The Stunning Transformation Of Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields is one of those iconic beauties. I'll admit, as a child of the eighties, I missed out on her "it" girl status. Shields dominated films and magazine covers in the eighties and even made her nude film debut at age 12! I was more familiar with her La-Z-Boy commercials and vaguely remembered her feud with Tom Cruise over her use of antidepressants.

Well don't worry. I have been educated and am now much more appreciative of Shields' talent and beauty. She's also a rare example of gracefully transitioning from child star to respected actress. From a baby model to a sitcom queen, this iconic actress has had quite the stunning transformation.

She was a pretty baby

Shields was a beautiful baby, and just about everyone took notice. Her mother wasn't shy about getting her daughter into show business, and Shields made her debut at 11 months old, appearing in an ad for soap. When asked if she'd ever felt resentful of her mother pushing her in front of the camera, Shields was graceful. "I can't fault my mother for what she did, because what kind of a life would this kid from Newark [who's parents were] divorced by the time I was five months old have had," she told the Telegraph. "We would be dirt poor — still. So I understand the genesis of it."

It's also likely that Shields never challenged her mother, because she was a force to be reckoned with. According to an interview in Elle, when a Catholic priest refused to baptize Shields as a baby, because there is no saint named "Brooke," her mother responded, "Well, put an 'a' at the end of Christ. Is that Catholic enough for ya?" Brooke Christa Shields was baptized that day.

She had a normal(ish) childhood

Despite becoming a model and actress as a toddler, Shields lived a relatively normal life. She never even missed school! When asked in an interview how she stayed "normal" growing up in the limelight, Shields credits her education. "I think I'm lucky. I have my own manifestations. As a little kid you either seek approval or you just don't want to fail," she told Rolling Stone. "I thank God I had school, because those years, no matter what happened in my life, that stayed consistent. I didn't have time to go off the deep end, because I didn't want to fail in school. I didn't want to not be liked."

Having peers at school seemed to keep Shields grounded, and she isn't so sure that child actors today get that benefit. "I went to school and I never missed it for work. I never went to a professional children's school, that lets you out every time you had an audition or a go-see," she told Elle. "So I would tell people the same thing, though I'm not sure what I would tell mothers today that they would want to hear."

She played a sex worker at age 12

As normal as Shields' childhood may have appeared at school, her career was anything but. At age 12, she got a taste of life as a sex worker. Well, not in real life. Shields was cast by director Louis Malle in the 1978 film Pretty Baby.

When asked in an interview if she ever felt exploited by her mother, Shields just smiled. "No, because I was so young," she told the Telegraph. "I was too young for the casting couch, so I was never told, 'You have to do this to get a role.' Exploitation happens when anything other than talent is capitalized upon." This breakout role catapulted Shields into the public eye immediately.

She starred in Blue Lagoon

Not to be outdone by her 12-year-old self, Shields added some more risqué scenes to her highlight reel when she starred in Blue Lagoon at age 14. Suddenly the teen actress' star status skyrocketed. She and her mother were pleased.

"I had this understanding that I was going to be a part of the film world," she told the Telegraph. "Then all of a sudden it went on to having dolls named after me and hair dryers with my name on them. That signified success for my mother — and for me, too."

As exciting as this time must have been, Shields wasn't phased, even after her custom dolls hit the shelves. "There was tan Brooke, smiling Brooke, regular Brooke," Shields told Rolling Stone. "I hear the dolls are pretty valuable, but no one's going to replace Barbie for me, certainly not me."

She became a Calvin Klein model

After playing a prostitute as a preteen, and appearing nude as a young teenager, it's almost silly that Shields made headlines again when she was totally covered up with denim. However, those jeans left little to the imagination. In her iconic Calvin Klein ad, Shields looked into the camera and seductively said, "What gets between me and my Calvins? Nothing."

"I was proud of [the ads] then, and I'm proud still," she told the Telegraph. Even though those ads took on a life of their own, Shields was just going to work. "I look at these pictures now and I still am sort of shocked that they became so legendary," she told the New York Post. "For me, it was just a huge job I went to after school at three o'clock. The one with my leg up, I just remember my arm hurting. You can't plan on being iconic."

