Despite her efforts to be taken seriously as an actress, Brooke Shields has been unable to escape her youth, during which time she found herself in the precarious position of simultaneously being idolized as a late-'70s icon of adolescent wholesome virginal innocence and being constantly photographed in manners verging on the mildly pornographic. Shields' early career was managed and pushed by her mother, Teri Shields, a small-time actress who placed her daughter in front of the camera before she was even one. As the Ivory Snow baby, Shields was once hailed as the "most beautiful baby in America." After spending many years hawking products, she was in such demand that her mother started marketing her under the logo "Brooke Shields & Co." Shields made her feature film debut in Alice Sweet Alice (1976), but did not become a bona fide star until French director Louis Malle cast her as a 12-year-old New Orleans prostitute who becomes the romantic obsession of a much older painter in Pretty Baby (1978). The film was released amidst great controversy because of the scenes in which Shields (or a body double representing her) appeared nude. But while she did participate in some adult scenes, those moments were handled with taste and discretion by Malle and his cinematographer, Sven Nyquist, and the general consensus was that Shields was not exploited in the film. Thus far, her acting in Pretty Baby remains Shields' best. Through her teens, Shields was among the world's top fashion models and her countenance was everywhere. Controversy again stirred when she did some provocative ads for Calvin Kline in which she was seen wearing a too tight pair of jeans and cooed, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." This was in contrast to her other ads in which she advised young girls to abstain from sex and a different campaign against smoking. At the peak of her fame, Shields appeared three times on the cover of Life magazine and once on the cover of Time. Her film career picked up around this time with appearances in such venues as King of the Gypsies (1978) and Wanda Nevada (1979), but her best-known film is the so-bad-it's-good The Blue Lagoon (1980) in which she and teenage hunk Christopher Atkins find themselves shipwrecked for years on a desert island. Ostensibly, the film is a tender tale about innocence and true love, but it's primarily a titillating romp filled with plenty of flesh shots of Shields and Atkins' taut, tanned, and partially clad bodies. In 1981, Shields tried her hand with a more serious role in Franco Zeffirelli's tepid teen romance Endless Love, but did not succeed. Shields decided it was time for college and so enrolled in Princeton, where but for the occasional appearance on a Bob Hope television special, made-for-TV movie, or other special event, she immersed herself in college life. While there, she majored in French Literature and also became interested in the theater, gaining experience in two regional productions of Love Letters. Shields graduated from Princeton with honors. Upon her graduation, Shields returned to acting full time and appeared in films that can most kindly be described as mediocre. In 1996, Shields was given her own situation comedy on NBC network's Suddenly Susan, where she played a single career girl struggling to reassemble her life following her breakup with her wealthy fiancé. Though never among the most natural and relaxed of actresses, Shields gradually grew into her role and proved to be a competent, charismatic comedy actress, turning in guest appearances on popular television shows such as That 70s Show, Nip/Tuck, Two and a Half Men, and Hannah Montana after Suddenly Susan went off the air in 2000. Meanwhile, on Broadway, Shields could bee seen in revivals of Grease, Cabaret, and Chicago before taking over the role of Morticia Addams in the Broadway musical version of The Addams Family. In 1997 Shields married tennis great Andre Agassi, but the union only lasted two years and in 2001 she was wed to television producer Chris Henchy.
photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
by Sandra Brennan biography