Brooke Shields Is Finally Free
It's a sunny Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, and I'm sitting ocean-side with Brooke Shields.
A photographer, three stylists, and too many assistants to count buzz about, readying the place for her REDBOOK cover shoot. No matter, Brooke has her herbal tea, I have my coffee, the waves are rolling over Malibu's famed shores, and we girls are talking about — what else? — boys. "You know when you're first in love with a guy," Brooke says, "and you just can't get enough of him? It's that feeling of just...you know...wanting to curl up and sleep with a pair of his underwear. Ilovethat."
Brooke Shields is a girl you cantalkto. Our conversation moves easily from marriage to work to motherhood, and Brooke is equal parts passion, pragmatism, and sentimentality. At 42, she has the intensity and focus of a woman who knows who she is at last.
Brooke has been a celebrity since she started modeling as a baby, but her career in Hollywood hasn't always maintained the meteorlike trajectory that started it all. In fact, it took her years to morph from model to serious actress, but with a string of films, two star turns on Broadway, and a long-running TV series to her credit, she's done it. Brooke added author to her bio in 2005 when she released , a brutally honest account of her struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of her first daughter, Rowan, now 4 (her second daughter, Grier, was born in 2006). The book spurred a maelstrom of publicity and debate, the most headline-grabbing attacks coming from Tom Cruise. After much public back-and-forth, Brooke and her husband of six years, TV writer/producer Chris Henchy, now enjoy an unlikely friendship with Tom and his wife, Katie Holmes — but that friendship is the one subject Brooke flatly refuses to discuss.
Brooke admits it took years to gain the confidence she now enjoys. Hollywood is hard, and she's been open about the pressure to look and act a certain way. And although she wonders if she would have gotten further faster if she'd been a diva ("Do you think there's some sort of class I could take?"), Brooke is just naturally warm. She can't keep in her sense of humor. While trying on dresses for our cover shoot, she jokingly singsongs that she's "gotta get her boobs on" (little chicken cutlet–like pads that slip into her bra). Strolling through the kitchen, she spies cupcakes. "Are these for us?" she asks. "Because I'm gonna maybe need more than one." When a low-flying helicopter buzzes the beach — no doubt loaded with paparazzi — everyone looks up warily, except Brooke, who's waving like a kid at a Fourth of July parade.
These days, the woman who started a near riot some 30 years ago with the line "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins" is poised, once again, to take the lead. She's the face of New York & Company, she's Tupperware's new Chain of Confidence spokesperson, and she's got a hotly anticipated TV series (Lipstick Jungle,based on the book by Candace Bushnell) due early next year. But that doesn't stop her from thinking about writing another book, reviewing movie scripts, and, of course, being the best wife and mother she can be. Shields may be enjoying the sunshine on the beach today, but she's got things to do — and her tomorrow looks just as promising.
You were one of the first child stars to live in the Hollywood fishbowl at such a young age. Can you compare your experience to what's happening in Hollywood today?
I think a lot of these girls are young, and it's all so tempting. For some reason I wasn't tempted. I don't know why. Sometimes I wish Iwasa little more tempted to have a little more fun. But I see them, and someone will ask, "Well, what do you want to say to so-and-so?" I don't want to say anything to them. I want to talk to their mothers.
Celebrities are worldwide commodities today.
People used to say my mom used me as a commodity. But you know what? She did her own version of dysfunctional behavior, sure, but nothing like you see these days. I feel really bad for these girls today because they are going to hit my age, and you just hope to God they've had enough ofsomethingto get them through it.
Your relationship with your own mother has been famously tumultuous, and now you have two girls. Does any of that history bubble up for you or influence your parenting?
Oh, no, I don't know what you're talking about, you silly writer. [Laughs] Seriously, I think about it a lot. My mother had a fear of loss, and I was [the focus of] it. I learned early on that I'm the only person in the world that mattered to her. It was a big responsibility. Now, when I look at my mom, I understand it from her perspective. I need so much from my girls. I need their love and validation every single day. And what's more, I feel slightly entitled to it.
Do you compare yourself with other parents?
The thing I've noticed is that so many parents don't put the time in. They may be there, but they're notthere.You have to be willing to...don't just give your kids the thing they want. They're not going to get it until they say thank you or please.
So being there for your kids is about not taking shortcuts.
I always feel like the odd mom out, because trust me when I tell you I'mon my girls.And every time I am, I know from the outside it looks like I'm an overbearing, controlling parent. But I don't think we have any responsibility to anybody else but our kids and ourselves. I think about my mom. She was all over me — "don't do this," "don't do that," "say thank you," "say please." People used to crucify her for it. I had friends who'd say to me, "Gosh, she's so up your ass." But I'm like, "Yeah, but who's got the better manners of this group?" The worst part about it is when I look at my daughter, and she'll be fighting with some other kid, and I have to be careful not to always make it her fault. But I can only tellherwhat to do — I can't tell the other kid. I'll tell her, "Hey, you suck it up; you give him the toy, and we'll talk about it later." So she's the one who always has to take the high road, which is hard for a 4-year-old. But then I always take it a step further and take her aside and say, "Sometimes it seems unfair that you have to do that, I know. But you know what? That child has a bad attitude, and you don't, and you know you have a toy like that at home. So you don't always have to give everything up, but sometimes because you're older and smarter and nicer, you can." And by the time I get to the end of that sentence, she gets it.