And the fact that again she was posing as a young sex symbol? That was just old news for Shields. "The controversy didn't surprise me, because I'd had experience with it since I was 11," Shields told the Post. "The pants came above my belly button — even the one with my shirt open, you didn't see anything. Compared to the things I'd done before, this was like being in winter gear."

She enrolled at Princeton

With all of her wild success as a teen, it may have been surprising to see Shields go on to college, but she wouldn't have it any other way. "I learned pretty quickly that in this industry, [education] is the one thing they can't take away from you," she told the New York Post. "I've worked with Miley Cyrus and Ed Westwick and all these young kids, and I always have that conversation [with them]."

At Princeton, Shields wrote her thesis on the portrayal of innocence in films. As the face of both young sexuality and purity, the subject was clearly on her mind. "Every time I went in front of the camera, those were the subjects I was dealing with," she told Rolling Stone. "But the media machine upheld this pure image while celebrating the sexuality. Never once did anyone say, 'What's going on here?' To this day, it's hard to respect that. But I can't answer to any of it, because I didn't think of any of it."

It actually wasn't until her graduation at age 22 that Shields lost her virginity to actor Dean Cain. "Fame probably inhibited my growth," Shields told Rolling Stone. "It definitely slowed things down."

She struggled to maintain her privacy

The only problem with being the "it" girl of the '80s, is that eventually the decade ends, and it becomes the '90s. Shields wouldn't land any major roles in the early nineties, but that didn't keep her out of the limelight. While Shields' film career may have been quiet in 1993, it was her romance that made waves. In 1993, singer and pop icon Michael Jackson announced to Oprah and he and Shields had dated. "I think it was a surreal moment for the country, to be honest," Shields told Rolling Stone. "And I was one of the people watching."

As a surprisingly private person, Shields was less than thrilled when the news came out. She often retreated into herself when the press became obsessed with her. "I lived on an island, and nothing else could penetrate it," she told the magazine. "Then before you know it, you're 30 and thinking, 'Wow, why does this hurt?'"

She went out on her own

As Shields began to mature both personally and professionally, she made a major life change by parting ways with her longtime "momager." Shields and her mother professionally separated in 1995.

"Something didn't feel right," she told Rolling Stone. "I had hopes and dreams, and I wasn't doing anything to go toward them. All I had were obligations. As an actress, I never had a chance to grow. The focus was on creating a persona rather than a talent. I was spinning my wheels. It didn't seem worth it. So what do you do? Give it all up and just sort of get married?"

Shields was clear that this move did not taint her relationship from her mother, but she needed her professional freedom.

She became a sitcom star

In the early to mid-nineties, Shields took some time off from filming, and tried Broadway. After starring as Rizzo in Grease!, Shields was ready to step back in front of the camera. She met with NBC and was offered her own sitcom with a prime time spot right between ER and Seinfeld on Thursday nights.

"This is the way NBC tells you they love you," NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield told Rolling Stone. "We could have just sent flowers, but somehow it didn't seem enough." Shields starred in Suddenly Susan from 1996 to 2000.

For once Shields was part of a team instead of being an icon by herself. During a photo shoot with the cast, Shields told Rolling Stone that she had no idea how many solo shoots she has done, "but this is fun because I'm not alone." She shared that she didn't even look at herself during her earlier shoots. "Everybody else was focused on what I looked like," she said. "It was all about that."

She experienced trouble off the court

After being the fantasy of boys and men for years, 32-year-old Shields finally settled down and married tennis star Andre Agassi in 1997. They actually started out in a long distance relationship — in the age before cell phones. The couple sent long love note faxes to each other while she filmed in South Africa. Unfortunately the pair split just before their second anniversary.

After divorcing Agassi, Shields shared that he had been addicted to crystal meth for a large portion of their relationship. In her book, the actress shared that during her guest appearance on the Super Bowl episode of Friends, Agassi became enraged at her performance on set, as she filmed her role as Joey's stalker.

