I’m really not the biggest BROOKE SHEiLDS fan per se – so one would have to wonder why I blog about her at all. To clarify, I mean I’m not particularly a fan of her as an actress or even a leading HOLLYWOOD STARLET, if you will. She’s never made a lasting impression on me despite having seen ENDLESS LOVE, THE BLUE LAGOON, or even SUDDENLY SUSAN, arguably her biggest contribution to pop culture history (if you don’t count her famous CALViN KLiNE adds).
On the other hand, being a child of the 1980′s I do recall BROOKE SHEiLDS as a public figure; in particular her 1978 appearance in LOUiS MALLE’S PRETTY BABY, a movie in which she played a child who lived in a brothel. SHEiLDS was 11 years old at the time and filming nude scenes, raising all sorts of questions about child pornography and subsequently leading to a lot of controversy. Like I said, the controversy didn’t necessarily make PRETTY BABY a good film, but it made SHEiLDS a household name; her LOLiTA-esque beauty undeniable. This is something I find intriguing about her; she is a prime example of child-like innocence being turned into a commodity. Even being a gay boy I couldn’t help but look at her myself and see her for what she was – a beautiful, sexual and exploited little girl. I found the images of her career at this point in time often depicted her as this nubile creature – beautiful yet somehow suggestive and inappropriate…. I mean I knew how to separate sex from the freedom of expression that is photography, film and art – but I also knew that it raised valid questions about the sexualization of children for ‘art’.
I find BROOKE SHEiLDS was far more interesting as a child than she is an an adult. Even doing research on her for the sake of this blog I kept thinking – wow, how come you were more intriguing to me as a child than you are currently today? Perhaps part of it is that, from the time she was 11 months old and modeling (iVORY SOAP adds), she was promoted, even by her mother and former manager TERi SHEiLDS in very provocative ways. At 14 she was the youngest fashion model ever to appear on the cover of the top fashion publication VOGUE, and soon after in controversial print and TV adds for CALViN KLEiN jeans. The TV add included the famous tagline “You want to know what comes between me and my CALViNS? Nothing.” This alone helped catapult KLEiN’S carreer to super-designer status, yet again providing an example how how her youthful sexuality was used to make money, with or without her full comprehension or consent.
By the age of 16, SHEiLDS had become one of the most recognizable faces in the world, because of her dual career as a provocative fashion model and controversial child actress. TiME magazine reported, in its February 9, 1981 cover story, that her day rate as a model was $10,000. In 1983, SHEiLDS appeared on the cover of Paris VOGUE, the October and November issues of American VOGUE and the December edition of Italian VOGUE. During that period SHEiLDS became a regular at New York City’s nightclub STUDiO 54 as well – yet like I said, never quite found that acting role that would have the public believing fully that she was more than a ‘pretty baby’. Finally, in 2009, a naked picture of BROOKE SHEiLDS, taken when she was 10, was originally included in RiCHARD PRiNCE’S ‘SPiRiTUAL AMERiCA’ exhibit but was ironically enough removed by police after being deemed a “magnet” for pedophiles. Yet again, it serves as a reminder of not only SHEiLD’S history of such controversy but of the topic of child pornography and the sexualization of children for art .
Check out a scene from PRETTY BABY as well the infamous CALViN KLEiN jeans add & selected BROOKE SHEiLDS photographs.