During her years as a child actor and a teen model, Brooke Shields endured consistent commentary about her looks and her body. It only got worse during a 1981 interview with Barbara Walters where the then 15-year-old’s sexual history was questioned by the journalist — looking at it through a 2021 lens, it’s horrifying that it ever happened.
On the latest episode of the Armchair Expert podcast, Shields recalled the interview, describing it as “practically criminal” because “it’s not journalism.” During that era, the model’s Calvin Klein jeans campaign, where she says tag lines like, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing” was both celebrated and criticized — and it brought Shields a major level of success. During that interview, Walters had her own agenda. She made the visibly uncomfortable teen stand up while asking, “What are your measurements?” She also inquired about Shields’ mother, Teri Shields, who was often the subject of her own headlines with accusations of profiting off her daughter by sexualizing her at a young age.
“Would you be a mother like your mother?” Walters continued. “What about people who say, ‘She had no childhood’?” Shields told Armchair Expert host Dax Shepard that she finds the interview “maddening” now. Shields has also spoken about the campaign in recent months, sharing that she was “naive” when it come to the innuendos in the ad. “I didn’t think it had to do with underwear,” she said to Vogue. “I didn’t think it was sexual in nature. I’d say that about my sister — nobody could come between me and my sister. I think the assumption is that I was much more savvy than I ever really was.”
In the end, she told Shepard, “I feel like the controversy backfired. The campaign was extremely successful.” But Shields isn’t done with exploring this story because she also mentioned she’s working on a documentary to revisit her early career in the same way filmmakers have done with Britney Spears and Brittany Murphy — so this story still has another chapter.
Before you go, click here to see celebrities who have spoken out about being sexualized too young.