Brooke Shields was still in diapers when she first appeared as a model at 11 months. For a period in the early 1980s, she was one of the most scrutinized young women in pop culture, critiqued and ogled on film and TV long before Instagram or TikTok existed.
Now, at age 58, she said she is fully confident in who she is and knows her true self-worth, she told 1,600 attendees of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation’s annual fundraising luncheon last week at the Georgia World Congress Center that raised more than $1.1 million.
“At age 40, I started to feel overlooked and undervalued,” she told WSB-TV anchor Linda Stouffer, who served as moderator on stage. “I had to reignite the understanding of myself.”
Today, the mother of two daughters said, “I feel like I’m enough. For years, it was all about the kids. That has started to change. Who am I now?... I’m not done. I don’t have one foot in the grave.”
Earlier during the event, a group of women sang the classic Helen Reddy 1972 feminist anthem “I Am Woman.” This gave Shields the chance to throw out this bon mot: “I am not ‘I am woman, hear me roar.’ It’s ‘I am woman, hear me more!’” Once she finished her talk, she sang along onstage during a reprise of the song.
Credit: RODNEY HO
Credit: RODNEY HO
Shields has been in the spotlight this year thanks in part to “Pretty Baby,” the Hulu documentary about her life that came out in the spring. She said she had been asked many times over the years to do a documentary, but only recently found someone she felt she could trust to tell her story.
”I was afraid it would be sensationalized,” Shields said. But producer Christine O’Malley ensured the doc was “something bigger than me. It’s about bigger topics” like the broader concept of objectification and exploitation of young women.
She said in many ways much of her life has “been owned by the public.” And her two daughters, now 17 and 20, struggled with that after watching the documentary. The director gave her daughters the opportunity to critique their mom’s movies.
“I was seeing my girls become women,” Shields said. “They were confident enough to speak their mind. They said some harsh stuff.”
She jokingly cracked that maybe they should have watched her 1990s sitcom “Suddenly Susan” on a loop instead.
Shields found the documentary interesting because it allowed her to witness “my whole trajectory. You survive and go and carve out a life for yourself that can’t be taken away. I saw that little Brooke. She wanted to protect her mom. It breaks my heart. I had to really learn to take care of myself.”
She said early in her career she only began to find herself when she attended Princeton University. There, the tabloid press hounds of the day “couldn’t get to me. I became more threatening to them. They didn’t like the new me. I wasn’t malleable.”
Shields said in college, she was “a very nerdy student. I really worked hard. I made some of my closest friends there. It gave me time away from Hollywood. It gave me a strong sense of privacy. I had opinions and could go and write books and not be insecure. I could be at a press conference and you couldn’t throw me. And that’s because of education.”
She said she has shifted mediums over the years in part because the previous ones had lost interest in her, be it film or TV. This is why she pursued theater, books and podcasts. “Where there were opportunities,” she said, “instead of feeling useless, I raised my hand.”
Not that she isn’t averse to trying TV again. “I try to keep growing as an actress,” she said. “I know it makes me happy. I want nothing more than to do another television show. I love comedy. I love going to work every day. While those are not happening, I go to other places. I take what’s available while staying creative.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.