An oncologist on the human cost to treating cancer and why she believes we need to re-think how to fight the disease.
Actress and model Brooke Shields appeared in her first commercial before she was one year old. By her teens, she had rocketed to stardom with movies like “Pretty Baby” and “Blue Lagoon,” and a now-famous series of TV ads for Calvin Klein jeans. For years, Shields’s mother was both her manager and her closest friend. But their relationship was perpetually complicated by her mother’s alcoholism, and Shields spent decades seeking independence as both an actress and a daughter. Now, two years after her mother’s 2012 death, Shields reflects on life with her mother, her own unconventional career and how her upbringing made her the parent she is today. Join us for a conversation with Brooke Shields.
- Brooke Shields Actress, model, and author.
Video: On Starring in "Pretty Baby"
Brooke Shields talks about her role in “Pretty Baby,” the 1978 movie about a 12-year-old child prostitute at turn-of-the century New Orleans, and reaction to the film.
Excerpt from THERE WAS A LITTLE GIRL by Brooke Shields. Reprinted by arrangement with DUTTON, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2014 by Brooke Shields
Video: On "The Need To Be Seen"
Brooke Shields talks about young girls growing up today.
“There is something that has happened with the need to be seen,” she says.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Actress and model Brooke Shields was the face of the '80s, America's sweetheart. But the early days of her career remain controversial. Her mother was widely criticized for allowing Shields to take on sexually suggestive TV and film work at a young age, but Shields insists that's not the whole picture.
MS. DIANE REHMIn a new book, she recalls a loving, but flawed mother who touched every part of her daughter's life for better or worse. Her book is titled, "There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother And Me." Brooke Shields joins me in the studio. We will be video streaming this hour so you can join us by phone, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd welcome to you, Brooke Shields.
MS. BROOKE SHIELDSThank you so much for having me.
REHMI'm glad to have you here. This book actually began with an obituary you read. Tell us what happened.
SHIELDSWell, I had written my own obituary for my mom and it was very short and it was just factual and I just thought I would buy my place in the newspaper, which I did, and I sent my money in and I received a phone call a few days later that said -- actually the next day that said -- they said, well, we've got your obituary and we would like to put it on the front page of the Sunday section of the obituaries.
SHIELDSAnd I said, you can place it wherever you'd like. And there was a moment that I thought -- and they said, well, your mom deserved sort of a better placement than somewhere in the back so I sort of was softened and, obviously, still in shock and it had only been a few days since she had died. And I said, listen, wherever you want to put it, that's fine. And I had a glimmer in my mind.
SHIELDSI thought, well, maybe they want to give her a little respect, you know. Maybe they do want to sort of, you know, say, sort of, all in all, they've said so many negative things about her over the years, you know, maybe in death, they've decided to just say, hey, she was a larger-than-life or I don't know what. But I said, you know, and I'd rather just print what I wrote.
REHMWhat you wrote.
SHIELDSAnd they said, well, why don’t we just print what you wrote, but maybe if we have a fact check we would like to run by you. And at that point, I was sort of vulnerable and I didn't think -- the red flag didn't go up and I said, okay, sure, just do whatever you want, but just print what I wrote, please. And they called me back and said, did she have a brother living at the time or, excuse me, did she ever live anywhere else?
SHIELDSIt was very menial questions. I answered, hung up the phone and that was it. Sunday morning, I go get the newspaper, I open it up to see what I thought was going to be my written obituary and what I was faced with was a scathing, horrible article, a review of my mother's life that this person thought that they knew. And it was basically just sort of Wikipedia-based and it had no -- this person didn't know my mother, had never met her, you know.
SHIELDSAnd I ran through a series of emotions and you sort of first make it about yourself and I raged and I cried and I was gonna write an op-ed piece or I was gonna write a letter or I was gonna call this man out. And then, I sort of stepped back and I thought, if this woman, years, decades after being prominent in any way in the public eye, this woman who has since deteriorated can still elicit such a vehemence, such vitriol, such emotion, there was be something in what she symbolizes or there must be something in what that relationship is between a mother and a child.