Do you feel pressure to be a good role model to the girls?
Yes and no. I have bad-mom moments all the time. Sometimes I have the wrong reaction, but I try to remember to pull back and think about it. Even when I make the mistake, I'm able to then go, "Oh, okay, let's do this again." I was just talking about all this last night. My older daughter—whenever she gets a gift, she asks me if she can keep it, because I'm always going, "You don't need two of those. Decide on the one you want. We're going to give the other one away." And so now every time, she'll go, "Can I have it?" And I'm like, "Oh, my God, you're going to be in therapy when you're 16 and be, like, 'My mom would never let me keep anything.'" [Laughs]
What has surprised you most about motherhood?
Everybody says, "When you have kids, you really get away from yourself." But really, it's the most selfish thing I've ever done. It's like,Okay, I'm going to create unconditional love for myself, and I'm going to need it and want it and ask for it every day, and I'm going to get it.
What are the great mom moments?
One day Rowan said, "Mom, it hurts." And I was like, "What is it, Baby? Did you hurt yourself?" And she said, "I just love you so much it hurts." And I was just beyond, beyond! Another time Chris called me from the car, and he was practically in tears because she told him she couldn't keep it in. And I said, "Did she have to throw up or what?" And he said, "No, she said, 'Dad, I love you and Mom so much I can't keep it in.'" And I was like, "Oh, sweetie, you don't have to keep it in! Don't ever keep it in!"
You've got a lot of great things going on right now. Careerwise, you've been filming the dramedyLipstick Junglefor NBC. How did that happen for you?
It was fate. I read the book by Candace Bushnell and loved it. I called my agent and I'm like, "It's got everything. It's New York; it's funny; it's smart. These women aren't bitchy; they're just really strong." The whole project's just been pretty dreamy.
You've also recently partnered with Tupperware for a program that aims to help young girls. What's it all about?
It's called Chain of Confidence. Tupperware is giving over million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's SMART Girls Program. The program empowers young women by teaching them all sorts of things, whether it's a skill or it's helping them with their homework, or learning about job placement, or just having a place if they don't have healthy sisters, aunts, mothers, whatever, available to them.
Why this, why now?
Tupperware gave women independence long before it was fashionable because they gave stay-at-home moms the opportunity to earn a living. And with having my two daughters, the idea behind this initiative — to help girls maintain their confidence and create a support system for them when they otherwise wouldn't have one — that spoke to me.
Who makes up your support system?
I have a group of friends in my life, and we all give each other something different. I've known my two closest friends for many years. One is a friend from high school, and the other I met right after college. My deep, deep friends remind me every day of the good parts of my personality. And they don't let me be negative about myself, because if I start going down that road...
Is that a road you can get down?
Well, because I use self-deprecation as a form of humor and as an ice-breaker, I can take it to a place where I start to believe it. And that is when my friends will tell me to knock it off.
How would your friends describe you?
That my natural tendency is to be really dorky, and that I'm fiercely loyal. I let people be exactly who they are rather than try to make them be somebody that I can then deal with.
Are you good at forgiveness?
I'm good at putting myself in someone else's place so that I can understand why they did the things that they did. But I'm much better at forgiving other people than I am at forgiving myself. Sometimes the way I forgive someone else is by taking the blame myself. So it seems like I'm so forgiving, and I am —of you.But then I've got this huge journey to take on my own.
What do you know now about life and who you are that you didn't understand before?
Now more than ever I'm able to live in the present. I'm not running all the time. I'm not obsessed with calling everybody back. I want to spend my time doing the work for the relationships that matter most to me, as opposed to spreading myself thin because, God forbid, I'm going to miss something. At times I've said,Why couldn't I have been this happy in my 20s? Why couldn't I have been this content with my body, my relationship,or whatever it was?But I think you kind of have to earn it.
Anything you would have done differently?
I look back, and I think I would have liked to be a little bit freer. Not sexually, but freer to cultivate stuff that didn't come naturally to me. And I like who I am, but I think I could have revealed that a little bit earlier. Overall, though, this time is absolutely one of the best that I can remember — and not because it's easy, but because I feel really aware and responsible for my choices. If something bad happens, I know I've had my part in it, and if something good happens, I also get to celebrate that.
Behind-the-scenes details on Brooke's photo shoot, just for you:
Old friends:The photographer for our shoot, Andrew Eccles, is a longtime friend of Brooke's and they've worked together many times. Andrew even shot the cover of Brooke's memoir,Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression."They clearly had a long history together and you could see that as far as Brooke was concerned she had 100 percent trust in him and what he wanted to do," said Lori Berger, REDBOOK's special projects director.
Just one of the gang:During downtimes at the shoot, Brooke hung out with the crew, chatting about topics like Hollywood, her summer vacation plans (she was about to head to the East Coast with her family), and one of her favorite topics: kids.
A leg up:Brooke was very accommodating when trying on various outfits for the shoot.
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