Brooke Shields reflects on being a child star in Hollywood: ‘My looking a certain way paid the bills’

Brooke Shields is the quintessential Hollywood child star.

She got her start in a TV commercial at 11 months old and by the time she was a teenager in the ’80s, she was appearing in highly sexualised modelling gigs for Calvin Klein and movie roles including The Blue Lagoon

But Shields, who was raised by her single parent Teri, knew all too well that working was her ticket to a better life — and she never once complained about it to her actress mum. 

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Teri Shields and Brooke Shields at the Gotham and Hamptons Magazines Celebration with Cover Star Christopher Meloni of Law and Order SVU on August 11, 2007 in East Hampton, New York

“She had this baby that looked this way, and that’s how we survived,” Shields, 56, recalled in a new interview with The Guardian. “My looking a certain way paid the bills. I just loved the approval. And I loved working and I loved being on a set. We had fun, we travelled everywhere. 

“So it wasn’t as if I felt the responsibility as much as: ‘Oh my God, we get to get a car. Oh, we bought a house. We bought another house.’ Like, if I do this, we get this. That’s the way it went for decades.” 

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Contrary to widespread reports, Teri — who passed away in 2012 aged 79 following a long illness related to dementia — was never pushy, Shields said.

“As long as I was happy, we kept doing it. I never did something I didn’t want to do,” she explained.

Teri Shields and Brooke Shields during RCA Records Hosts A Party For Kristy McNichol & Jimmy McNichol at Studio 54 in New York City, New York, United States.

Shields also credited her mother for keeping her safe from the Hollywood party scene. Despite Teri battling alcohol addiction for many years, Teri made sure her daughter never went down the same path. 

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“I don’t know why I didn’t,” Shields pondered. “I talk about it a lot in therapy, but I think because I was so … 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.”

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