SHIELDSWhat about this man's relationship with his mother spurred this need to attack? That was part of it. And the other half was why is it okay for us, where is the humanity? You know, where has our integrity gone? Why is it okay in this world of social media and in all of the -- it's okay that we can just feel the freedom to just say whatever we want and attack and attack and not really be responsible for it?
SHIELDSAnd it's the bully -- it's bullying. And I thought, wow, there is a lot going on here and I feel that it's not -- I don't want to make it about me. I don't want to say, you didn't know her and this is -- I'm putting her on a pedestal, but I didn't know exactly how it should manifest, what I wanted to do because I wanted to make it address a bigger topic. And I said, you know, I believe it's my turn to tell my version of what it was like for me.
SHIELDSAnd in no means did I set out to write a "Mommy Dearest" book or...
REHMOf course not.
SHIELDS...hold her on this pedestal and, you know, make her Mother Teresa. I want to show the complexities of the mother/child relationship and of how bonded we were and how enmeshed we were and how codependent and how that meant beautiful moments and terrifying moments.
REHMYou actually adored her as a young girl.
SHIELDSAs a old girl, which I am now, adored her.
SHIELDSYou know, she was my queen, you know. She was my -- she could make it rain. She was my goddess. She was larger than any other being to me.
REHMAnd your father.
SHIELDSAnd my dad, I think, was smitten and then really had difficulty -- he was sort of mad at himself, I think. He was very young. They met, they got pregnant, they got married, they had me, they got divorced all in one year. I mean, it was a -- mom's likes to say or liked to say it was a busy year.
SHIELDSFive months. And, you know, she was from a very different lifestyle. She was from Newark. She was sort of from the wrong side of the tracks and he was an upper eastside well bred, on the social register and...
REHMHow did they meet?
SHIELDSThey met in a bar. And both of them sort of nursing broken hearts of somebody and, you know, it was one of those -- she like to romanticize sort of the whole story about -- you know what, I think she fell madly in love with this sort of beautiful boy who she was nine years older than he was and she was beautiful and blonde and funny and just beguiling. And she had this -- there was that beauty and then that, you know, the tragedy that you feel underlying once you get to know her.
REHMNow, once he left, then it was just the two of you?
SHIELDSWell, my mom, actually, was the catalyst in their breaking up. Don't want to ruin the story. There is a kind of a funny one in there. But she said to my father, listen, we'll figure out -- I don't want any child support or, you know, I work. I'll work. I'll figure it out, but I want you to put this baby through school, through college. And he did. You know, he said, all right. And they maintained a friendship. Neither one of them ever said anything unkind or spoke ill of the other.
SHIELDSAnd he paid for my schooling and my mom and I lived in the city as this little team, this little duo. It was just the two of us. I mean, my mother slept me attached to her chest for the first year of my life because she was so -- I was premature and she was afraid I was going to die. But it became this incredibly bonded relationship and she had this little prize, unconditionally loving baby.
REHMHow did she support herself? Was it totally with the money from your father?
SHIELDSHe put me through school, but prior to that, he helped her. I mean, we always was offering to help and everything, but then, I mean, I was 11 months old when I made my first buck. I was a baby model. I was in it for the cash.
REHMAnd tell me what you modeled as an 11-month-old.
SHIELDSI was an Ivory soap baby. My mother had this sort of fabulous cast of characters as friends and they were photographers and hairdressers and artists and it was in the, you know, '60s in New York and a very prominent photographer was a very good friend of hers and called her one day and said, listen, the client's unhappy. They don't like any of the kids. Could you bring the baby down?
SHIELDSAnd I had had my nap. I was in a happy mood. All the other kids were screaming and crying and they sat me on the floor and I opened up Ivory soap and they thought I was the perfect baby. And they said, the baby has to know how to kiss. Does the baby know how to kiss? And my mom was like, yes. This baby knows how to kiss. And she was kissing me all the time. And I got the job and we made whatever we made for that one job. And that's when it all started. And the photographer...
