Brooke Shields On Motherhood and Her Latest Book

Interview by Kam Williams 

Actress and author Brooke Shields is a familiar face within the entertainment industry. Starting her career at just 11 months, Shields went on to star in Pretty Baby (1978), The Blue Lagoon (1980), and Endless Love (1981). She also caused a sensation with her advertising campaign for Calvin Klein. Shields attended Princeton University in 1983, graduating in 1988. Following college, Shields played the title role in Suddenly Susan and appeared on Seinfeld. She has just published her latest memoir There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me, written after the death of her mother, Teri Shields, in 2012. In it, Shields honestly examines her remarkable and often diffi cult relationship with her mother. Her previous memoir, Down Came the Rain, was a New York Times Bestseller.

PM: How important to you and your career has been the education you received at Princeton University?

It’s been the thing that’s helped me stay standing.

PM: Did classmates ask you out on dates while you were a student at Princeton?

After a while. Not much my freshman year. But by my sophomore year, I had asked enough people out that they started to ask me back.

PM: Princeton has eating clubs instead of fraternities. Had they begun admitting women when you arrived?

Yes, although I went there in 1983, the Ivy Club was all-male when I arrived and it was still all-male when I graduated. I joined Cap & Gown.

PM: Would you ever be interested in acting in a French language film given that you majored in French Literature?

I would absolutely say “yes” in a second, if given the opportunity. I would take on that challenge enthusiastically and work really hard.

PM: If you hadn’t entered the entertainment industry, what do you think you’d be doing today?

I’ve been in the entertainment industry for so long, before I even knew that I wanted to be in it. So, it would be hard to know what else I might be doing. I probably would have still made my way into it somehow because, to me, making people laugh, and entertaining, and watching people experience storytelling is one of the most rewarding things I can imagine. So I think I would have found a way to entertain people in some capacity.

PM: What was the turning point in your life? To me, it seems that you have had more than one.

Most people assume there’s only supposed to be one turning point, which dictates the rest of our lives. But I think we have to be open to additional turning points when they arrive. Things happen in our lives. Classmates graduate, careers change, babies are born, friends are lost, loved ones die…There are so many milestones that I believe are important to acknowledge as being significant.

PM: Who is your intended audience for this book? Is there a particular demographic you believe will gain from it?

I think there’s a difference between who will be interested in reading it and those who might be able to gain perspective. I’ve been around for so long that those people who have actually grown up with me might read it just for the trivia. However, I’m hoping that younger audiences will sort of tap into the part that simply deals with getting to know your parents and asking them to try and understand who you are. That’s a dialogue that needs to happen.

PM: I believe that your book will help many heal from the pain of being raised in an unhealthy or challenging environment.

I think we can all look at our situations and find reasons to make them healthier. Nobody really has it all figured out. I believe there’s healthy and unhealthy in each of us. It’s when you operate with a sense of love in your heart that you maintain the integrity that enables you to keep going forward.

PM: If you could talk to your mother today, what would you say to her?

I hope you knew how much I loved you.

PM: When I see the tremendous wealth of work you have done in the industry, I can’t help but wonder when you will try your hand as a director?

I directed Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl the summer before last, and I got a bit of the bug for it. So I’m sure that within the next few years, there will be some sort of foray into it.

PM: Given that you’ve been a legend since childhood, “What becomes a legend most?” is an interesting question to pose to you.

Well, there’s a certain sense of longevity that’s associated with legends, as well as a sense of endurance. I think what becomes a legend most is not only that which lasts the test of time but an ability to keep adapting. I’ve been around for decades and I’ve tried to stay afloat by seizing upon opportunity when presented to me. And the opportunities presented to me now look very different from the ones in the 1980s. But instead of waiting for everything to happen the way you think it should, it’s a matter of being able to see what the real lay of the land is, and figuring out how you can play a part in it.

PM: Thanks again for the time, Brooke, and best of luck with the book.

Thank you so much, Kam.