli twisted her toe to create, what Shields called, a look of "ecstasy." 

"When I had the camera on her, she was not giving the impact that the scene required," Zeffirelli said in an old interview clip (via Decider), which was played in the documentary. "So she was there, and the camera was here, so I grabbed her toe and twisted it, and she screamed, 'Ah!'"

"His thing was 'The look on your face it has to be ecstasy' ... but it was more angst than anything, because he was hurting me," she recalled. "I thought as myself as just the sort of the workhorse. It was transactional." In the age of intimacy coordinators and child protection laws on sets, it's shocking to hear about how Shields was treated on set as a minor.

As a teen, Brooke Shields was often sexualized in interviews

After starring in multiple films about the sexualization of young girls, Brooke Shields became a sex symbol in America — even though she was a child. In numerous interviews, she was probed about her own sex life. At the age of 15, she was asked by Barbara Walters what her measurements were (via the Daily Mail). In 1981, just before her 16th birthday, Shields was asked: "Could Brooke Shields handle a sexual relationship?" and was pressured into answering questions that were inappropriate for a child (via YouTube).

It seemed that as far as the media was concerned, any topic was fair game when it came to Shields. "There's one interview where the woman asked me the same freaking question four times, and as a 12-year-old, I sat there with my hands in my lap and said, 'Excuse me, ma'am, I don't think you want my answer. Because I keep answering the same question and I think you want a different answer,'" Shields recalled (via Town & Country). 

In hindsight, Shields can't believe the kinds of questions she was forced to sit through. "I look back and have anger for the ignorance of these grown adults who prided themselves on being journalists and educators ... I mean [in one interview] Barbara Walters turns around and asks me for my measurements. It was absurd," she said.

Brooke Shields had to fight against nude photos taken of her at 9

As a child model, Brooke Shields had nude photographs taken when she was only 9 years old. The photo was taken by Garry Gross in 1975 for Sugar and Spice, an off-shoot of Playboy Magazine. In 1981, Shields' mother sued Gross for selling the photographs after Shields became famous. However, Gross's lawyers claimed that Shields was making a career "as a young vamp and a harlot, a seasoned sexual veteran, a provocative child-woman, an erotic and sensual sex symbol, the Lolita of her generation" (via The Guardian), and therefore, the photographs could still be sold. 

In 1983, Shields returned to court once again to try to stop the sale of the photos. During the court case, Shields claimed that an adult man made an inappropriate sexual gesture at the then-16-year-old, running his tongue over his lips at her. Shields once again lost the case in 1983 and the photos continued to be sold.

Brooke Shields had a difficult time when she lost her virginity

Brooke Shields lost her virginity at the age of 22 to her then-boyfriend, college football player Dean Cain. At the time, Shields and Cain were both students at Princeton. In the "Pretty Baby Brooke Shields" documentary, the actor revealed that she didn't feel completely comfortable making their relationship sexual. As she put it, he was "more comfortable with the sexual part" while she cared more about "love and the commitment" (via the Daily Mail).

The first time the pair had sex, Shields apparently panicked. "When we finally had sex, I immediately ran out of the room, ran down the hall butt naked, just running. I didn't know where I was going," she said. Shields went on to explain that she was afraid he would see her differently after they had sex. "He ran after me with the duvet and grabbed a hold of me and said, 'Where are you going?' He said, 'I'm not going anywhere, I'm not leaving you, you're the same person.' He got it immediately and I just cried," she recalled.

Brooke Shields went to Princeton and had a hard time getting back into the industry

After graduating from high school, Brooke Shields studied at Princeton University — it shocked some fans at the time who had come to see her purely as a sex symbol. "Brooke's decision to attend Princeton — in the context of what actresses did at that time — was a big deal," said Lana Wilson, the director of "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields" (via Town & Country). "It was seen as a huge risk and a rebellion for her. It was just not what sex symbols did."

Even though Shields was passionate about her education, it wasn't exactly an easy time. For one thing, many people were too scared to approach her. "It was so lonely, it was so lonely," she confessed in the documentary (via the Daily Mail). "And people tried to be so nice, just tried to give me my space." She also missed her mother.

After graduating from Princeton, Shields would be dealt another blow — she discovered that she no longer had the same pull in the industry. "I thought I was going to graduate and go back into a movie a year," she said in the documentary (via Insider). Instead, she struggled to find work and even ended up doing some Japanese commercials. "It was a really scary, rough period of rejection," she said.