REHMIt all started.
SHIELDSYeah. He was Francesco Scavullo. Where do you go from there? That's like my first photographer.
SHIELDSI was doomed.
REHMExactly. So the jobs then continued.
SHIELDSThey did. I was a baby model and then I was a -- I didn't model that much as an infant. And then, you know, 2 and 3 and 4 started catalogs and then Alexander's and Bloomingdales and, you know, I was that kid.
REHMBrooke Shields, her story of her mother and herself is titled "There Was A Little Girl." Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back to a discussion with actress, model Brooke Shields. She's written a story about life with her mother. And it's titled "There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me." Brooke Shields, how did you ultimately become aware of your mother's drinking?
SHIELDSI think children are very wise. I think they're very intuitive. They see behavior changes very easily. And I realized at a very young age that I was -- I needed to navigate my mom, that in the mornings she was better because she didn't drink. But by 3:00 when she picked me up at school, I could see the look -- I could see the blurry-eyed a little bit. I could see the lipstick kind of -- her lips would get sort of dry.
SHIELDSAnd it started to just become the -- sort of the most important thing in our lives in so far as it was always -- it was a constant. And my mom was never a rager, like she didn't throw things. She didn't hit, she didn't yell. She was -- I was always perfectly dressed and fed and cleaned and the house was -- like everything was -- she kept it altogether but...
SHIELDSYeah, but she couldn't basically handle not drinking. And when I was 13 years old, it was getting to be scary. You know, sometimes she would -- I didn't know where she was or I'd go to a girlfriend's house and I wouldn't be able -- I didn't know if she was going to, you know, pick me up or -- I was always safe but I didn't know that she was safe. And I went to my Godmother and I said, listen, I think I want to live with dad if mom keeps drinking.
SHIELDSAnd we found the Freedom Institute. It was -- and they were -- they specialized in interventions. And they said, listen, you're the most important person in this woman's life. She loves you more than life and you have to be the one to say this to her because it has to come from you. And we ambushed her, did a -- staged a whole intervention.
REHMWho is we?
SHIELDSMe and -- I did it and my Godmother was with me. She helped pack my mom's bag and then we called my mom and said, will you meet us for a meeting at this upper eastside just office. And we sat down and the woman started the intervention and said, you know, your daughter came and talked to me and she loves you. And she wants you to get help.
SHIELDSAnd my mother was -- that was probably the only time she has ever been caught off guard. And it seemed too good to be true when she said she would go. But then she turned to me and said, but I'm doing this for you, which is the kiss of death with anybody who has an addiction. That, you know, they have to want to do it for themselves. They have to believe they have the issue.
SHIELDSAnd so I was just -- thought it was -- we were going to be all fine. And it didn't really work. I mean, she came home and...
REHMHow long was she gone?
SHIELDSShe did the whole treatment, the six weeks and -- during which had very, very little communication with her. And then I went up and did the family counseling and that whole thing. And, you know, she was the type of woman who within a week she was made the head of her group and was running the group, you know. She just -- she was a very witty, very smart, very shrewd person. And she stopped drinking for about a month...
SHIELDS...and then started back up again. So, yeah...
REHMI want to ask you about your acting career. And I want to hear a clip first from a movie you made in 1978. You were 12 years old. It's called "Pretty Baby."
SHIELDSCan I stay here?
KEITH CARRADINEYes, you may if you want to.
SHIELDSI will. Will you sleep with me and take care of me?
SHIELDSAnd why not?
CARRADINE'Cause I'm not sure why exactly.
SHIELDSUh-huh. You're afraid of me.
SHIELDSI want you to be my lover and buy my stockings and clothes.
CARRADINEYou don't know what you're saying.
SHIELDSI won't even charge anything at all and you can visit me at my house and be my fancy man.
