Young Brooke Shields: The spectacular (& controversial) early career of the supermodel & Pretty Baby actress

Young Brooke Shields - Model and actress

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Young Brooke Shields shot to fame as a model and actress in the 70s & 80s

Brooke Shields — actress, model, and author — gained widespread fame as a child star in the 1970s and 1980s.

Born on May 31, 1965, she was just ten years old when she landed her first magazine cover in 1975. It was for American Home magazine, where she shared the page with a pumpkin pie.

Young Brooke Shields on the cover of American Home magazine - Thanksgiving issue (November 1975)
Young Brooke Shields on the cover of American Home magazine – Thanksgiving issue (November 1975)

But cover shoots weren’t the only things keeping her busy. She also appeared in several advertisements and modeled for the Sears catalog, always looking pretty, and stylish beyond her years.

In the later 1970s and 80s, Brooke Shields was the subject of some controversy, particularly in relation to her modeling career, and her roles in films and television shows.

Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein Jeans (c1980)

One of the most contentious elements of young Brooke Shields’ early career was the way in which she was sexualized and objectified as a child, with her image being used in advertising campaigns that were deemed inappropriate by many.

By the 1980s, starting at age 15, she appeared in a series of ads for Calvin Klein jeans, in which she was depicted in suggestive poses and wearing tight-fitting clothing. The best-known line from the campaign: “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

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These ads were widely criticized for sexualizing a young girl, and for promoting an unhealthy body image for women and teens.

Also around that time, Shields faced controversy for starring in movies that featured sexual themes and suggestive content. For example, her role in the 1978 film Pretty Baby attracted objections for its depictions of grooming, and of her role as a child prostitute engaging in sexual activity.

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In the 1980s, she appeared in the controversial film “The Blue Lagoon,” which featured scenes of Shields and co-star Christopher Atkins in various states of undress and engaging in sexual activity.

The Blue Lagoon movie with Brooke Shields

Young Brooke Shields… all grown up

Despite all of the early controversy, her many talents have kept her in the game. Now the mother of two, Brooke Shields has remained a successful actress and fashion model — even adding author to her resume — and has continued to work in the entertainment industry as a remarkably well-grounded and seemingly unscathed former child star.

Brooke Shields has spoken publicly about the sexualization she experienced in her childhood and how it affected her. In her memoir, Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, she wrote about her experiences as a child model and actress with a very protective (as well as alcoholic) stage mother — and how she felt pressured to grow up too quickly.

Young Brooke Shields in 1979, shortly after Pretty Baby

She has also discussed her experiences in interviews, including on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “60 Minutes,” and credits a lifetime of therapy as part of the key to her well-adjusted adulthood. She is quoted as saying, “It’s not in my nature to be a victim.”

Below, we take a look back on some of her earliest career moves (wholesome and otherwise), and get a glimpse of her life more recently, too.

Young Brooke Shields Christmas photoshoot (1974)

From Ladies Home Journal (December 1974)

Young Brooke Shields in a fancy girl's Christmas dress in 1974

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Young Brooke Shields for Colgate toothpaste (1975)

Young Brooke Shields - model actress in ad for Colgate from 1975

I’m sort of sexy says model Brooke, age 9 (1975)

Note: The San Antonio Star seems to have been a Texas tabloid paper, in the style of the National Enquirer. We are posting this sensationalized story to give more context to the publicity Brooke got in the 1970s. Nothing here has been verified as fact.

San Antonio Express (San Antonio, Texas) – January 12, 1975

New York – With her dark, flowing hair and big smoldering eyes, she’s a photographer’s dream.

She dates dashing young men, but is adamant that she has no steady boyfriend. She’s even been invited to pose nude for photographers.

Her name is Brooke Shields and she is all of nine years old. Brooke has just been launched in New York as a mini-model and mini-actress.

She is already a showbiz veteran, appearing in the television version of Arthur Miller’s play “After The Fall” — although she confesses she finds it all a bit boring. “Movie stars don’t really excite me that much,” she told the Star.

