Brooke Shields on Her New Beauty Brand Aging and Acting
source: nyt.com

Brooke Shields on Her New Beauty Brand Aging and Acting

In the midst of the pandemic in early 2021, Brooke Shields faced a life-altering event. She suffered a severe femur break, necessitating multiple surgeries, and subsequently battled a potentially fatal staph infection. “It gave me a lot of time because I was in the hospital for a month by myself,” Shields recalls. “I thought, ‘If you die, what will you not have done?'”

Shields, a globally recognized model and actress who studied Romance languages and literatures at Princeton, had already achieved more by her 18th birthday than many do in a lifetime. Yet, as she lay in that hospital bed, she reflected on the many aspirations she still harbored.

Among her ambitions was the creation of an online community for women over 40, which she named Beginning is Now and launched later that year. She is also in the process of developing a beauty brand. Alongside these ventures, Shields continues to act, perform, and write a new book that redefines the experience of aging. This year, she successfully raised her first round of financing for a new company.

“Starting your own business is a marathon,” Shields tells PAW. “So many of the things I’ve done have been versions of sprints, like jumping into a show you have to learn in nine days. This is taking patience and endurance.”

Last year, she introduced a podcast called Now What?, which explores how people navigate life when things don’t go as planned. This medium, increasingly popular among actors for its creative freedom and direct audience connection, seems a natural fit for Shields. “I’m fascinated in how people decide to continually pivot,” she says. “We [can] get so stuck in what we want [our life] to be, or what we think it should be, or what it has been in the past.”

Shields is no stranger to pivots. After skyrocketing to fame as a child, she made the unconventional choice to slow her career to attend college, only to face a lull in opportunities afterward. She eventually found her way back into the entertainment industry through Broadway, followed by a hit TV show that earned her two Golden Globe nominations. She has since authored two memoirs and two children’s books, continued her work as a model and spokesperson, and recently ventured into Netflix rom-coms. “I often look at my life as a kaleidoscope where all these perfect pieces fit, and then you shift it just a little bit, and it’s chaos. Then you have to either stay settled in that chaos, or shift it just a little bit more, and a new pattern arises.”

At 58, Shields launched Beginning is Now, a platform for conversations on Facebook and Instagram, after noticing how society tends to overlook women as they reach midlife. “Nobody talks to us,” she says. “Nobody markets to us. Nobody says you can be sexy. Nobody says you can try new things. Nobody says you don’t have to give a shit anymore.”

This year has been pivotal for Shields. While she has never been out of the public eye, the release of the Hulu documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields in April has brought her back into the national spotlight. The documentary examines the media’s sexualization of girls and young women through the lens of Shields’ early life, prompting viewers to reconsider their perceptions of her and the societal norms that shaped those views.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Shields was a cultural icon, gracing the covers of Vogue and starring in box office hits like The Blue Lagoon. However, this fame came at a cost, as she was often criticized for projecting an overly sexualized image of teenage girlhood. The Hulu documentary delves into the behind-the-scenes dynamics of that era, highlighting how the advertising industry turned to younger models in response to the women’s liberation movement’s rejection of conventional femininity. When the public disapproved, it was the young girls who bore the brunt of the criticism, not the photographers and filmmakers.

“There was this pivot toward young girls to sell lip gloss and Calvin Klein jeans, and nobody said, ‘Wait a second, this is not OK,'” says Ali Wentworth, producer of the documentary. The film, directed by Louis Malle, cast the 11-year-old Shields as a child prostitute in early 20th century New Orleans, generating intense controversy and putting Shields and her mother in the hot seat.

The podcast Now What? offers a more intimate view of Shields, revealing a warm, curious, and deep-hearted interviewer with a wry sense of humor. Whether discussing the challenges of growing up with a flawed parent with Good Wife actor Julianna Margulies or the pain of professional rejection with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper, Shields pulls back the curtain, allowing listeners to see her in all her complexity.

“I just interviewed [singer-songwriter] Sara Bareilles, and she practically brought me to tears because she talked about doing the things that scare you and realizing where your limitations are, but [not making] them who you are,” says Shields. “She talks about finding your voice and what that means to all of us differently.”

Before attending Princeton, Shields rarely felt she had a voice of her own. Social media didn’t exist, and journalists and talk-show hosts seemed more interested in advancing prevailing narratives than hearing her thoughts. On sets, she focused on delivering what was asked, deriving pride from being liked and accepted. Princeton, however, marked a turning point, helping her tap back into her own ideas and sensibilities. “I needed to reveal myself to myself,” she says. “I needed to learn that I could have an opinion.”

Shields’ journey from a child star to a multifaceted entrepreneur and advocate for women over 40 is a testament to her resilience and adaptability. As she continues to navigate new ventures and redefine aging, Shields remains a powerful voice and inspiration for women everywhere.