CARRADINEI thought you were running away from the house?
SHIELDSOh, yes. They can't beat me like that. They're not men.
REHMBrooke, tell me about that role. That was, by the way, the voice of Keith Carradine. You played alongside Susan Sarandon in that movie. Tell me about how the role came to you, what your mother thought of that role, what it was all about.
SHIELDSWell, it was -- I had done one other film prior which was a murder mystery and that was when I was nine. And there was a set photographer -- well, not -- excuse me, not correct, that's not the word. There was a photographer who knew Louis Malle. And he had said to her, I want to find a very young untrained actress and do you know anybody? And this woman had suggested me and said, there's this model and you might want to meet her. I'd worked with her and you might want to meet her.
SHIELDSAnd my mom came to me and she said, listen, there's this movie. It's about Storyville. It's about this story that takes place in the red light district. And she explained what the red light district was. And, you know, I was raised in Manhattan so I really was familiar with 42nd Street and the sort of the cold hookers that I would see on the streets. And we would, you know, go to soup kitchens and feed them. And I sort of was very aware of what that was like in my current day.
SHIELDSAnd she basically said -- we used to go see a lot of French movies and Italian movies and my mom loved that stuff. She liked them much better than American movies. And she said, look, this is a story and why don't you just -- the director wants to meet you. So I met Louis Malle and the whole creative team. And he asked all these questions and...
SHIELDSLike, are you familiar with what the red light district was. And I said, well yeah, my mom said it was like 42nd Street except they live in a house. And, you know, there was this sort of -- and then he showed me all the story boards and he showed me all the pictures from 19-- early, early 1900s of these beautiful women in these outfits. And it was a beautiful story like. And he said, this is a love story. And he said, these two people, this photographer and this young girl are -- fall in love. And I was like, all right, great. You know what I mean? I was 11 so I didn't really -- I didn't -- it was so beautiful the way they presented the story to me.
SHIELDSAnd I didn't think I was going to get the part. I didn't read for anything or anything like that. And I got home and...
REHMHe just looked at you, talked to you. You didn't read anything.
SHIELDSDidn't read, didn't -- I was -- you know, I had that squeaky high little kid's voice. I was not Lolita. I was not -- I was sweet and yet he said that I looked mature but I was still very much a little kid. And he said that was -- he didn't want a provocative like a girl cognizant of her sexuality. And that was definitely me. I'm still working on that. And that was it.
SHIELDSAnd then we got the call and basically my mom said, look, we get to go do a movie in the summer in New Orleans for four months. Do you want to do it? And I want to do it, sure. And it was such a beautiful experience. The set was so beautiful.
SHIELDSAnd what was so interesting about, like even just that scene, I was like that little girl, whereas Violet -- I was not dissimilar to that character. And she was -- that's all she knew. You know, she didn't -- she knew that this is what these men did. It sort of breaks my heart hearing that clip because it's sweet. It's -- there's this -- she just wants to be taken away and taken care of and loved. And in her world that's what that was and that's the way she grew up.
SHIELDSAnd you know, it was so fascinating because I had never kissed anybody before and -- obviously.
REHMExcept your mom and your dad?
SHIELDSExcept for my mom, yeah. More my mom, I kissed all the time. And I had to have this kiss with Keith Carradine. And I think he was tortured. He must've been just tortured by it because he's, you know, in his 30s and I'm 11. And he's thinking, oh god, you know, I don't want to scar this kid. And I -- I looked like I was sucking on a lemon. I just kept scrunching at my face. And the director kept getting mad at me. He'd say, would you please relax your face? Just relax your face. Stop looking like you're sucking on a lemon.
SHIELDSAnd I was like, I don't know how to relax my face. I've never done this before. I don't know what this is. And so Keith took me aside and he said, hey, come here, got something to tell you. And I said, what? He said, you know that this doesn't count, right. And I said, it doesn't? And he goes, no. He said, the first, he said, that's a totally separate thing. It's like this totally doesn't count.