"[Agassi] said I made him look like a fool by licking Joey's fingers, and he got in his car and drove all the way back to Vegas," she shared with Elle. "Upon arrival he systematically smashed and destroyed every single trophy he had won, including Wimbledon and the US Open, never mind all the others."

She found lasting love

After taking some time to herself, Shields happily found lasting love a few years later. In 2001 she married television writer Chris Henchy. Also while in her mid-thirties, Shields fell in love with her body, agreeing to pose on the cover of Vogue while pregnant with the couple's first child.

"I had been on the cover of Vogue so many times as a kid, but it wasn't until I got pregnant that I was on the cover as an adult. Annie [Leibovitz] shot me all wet and pregnant with my daughter Rowan. It was a re-entry back into the fashion world, but a bit more on my own terms," she told the New York Post. "It was before my difficulty [with postpartum depression] began. It's a celebration of being not skinny, but gloriously healthy with life inside you. To have that be celebrated by a fashion magazine was important."

She struggled with postpartum depression

In 2003 Shields and Henchy welcomed their first daughter Rowan into the world. Sadly, Shields was thrown into a severe postpartum depression shortly after bringing their baby girl home. "You can imagine my shock when I had my first child and didn't revel in this creature, my creation, in the way my mother so had in me," Shields told the Telegraph. "You can imagine the heartbreak that I felt. Because all I ever knew was a mother who looked at her daughter as her angel — as everything."

Shields opened up to Everyday Health about her journey with postpartum depression. "Sitting on my bed, I let out a deep, slow, guttural wail," Shields wrote in her book Down Came the Rain. "I wasn't simply emotional or weepy...This was something quite different. This was sadness of a shockingly different magnitude. It felt as if it would never go away."

Shields was very clear that her depression was far beyond "baby blues" and needed to be treated right away. "Now of course I feel that way too because I'm healthier," she shared. "And when I had my second daughter, I thought she was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen in my whole life because I was healthy at the time."

She feuded with Tom Cruise over antidepressants

As a mother, I can't imagine the anguish Shields felt during her postpartum depression. As if that wasn't painful enough, she then had to talk about it in the press when her "friend" slammed her on the TODAY show. In 2005, Tom Cruise famously attacked Shields for supporting the use of prescription medication to treat postpartum depression in her book, Down Came the Rain.

"Life is too short," Shields told Jenny McCarthy in a podcast interview. "I'm sure there are people that have strong, negative opinions about me, but I don't have the time."

Cruise later apologized for calling her "irresponsible" for taking and advocating for medication. "So he came over to the house and didn't come with anybody, drove himself, there wasn't anybody outside," Shields told US Weekly. Shields forgave Cruise and even attended his wedding to Katie Holmes a few short years later.

She tried the small screen again

After recovering from postpartum depression, welcoming another child, and finding a new manager, Shields was ready for another change. In 2008, the actress returned to the small screen in the fun female sitcom Lipstick Jungle. The series was based on the book written by Sex and the City author, Candace Bushnell. Perhaps because SATC had been such an iconic hit, Shields had a tough time finding her own place.

"For a while I don't think people were sure what they wanted the show to be," she told the New York Times. "The word from the network was that we were not Sex and the City. Then word came down that we needed to be more like Sex and the City. Once the discussion stopped, we were able to be our own show about these three women."

She found her style

Even though Shields had been a fashion icon for decades, it wasn't until having her daughters that she felt she found her own style. "I was very latent with regard to fashion passion," she told the New York Post. "It wasn't until after I had children that I started to have the sensibility of not just looking like people in magazines, but looking my best."

"I grew up going to thrift shops on the Upper East Side where the women would throw out their old Guccis and my mom would scoop them up for $1.50," she shared. "I learned you don't have to spend a lot of money to look good." Some of Shields' favorite shops include H&M and Zara.

In her fifties and still fabulous

After being in the public eye for nearly her entire life, Shields took her 50th birthday in stride. "I'm going to be hitting that big, wonderful birthday," she told Today. "I'm so excited. It's taken me so long to merit how old I feel anyway, because I've been around a long time and I have sort of always been older than my years." 

Fortunately for us, Shields is still stunning and going strong — likely, for many years to come.