The invitation to pose nude was turned down by her mother, Teri, who is divorced from Brooke’s father, a cosmetic company executive.

But tiny Brooke didn’t mind: “I don’t think I would like it,” she said. Her big aim in life is to be a mother, she says, “but first I want to be a wife.”

She went on: “I think I’m sort of sexy. But I hope I will gain more sex appeal as I get older… I think sexy is slick. And slick is the best way to be!”

I'm sort of sexy says model Brooke Shields, age 9 - January 1975


Brooke has been modeling since she was four, and her first date was such a long time ago that she can hardly remember it.

“I’ve no steady boyfriend, but I enjoy going out on dates with boys my own age. And older,” she said.

She described one “older boy” who took her out as “a Latin lover.”

“He’s nice and young,” she said, “and he’s adorable.”

The Star caught Brooke just as she was leaving for a cocktail party being thrown by Soli, the head of New York male model agency. Soli has invited a model called Jonathan who needed a date.

“We met Jonathan before. He’s 26. But he’s far out, and I will enjoy going out with him,” said Brooke as she left, her big eyes still smoldering.

Young Brooke Shields modeling for the 1976 Sears Catalog

Young Brooke Shelds modeling for the 1976 Sears Catalog (4)

Young Brooke Shelds modeling for the 1976 Sears Catalog (1)

Young Brooke Shelds modeling for the 1976 Sears Catalog (2)

Young Brooke Shelds modeling for the 1976 Sears Catalog (3)

ALSO SEE: Young Mariska Hargitay: See her modeling in the 1980s, long before ‘Law & Order: SVU’

12-year-old actress Brooke Shields on the set of the movie Tilt (1978)

From the April 10, 1978 issue of People

They’re trying to tell her she’s too young, but 12-year-old Brooke Shields isn’t listening

Brooke Shields in People Magazine (1978)

Young Brooke Shields and her mother Teri (1978)

From the April 10, 1978 issue of People

“She’s an okay lady,” says preteen model Brooke Shields of her aggressive stage mother, Teri. Their troubles with the producer during the filming of the R-rated Pretty Baby weren’t repeated on the set of Tilt.

Brooke Shields and mother Teri - April 10 1978 issue of People

Young Brooke Shields for Aziza blush makeup (1979)

Teen Brooke Shields for Aziza blush makeup (1979)

Young Brooke Shields on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine (1981)

At age 15, Brooke would be the youngest model ever to appear on the cover of Cosmopolitan. (Photo by Francesco Scavullo)

Brooke Shields on Cosmopolitan cover - 1981

MORE: See some of Cindy Crawford’s Cosmopolitan & Vogue magazine covers of the 1980s

Brooke Shields & designer Calvin Klein on the cover of People magazine (1982)

Brooke Shields and designer Calvin Klein on the cover of People magazine (1982)

Brooke Shields for Wella Balsam shampoo and conditioner (1982)

Brooke Shields for Wella Balsam shampoo and conditioner (1982)

SEE MORE: Do you remember these 58 shampoos & conditioners from the 80s?

The Brooke Look – Brooke Shields’ 1983 line of socks and tights at JC Penney

The Brooke Look - Brooke Shields 1983 line of socks and tights at JC Penney

Brooke Shields on the cover of McCall’s Patterns magazine (1983)

Brooke Shields on the cover of McCalls Patterns magazine (1983)

The Brooke Shields Jeanswear Collection (1985)

Brooke Shields Jeanswear Collection (1985)

Actress/model Brooke Shields all grown up!

She’s seen here in January 2016 — still stunning at age 50.

Actress model Brooke Shields at age 50 in 2016
Brooke Shields at the Hallmark Winter 2016 TCA Party at the Tournament House on January 8, 2016 in Pasadena, CA – Photo by Jean_Nelson/Deposit Photos

Brooke with her daughters Grier and Rowan (2022)
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A post shared by Brooke Shields (@brookeshields)

MORE: See young Jennifer Connelly before she was famous (1982)

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. There is no way any of Brooke Shields’ early movies — especially “Pretty Baby” — could be made today.

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