REHMWhat a wonderful thing to say.
SHIELDSI mean, was that not just the most beautiful thing to say? And that's who he was. And that is how -- what was the pervasive feeling for me during that experience. I never once felt taken advantage of or victimized. All of that came after in the press because the actual beauty of that film -- Sven Nykvist was an epic cinematographer. And Louis Malle was an artist. And, I mean, I ended up going on to write my thesis about him.
SHIELDSAnd, you know, there was -- we were a part of something that even I knew was special and artistic.
REHMWere you able to unscrunch your face?
SHIELDSI was because I was no longer feeling like I was missing my chance of my first kiss. You know, you wait for your first kiss, you know. And I thought, oh, I'm going to do it with this guy and I don't know him and, you know...
REHMDid you have a chance to read the press that came after?
SHIELDSMy mom kept it from me. She -- but when I did get wind of some of it, some -- where there was a kid who said something or, you know, people said something. My mom took me aside and she was very sort of straight, my mom, and she said, let me ask you something. She said, did you like what you did in that movie? Are you proud of what you did? I said, yeah. She goes, well, did you have fun? I said, yeah. She goes, then -- and she used some rather unsavory language and said, well, you know what? Then you know what they can do if they can't handle it?
SHIELDSAnd she -- that was the way she sort of approached everything. You know, she just said, well, let them say what they want to say. When they stop talking about you that's when you have to worry. You know, she was that kind of a broad.
REHMDid you read those reviews later?
SHIELDSI did when I was writing my first book actually. I just had had my first child. And my mom kept everything and there were boxes and boxes, banker's boxes. And I read the most scathing, horrific things about me and about my mother and so sort of counterintuitive to what I had taken away from the experience. And I thought to myself, thank god, because I don't think I could've handled feeling like I wasn't liked.
SHIELDSYou know, more than the content, I was -- that would've meant people didn't like me. And that is all I ever wanted was people to like me. You know, I wanted to be on the set and I wanted to make people laugh. And I danced and I would sing and I was like a mascot, like a pet. And it's funny because now after doing research about children of alcoholics and young performers, there is this need for approval sort of all the time from their primary -- you know, their caregiver or the people they love. But then also just their you're keeping the environment safe.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You know, I flash forward to young women like Miley Cyrus doing this twerking. It's so cold. Or young women who are bearing virtually every aspect of their bodies and taking such pride in doing that apparently and wondering whether in fact this whole idea of child pornography that has come so far and is now so prominent in everyone's life. If you don't look at it you read about it. What's happened? Have we become from the time of your innocence at 11 or 12 years old this society that simply craves the beautiful youthful innocent child? And do you reflect back on yourself in that way as part of what happened?
SHIELDSWell, I've definitely been a part of all of it just by sort of being -- you know, at each sort of decade there's been part of me that's been relevant in a way. Whether it's being sexualized, not sexualized, whether it's, you know -- I -- there's -- this is such a big topic and I could talk hours about it but I do think that there is something that's happened with this desire to be seen. You know, there's this need to have your every breath recorded.
SHIELDSYou know, look at me, I'm eating a sandwich and look at this and look at this and watch me, watch me. And it's this desperation. And, you know, on the one hand people can say, oh, women should be proud of their bodies and that's great. And -- but that's -- I don't -- I think that there's a desperation in it. And I think that there is this -- it's so hard because I have two daughters, you know. And it's...
REHMI know you do.
SHIELDS...and they -- it feels like it was such an innocent time when I was a child. And they -- my girls are still relatively -- I mean, they're young but they're -- I watch them watch all of this. And I think that it is such a comment on our society and I feel that what we were doing still had an artistic form to it. You know, whether it was "Pretty Baby" or whether it was any of the -- anything that I did that was considered controversial, which seemed like it was everything. But now there are no boundaries. Now there doesn't have to -- it's just by virtue of what's more. What can I show that that's more? And I think the problem with that is it's desensitizing women to their actual real value.