Brooke Shields had a very complicated relationship with her mother

Throughout her early life, Brooke Shields had a very difficult relationship with her mother. Even though the pair were extremely close, their relationship wasn't exactly healthy. For one thing, many people believed that Teri Sheilds, Brooke's mother, had exploited her daughter and was using her to make a living. Teri also struggled with alcoholism, which turned Brooke into the responsible one in the relationship. "I chose to be a type A person because I had to keep everything else in order to feel like I had control," she said (via Town & Country). "You never know what's going to happen with an alcoholic parent. The primary thing is they go away. The person you know leaves. And you are left alone."

Despite acknowledging that life with her mother was hard, Brooke also conceded that both she and her mother were guilty of exploitation in their own ways. "We both used that system to have a better life," said in her documentary (via the Evening Standard). In 1995, Brooke went as far as to fire her mother, who, until then, had been acting as her manager. 

Brooke Shields was raped by a film executive in her 20s

As a young woman in Hollywood, Brooke Shields was objectified by powerful men in the industry. On one occasion, as the actor claimed in the "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields" documentary, she was raped by a high-powered executive. "She didn't want to name him, and I think that's her decision," director Lana Wilson said (via the New York Post). "It's something that she mentioned in our very first meeting. She said, 'One thing I've never talked about is this experience of sexual assault. I think I am ready to share that.'" 

In the documentary, the actor explained that an unnamed "big film executive" arranged to meet her to talk about her career. He took her to a hotel room and left again. She found a pair of binoculars and started watching a volleyball game that happened to be taking place outside. "The door opens, the person comes out naked, and I've got the binoculars, and I'm like, 'Sh*t,'" Shields recalled. "I put the binoculars down, and he's right on me. Just like, was wrestling." She went on to say that she simply "froze" and "disassociated from [her] body" (via Entertainment Weekly).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Brooke Shields had a difficult friendship with Michael Jackson

As a child, Brooke Shields developed a friendship with Michael Jackson. The pair met when she was just 13 years old and he was 20. As the actor explained in "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields," they bonded over their shared experiences of finding fame at a young age. "We both were quite juvenile in some ways and quite mature and experienced in others, so we were just really friends but he always wanted to be seen with me," she said (via Insider).

Things took a turn in the friendship after Jackson allegedly used the relationship to raise his profile. According to Shields, he told Oprah Winfrey in 1993 that they were a romantic couple. Shields apparently felt betrayed and the friendship soon fizzled out. "I called him up and I think I said, 'This is kind of pathetic that you need to do this. I am having a shot at normal life — you cannot drag me into crazy town,'" she said (via Metro). Eventually, the pair managed to become friends again.

Brooke Shields had a turbulent relationship with tennis star Andre Agassi

In 1997, Brooke Shields married her first husband, tennis star Andre Agassi. By 1999, the marriage had fallen apart. Agassi allegedly had an addiction to crystal meth, which made the relationship difficult. He also struggled with feelings of jealousy. In fact, as Shields said in "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields," he threw a fit when she had to lick Joey's fingers in a scene in "Friends." 

"He said I made him look like a fool by licking Joey's fingers," she said (via Distractify). "He got in his car and drove all the way to Vegas." After the pair split up, they never managed to form a friendship — but Shields still manages to find the positives in the relationship. "I've never reconnected with him," said Shields in the documentary (via USA Today). "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." 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Brooke Shields struggled with her fertility

Brooke Shields went on to marry a second time, this time to Chris Henchy. Though this marriage was happier, it still came with its share of struggles. In 2003, the pair had their first child — but this came after a struggle with infertility. Shields had treatment for cervical dysplasia, which resulted in fertility issues. Shield's first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. "We were crushed," the actor told People. "Up till then, I thought simply because it was time and I wanted to have a baby, it would work out." 

As Shields later revealed in "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields," the miscarriage changed her forever. "In one night, I became a full-blown adult," said the actor (via Today). "It was the way I looked at it. I was like, 'Oh, this is what real loss is.'" After a long process of IVF attempts, the pair finally had two children, Rowan and Grier.

Brooke Shields' documentary shocked her daughter — but the actor did find some closure

Even though Brooke Shields' 2023 documentary, "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields," helped her to process a lot of what had happened throughout her life, the film did cause some problems within her family. 

As the actor said on "Today with Hoda & Jenna" (via Twitter), her daughters were shocked by what they learned from the film. While her older daughter thought the film was important, her younger daughter found it harder to watch. In fact, her younger daughter Grier Henchy apparently felt that Shields had hidden the truth from them. "Grier looked at it as all the things that I kept from her, and she was outraged and she was very sad," said Shields. "She said, 'Nothing you say to me, Mom, is going to make it better.' She said, 'I hate seeing bad things happen to you.'" Grier allegedly started crying and had to leave the screening room.