Brooke Shields isn’t just another pretty face. In fact, to simply classify her as such would be an insult. She’s smart, though not arrogant, self-deprecating, but not insecure, funny, while not over-the top, and a delicate mixture of a dozen other attributes that make her not only a successful model and actress, but also a devoted wife and mother.
But that’s not to say she isn’t pretty. She’s stunning. With flawless ivory skin, thick chestnut hair and enviable lush eyebrows, it’s easy to see why she’s considered the face of the ‘80s. But today, dressed in a loose cowl neck top, skintight leather pants and chunky moto boots, Shields is a far cry from the precocious teen that provocatively professed, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” She’s the epitome of downtown cool and exudes the confidence of seasoned professional, which she is. The 47-year-old fashion icon has graced the cover of over 300 international magazines, and at only 14, became the youngest cover girl in Vogue’s history.
Standing 6-feet tall, 6-foot-4 in the Jimmy Choo stilettos she’s chosen for our shoot, it’s easy to feel intimidated by her sheer presence. But as soon as she launches into a story about chasing Academy Award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis down the streets of the West Village “just to tell him how great I think he is,” all is forgotten.
“I saw him on the street and I turned around and I started following him,” she says with a combination of pride and disbelief. “He must have felt someone behind him because he picked up his pace. And I thought, I have to leave the guy alone, and then I thought, I can’t!”
“I had no idea what to call him. Mister Day-Lewis? Mr. Lewis? Mr. Daniel? So I just walked up to him and said, ‘Excuse me, I’m Brooke. I’m really sorry to do this to you, but I think you’re amazing.’ And thank God, he recognized me.”
It’s this kind of unabashed attitude that has made Shields such a force to be reckoned with throughout her illustrious career. After breaking into the film industry at the tender age of 12 playing a child prostitute in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby, Shields went on to star, topless, though strategically covered, in the 1981 smash Blue Lagoon. “I think that the reason why I was unfazed was because there was an innocence to the characters,” she explains. “In Pretty Baby the director didn’t want a little Lolita, he wanted an innocent kid and he got that.”
But not everyone did. Many critics hailed the film as child pornography and chastised Shield’s mother, Teri, for letting her take on such an advanced role. “She kept so much from me,” Shields recalls. “She wanted me to stay a kid for as long as possible, which may seem like a contradiction, but there was this freedom and naivety where I wasn’t cognizant of things. I wasn’t cognizant enough to know that you would be insecure or uncomfortable.”
By the age of 16, Shields became one of the most recognizable faces in the industry, and everyone, from Hollywood producers to New York social climbers wanted a piece. “I would get invited to Studio 54, but I’d leave before all the craziness and drugs happened. I never saw the bag passed around,” she insists. “Andy Warhol and all those guys were very sweet to me. There was something about me that they wanted to protect and uphold.”
But as Shields grew older, she began to gravitate away from the provocative roles that made her a household name, and instead, focused on comedy—a skill that had always been hidden from the public eye. “It was such a revelation,” she remembers. “I’d always been the class clown, but I kind of got labeled as this other person because I had been in more serious films and there was no room to be funny.”
Audiences were finally able to experience Shields’ comedic timing when she guest starred as Joey’s obsessive, finger-licking love interest on Friends in 1996. “Initially, they didn’t want me to do that crazy stuff that I did,” she reveals. “They took it out after rehearsal, but I said, ‘Please let me do it.’ And they said, ‘No, it makes you too crazy. No one’s going to believe that Joey would like this woman.’ I was like, ‘He’s a guy! You doll her up enough and he’s not going to care. He doesn’t want to marry her.’” The episode drew in 52.9 million viewers, making it the most watched episode in the show’s 10-season history. “I was just so happy that they trusted me,” she admits. “One thing that I’m not afraid of is looking silly.”
It’s that sort of openness that separates Shields from other actresses of today. Even in her darkest hours, she has never shied away from talking about taboo topics such as infertility and postpartum depression—even when Tom Cruise publicly criticized her for taking medication. “It’s a really uncomfortable topic because it’s embarrassing,” she reveals. “We believe that when we have children everything’s supposed to come into focus and you’re supposed to gaze down at your child and it’s all supposed to make sense. It’s not always that easy.”
In 2006, Shields wrote a deeply personal memoir entitled Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression about the harrowing experience. “I knew I was in a position to share a real story, without just educating people and saying I knew better,” she explains. “I wasn’t even thinking about how I would be perceived. It felt so tragic for me to go through it, and it’s cliché, but if you can help just one person heal more quickly, it’s worth it.”
Today, Shields appears to have the picture perfect family. She’s been married to Chris Henchy for 12 years, an eternity by Hollywood standards, and has two beautiful little girls. “Chris has been more supportive of my career than I have been, and whenever I start to falter, he’s very quick to remind me of the positives,” she says with a smile. When the two aren’t playing Clue or making homemade chocolate with their children, the pair loves to sneak off for a romantic meal in their West Village neighborhood. “My husband will never eat at the great vegan places I like to go to, so I go to those restaurants with my friends. We like going to L’Artusi or Lupa or Morandi,” she reveals. “Now that I’ve moved downtown, I’ve become one of those converts. I feel like I need to put on a different wardrobe when I come uptown.”
Describing her everyday style as “eclectic,” Shields says that her outfits vary depending on who she wants to be that day. “I run the gamut from very classic and preppy to as many sparkles and beads as I can get on my body,” she jokes, noting that her body image has changed since her days of high-fashion modeling. “Since I’ve had kids, my body has had a purpose rather than just needing to look fit or pretty,” she asserts. “I started to enjoy it in different stages—and I have clothes to fit all those stages.”
But there’s one item of clothing that Shields will always keep tucked away in her closet no matter her dress size: the infamous Calvin Klein jeans. “They’re so high-waisted,” she shrieks. “I found them when I was on Broadway and I made it my mission to get into them, which I did. They zipped up… they didn’t look pretty… but I was like, ‘Look! Look!’”
To stay in shape, Shields takes classes at celebrity hotspot SoulCycle. And though it’s hard to imagine, soon her workout regimen will become even more intense. Shields recently signed on for season seven of Lifetime’s Army Wives, where she’ll play a Colonel in the Air Force. “I go down to training in Charleston very soon,” she exclaims. “We’ll probably have some flight time because it’s important that my character is comfortable in that position, but I told them I wanted to do everything.” And knowing Shields, she definitely will.