REHMBrooke Shields. Her new book, "There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me." Short break here. Your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Just before the break, we were talking about the sexualizing of young girls and what it is that happens when young girls themselves become the models that other young girls seek. You were talking to me off the air about something that happened at your daughter's camp.
SHIELDSWell, my older daughter went away, went to camp with her school. And because of rain or something, there was a communal area and another, a boys school had come for the day. And they were all sort of playing together, but they were kept separate and they weren't supposed to talk to each other. But, there were a bunch of girls, my daughter was one of them, and a bunch of boys walked by from this all boys school and said, hey, open up your shirts and open up your legs you hoes. To 11-year-olds. And they were 12-year-old boys or 11-year-old boys.
SHIELDSAnd she came home and I hadn't heard anything about it yet, and then I sort of got wind from another mother that a boy had heard it. And I sort of mentioned something and my daughter said, oh mom, she said, if you think it was bad when you were a kid, it was unbelievable. You should hear what they said. She repeats the story to me, and I, of course, was breathing fire. And I said, well, what did you think about that? And she said, oh mom, she said, they're -- it's a boys school, they're starved for attention and they just want attention.
SHIELDSAnd the initial reaction that other people had was oh, isn't that great? She didn't accept that behavior, you know? She didn't -- it didn't bother her. And I had the opposite reaction. I said, there is nothing acceptable about being spoken to like that. And I said, now let's deal with this. I said, you probably enjoyed the attention to a certain extent. The boys looking at you, you know, it's nice, they're talking to you or whatever. And a couple of boys asked for her number, and I said, well, what did you say?
SHIELDSShe said, I said it was 9-1-1, which I thought was kind of funny. But, the, I said that is not okay. I said it is not okay for you to be ever be spoken to like that. And that, the idea that we're teaching, or they're somehow learning that that type of behavior is forgivable or justifiable, that was the piece that I really -- unnerved me. Because we can talk -- I can protect her, I can tell her to have strength in herself or don't, you know, but the fact that she was so quick to forgive and justify it and say, oh, they just this.
SHIELDSYou know, and I said, well, you know, that, I don't think they're being so overtly sexualized, but they're also still babies. They're still very young and they can't handle it, but we're being told -- they're being taught that their sexuality is a weapon. That it's a tool that they can, that they can sort of manipulate and I think that those are the conversations we need to be having with our children. But I was more devastated by the fact that she -- forget that the boys said it. That was bad enough, but I was gonna deal with the school. And I did. But what I had a problem with was my daughter not being...
REHMAnd how she dealt with it.
SHIELDSYeah. Not being upset by it.
REHMExactly. Brooke Shields, your mother felt, and everyone around you felt you were the most beautiful child they had ever seen. I wonder how you now, as an adult, feel about your own beauty. Looking back at yourself and thinking about yourself now, as an adult, how do you regard your own beauty and what it has done for you?
SHIELDSWell, I think it's taught me a lot about human nature and about what people value. And I became very disassociated with it, emotionally, because everybody was telling me that this --and it seemed, at a very young age, it even seemed arbitrary to me. And I thought, well, mama, isn't everybody's baby the prettiest baby? And she was like, yes sweetheart.
REHMMine certainly were.
SHIELDSYeah, well certainly. Yeah, see.
SHIELDSAnd, and mine were, too. And I think that there's -- she's like infused our lives with that, you know? But it was the source of my entirely brilliant life, you know? It was the catalyst. What I started to see, though, is the -- how people value it. How transient it is. How easy it is to accept that as the primary -- the most important thing in your personality and in your -- and how -- and you know, how people play with it and what it means. And who gets more attention. And I was so uncomfortable being the one celebrated for something that I felt that I had nothing to do with.
SHIELDSThat I always wanted to be the class clown. I always wanted to look silly and have funny faces and I never looked at myself in the mirror and I was self-deprecating, self-deprecating. And that worked for me with friends, and it allowed people to not feel threatened by me.
