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Brooke Shields Slams Barbara Walters for "Practically Criminal" 1980 Interview

"It is not journalism," the actor and model said in a new podcast.

A lot of celebrities deal with controversy during their time in the spotlight, but for Brooke Shields, this started incredibly early on. When Shields was only 12, she played a child being trafficked in the film Pretty Baby. At 15, there was another round of controversy when she starred in her famous Calvin Klein jeans campaign, which featured the suggestive tagline, "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing." Around this time, the young actor and model was interviewed about her work by several journalists, including Barbara Walters. Now, speaking in a new podcast interview, Shields criticized Walters' 1980 interview with her, calling it "practically criminal."

In the interview with Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast, Shields didn't only look back on the interview with Walters, but also reflected on the way she was treated as a teen star on the whole. Read on to see what she had to say.

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She said the Walters interview was "not journalism."

Brooke Shields and Barbara Walters at the March of Dimes Gourmet Gala in 1991
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

A good portion of Shepard's sit-down with Shields was about her early career and the way the media interacted with her. Shields mentioned that she is currently working on a project about herself. And while she didn't go into details, she said that it involves looking at footage of her interviews from the past, including the 1980 conversation with Walters, which took place after her Calvin Klein ad came out.

"That Barbara Walters interview is maddening," Shepard said. Shields added, "It's practically criminal. It is not journalism."

Walters asked Shields several personal questions.

Barbara Walters at the 2012 Daytime Emmy Awards
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

In Walters' interview with Shields—a portion of which can be viewed online—she asked the 15-year-old star her measurements and said, "I think when people see you they don't realize how tall and slim you are." She then had Shields stand up next to her to compare their proportions.

Walters then asked Shields, "Would you be a mother like your mother?" and "What about the people who say, 'She had no childhood?'" Shields responded, "But I'm still going through my childhood, so I can't say that I didn't." Walters continued, "Sitting here like this is going through your childhood?" Shields said, "I'd rather do this than not do it at all … I enjoy this. I think it's an experience that I would not like to miss."

Walters also asked if Shields had any secrets from her mother, and Shields answered that she tells her mom "everything [she] feel[s] [she] should tell her."

Best Life reached out to a rep for Walters, who had no comment.

Shields thinks interviewers were trying to tell their own story through her.

Brooke Shields at the 2018 Fashion Awards
Cubankite / Shutterstock

On Armchair Expert, Shepard pointed out that interviewers seemed to not be able to figure out whether they wanted to portray Shields as an adult who knew what she was doing or a naive child. "They were mad at themselves for not figuring it out and then taking it out on me," Shields said. She explained of journalists at the time, "They never wanted my answer. They never wanted the answer. They wanted their point of view."

In a video for Vogue that was released in October, Shields told the story behind her Calvin Klein campaign and said at one point, "You might not really want my answer, because you keep asking me the same question hoping for a different answer."

The Vogue video features the footage of the Walters video, as well as clips from other more explicit interviews, including one in which an unidentified person asked her, "Could Brooke Shields handle a sexual relationship?"

Shields didn't totally understand the Calvin Klein ad.

Brooke Shields in New York in 1980
Sonia Moskowitz/IMAGES/Getty Images

Speaking to Vogue, Shields explained that she didn't understand the innuendo of the famous Calvin Klein tagline, which meant that the backlash caught her off-guard.

"They take the one commercial, which is a rhetorical question. I was naive. I didn't think anything of it," she said. "I didn't think it had to do with underwear. I didn't think it was sexual in nature. I would say it about my sister: 'Nobody can come between me and my sister.' What was shocking to me was to be berated by 'Oh, you knew this was happening. This is what you thought. You were thinking these thoughts." She added, "I think the assumption is that I was much more savvy that I ever really was."

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Her experience makes her feel connected to another star.

Britney Spears at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards
Kobby Dagan /

On Armchair Expert, Shields and Shepard also talked about Britney Spears and how the way she was sexualized and treated by the media as a young singer has been reevaluated recently. Shields said after learning more about Spears, "All of sudden felt this compete urge to just go take care of her." She continued of relating to the singer, "I was like she needs to know me. She needs to talk to me. And I don't know her." She realized, though, that she heard people say the same thing about her. "And you're like, 'Leave me alone, I don't need to be saved," Shields added.

RELATED: Megan Fox Says This Old Jimmy Kimmel Interview Shows How She Was Sexualized.


Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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