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Brooke Shields Says She's "Amazed She Survived" Child Stardom in New Documentary

The actor reflects on her controversial career in the upcoming film Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields.

Putting children to work in the media is a complicated concept on its own, but Brooke Shields' child star career is particularly controversial. The star became a model and actor at an early age and was consequently sexualized before she was old enough to fully understand what was happening. Some of the more infamous moments from her career include playing a child being sold for sex at age 11 in Pretty Baby, starring at age 14 (and having an adult body double) in the coming-of-age movie The Blue Lagoon, and the suggestive Calvin Klein jeans ad she shot at age 15.

Now, Shields is reflecting on her child stardom in the documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, which will be streaming on Hulu beginning on April 3. The 57-year-old has explained the way that she looks back on that time in her life has changed in recent years, which is something the film by director Lana Wilson explores. Shields also says in a new trailer for the documentary that she's "amazed" that she survived it all. Read on to learn more.

READ THIS NEXT: Miley Cyrus Says "There's So Much She Doesn't Remember" About Being a Child Star.

She's surprised she made it through her high-profile childhood.

A new trailer for Pretty Baby includes footage from Shields' child and teen star career, along with commentary about the way she was sexualized and obsessed over in the media. One clip shows an adult male talk show host calling her "an exquisite young lady."

"I'm amazed that I survived any of it," Shields says in the film. She also says that being referred to "over and over" as "a pretty face" negatively impacted her. "That always just seared me," the actor explains.

She found her confidence after being controlled by others.

Brooke Shields at the 2018 Fashion Awards
Cubankite / Shutterstock

Shields also says in the trailer that as a young star, she "was struggling to find [her] own voice" and that she "wasn't told it was important to have agency." Despite the little control she felt when she was working in her childhood and teen years, Shields notes, "I found my confidence and thought, 'I can have my own opinion.'"

Because of the projects she did and how she was discussed in the media and pop culture, Shields felt like others thought her looks were the most important thing about her. "Now it's like, I'm allowed to be a human being," she says.

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Her mother suffered from alcoholism.

Brooke Shields in "The Blue Lagoon"
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Shields' mother, Teri Shields, who brought her daughter into the industry and died in 2012, suffered from alcoholism. In a 2021 interview with The Guardian, Shields said that she was focused on helping her mother, which she thinks prevented her from going down the troubled path that some child stars do.

"I talk about it a lot in therapy, but I think because I was so…" she said. "I had to keep my mother alive. The focal point for me was keeping her alive, because it was the two of us alone in the world, in my opinion."

She also said in that interview that, despite some blaming Teri for putting her into certain situations, she "never did something [she] didn't want to do." Asked if she would have let her own daughters be in a movie like Pretty Baby, Shields responded, "In 1977, probably. Now, I don't know if I would. It was a different era." (Shields has two daughters with husband Chris Henchy: 19-year-old Rowan and 16-year-old Grier.)

Her thoughts on her child stardom have evolved.

In a recent interview with People, Shields explained that she had to process what she'd gone through before she was able to work on the documentary.

"It's taken me this long to process it, so I was never ready prior," she said. "I had to process it in my own way and on my own terms."

The Suddenly Susan star explained further, "I found myself almost defending myself and that was what I thought was interesting. Because I started thinking things like, 'Oh, it was a different time.' I was sticking up for my mom to my girls, but then my daughter turned it around on me and said, 'Well, would you let me do it?' And I thought that was just such a telling thing. It made me face the unfairness of it more honestly than I think I could ever afford to emotionally at the time."

She says she's "lucky" that she came out "relatively unscathed."

Brooke Shields at the Time Women of the Year Gala in March 2023
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Shields also told People that she thinks she developed certain defense mechanisms as a child.

"I was so shut off that I didn't even know to be uncomfortable," she said. "I didn't have that 'ooh something's not right and this feels creepy.' I would forget about it the minute a scene would be over. I'd make a funny face or I'd always just try to affirm that it was not real life. And I think that protected me, but it also helped me stay the queen of denial."

Echoing what she says in the documentary, Shields said of watching the footage, "When you see it all at once, I think, how did that little girl survive that? How did she manage to keep her sense of humor and not get jaded and keep an open heart and all those things?" She added with a laugh, "You just think, oh, I'm very lucky that I am relatively unscathed."

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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