REHMAnd feel comfortable around you.
SHIELDSYes, but over time, it backfired, because that type of self-deprecation, if you really do it all the time, you start believing all of that. And so, my self-esteem was sort of being chipped away by myself because I was only focusing on what I wasn't, you know?
REHMDid you, did you go into therapy?
SHIELDSOh, I went into therapy.
SHIELDSBut oddly enough, and that's what I discovered in writing this book, was that the pieces that did me in were not what you would think. It wasn't Hollywood. It wasn't being celebrated as this face of -- I mean, come on, Time Magazine says that the 80s look. Who's that? In the whole world, in the universe? There's this one face. It doesn't make sense. It was ridiculous, but it was fun to be on the cover of a magazine. But, but I was sort of in this really precarious place, but then I started to get smaller to myself, if that makes sense.
REHMI understand. Would you ever consider, at your age now, or in the future, having facial work done to try to keep it this way?
SHIELDSI am -- I don't think I could ever live with myself, because I think I would change so dramatically that it would no longer be my face. And I think that my face has been so imprinted. People have imprinted on my face for so many decades that even I've gotten accustomed to what I think it looks like. Which is a very strange thing. I was, I was sculpted by Robert Graham. And he did this version of me, and I thought it really looked like me, and the next day it came back and it looked nothing like me.
SHIELDSAnd he said, no, he said, what looked like you yesterday was a cartoon version of you. And there is something about that I -- plus, it wouldn't be, because I'm not trying to chase my youth. If anything, I'm trying to revel -- and I guess that was a piece that I didn't say is I think, when I look back, I would have allowed myself to feel like I was celebrating myself from an earlier age. Just a bit. Like, I want my kids to celebrate who they are, and that's everything.
REHMAre they two girls?
REHMAre they beautiful?
SHIELDSTo me, they're just epically beautiful, but it's interesting. One of them, classically, looks more like me, and one of them doesn't look as much like me. And I have the biggest problem with peoples' reaction to my children. They place this expectation on my children. The problem is, they're redheads. They've got really pale, pale, pale skin and they look much more like my husband. And they -- you know, your mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. You don't look anything like your mother.
SHIELDSAnd you're thinking, what is wrong with people?
SHIELDSAnd they're talking to little kids, and these little kids are thinking, oh my God, that means I'm ugly or that means I'm a failure.
REHMI'm ugly. Wow.
SHIELDSOr, you know, or, and yesterday, my old -- she said to me that this they were rating each other. They were having this conversation and this boy was rating this girl. And they said, well, rate Rowen. And he said, oh, I can't. She's fat. And she calls me up and says this to me. And I said, and, you know, you want to -- I just, there was like, again, the rage. And I just said, I said well, I said I'm not really sure what that means. I said, but do you think you are? And she said, well no, mom. I said, oh. Oh, so then he must be -- he's just -- he's obviously wants attention, right? To throw it back at...
REHMBack to her.
SHIELDS...that the original point...
SHIELDS...and she, she sort of, you know, she got it. But she said no mom. She's -- I'm really not. And I said, yeah, well, just remember that. You're absolutely perfect the way you are. And she's 11. I mean, imagine that.
REHMHonestly, it, it will never cease to amaze me the incredibly insensitive way that some people treat children. And my children were exposed to something of the same treatment. And they will never forget it. So, it's tough. Let's open the phones. Let's go first to Bill, who's in Raleigh, North Carolina. Hi, you're on the air.
BILLHello. Good afternoon. Well, good morning. Thank you so much for your shows, Diane. And Miss Shields has tremendous talent. I'm just pleased to hear you as a real person. So many times, people get personas. I was telling this screener that -- I'm an African American male and a father of two boys. And a grandfather of three children, two little girls. And your comments about society changing drastically and the devaluation, if you will, or the sexualization of girls, is a concern of mine.
BILLAnd also, the issue regarding black youth in general. And somehow, society seems to be devaluing them to the degree that kids can get shot in the street and -- or, youth acting up or whatever they're doing seems to happen more than it should. But I think our society is changing, which is my comment. Our society's changing for, not necessarily for the good.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling.
SHIELDSThank you very much. I -- there are some things to which I can't obviously speak to, but I also think that there's something with this age of social media where we're -- we're trained, our focus is trained down and to little machines. And we haven't -- we're not nurturing the ability to regard facial cues and read peoples' emotions and have this kind of connection. And you see these kids and you see them all communicating via machine. So, there's no, there's no talking. There's no engaging. There's so much and it's happening so fast.
SHIELDSAnd I think that, you know, I mean, we need to stay very communicative with our children and tell them all of this. But I do think it is -- I'm actually nervous.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The question becomes, and our listeners have heard that clip from "Pretty Baby," and it sort of reflects back on what our caller's concerned about. And you are concerned, as well. Would you ever allow your own daughters to perform in a movie like that?
SHIELDSI wouldn't. But I wouldn't for a sort of a myriad of different reasons. I do feel like it's a different time. I do -- what was mild is no longer considered attractive. And, you know, they want to always -- just more. And push everything and let's see how far we can go...
SHIELDS...to make people uncomfortable or to be raw. And that makes me a bit nervous. Plus, I'm not so sure they could handle it. They really -- I don't, I just don't think that they're mature enough. I mean, my older daughter wants to watch our movies. And then I'll say, all right, well let's just sit down, let's talk about sex. And let's about, we can talk about penises and vaginas and she was like, mom, stop it. I said, wait a minute. So, you can't say or hear the word vagina or penis or whatever.
SHIELDSBut you want to watch a movie that has sexual content. I said, see, you don't get it both ways. So, I can tell that she's not prepared. But because all of her, you know, her friends, are getting to watch whatever the movie is. Or -- and violence is a whole other situation.
SHIELDSAnd the romanticism of violence, and that everybody is -- and it's -- I think we're, there's just, people aren't, I don't believe, willing to take responsibility for all of it.
REHMLet's go to David, who's in Birmingham, Alabama. Hi there, David. You're on the air.
DAVIDHi Diane. Hi Brooke.
DAVIDThere was a show called "Suddenly Susan," which I thought was really well written and really well done by everybody in the cast. And I didn't know if, for you Brooke, that humor came naturally to you, or was working on that show hard work the way acting is hard work?
SHIELDSThat was -- first of all, "Suddenly Susan," probably four of the best years of my existence.
SHIELDSI have never been happier in a job. I have never been happier in an environment. The comedy, to me, has always been my refuge. I had spent years working with Bob Hope and touring the country and going overseas and entertaining the troops. And I was just a sucker for humor and when I got this chance to do this on "Friends," I got a funny role on "Friends." And they let me do exactly what I wanted with it, and it broke open a whole part of my career.
SHIELDSAnd it was -- the hours were very long and I had to work very hard, but the comedy was the easiest part.
REHMI want to hear just one tiny clip of that.
SHIELDSDrake, you are so talented. Let me see those hands. Oh, these hands, these beautiful hands. Oh, I could just eat them, but I won't.
MR. MATT LEBLANCOtherwise my watch would fall off.
SHIELDSNo, seriously. These hands, these miracle, magical, life-giving hands. Oh, just to be near them, touch them, maybe even lick one?
LEBLANCAll right. Just one.
REHMYou loved it. You just loved it.
SHIELDSI loved it. I just -- to me, making people laugh is the biggest gift I've been given and can share. And it was funny, the crazy maniacal laugh, the producer took it out. And during the first half, they wouldn't let me do it. And I came back, and they said, do it. Put it back in. It's funny.
REHMBrooke Shields, your mother had a good reason to be proud of you. And she would be proud of you today. Thank you for being here.
SHIELDSThank you for spending the time with me.
REHMBrooke Shields. Her story of her mother and herself is titled, "There Was a Little Girl." Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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