Brooke Shields reveals how her children helped her overcome trauma from her own childhood

‘But when [my daughter] goes into my closet and gets a Chanel sweater, I’m angry at myself that I haven’t enjoyed it,’ Shields says

Amber Raiken
New York
Tuesday 09 April 2024 19:59 BST
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Related: Brooke Shields opens up on failed marriage to Andre Agassi

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Brooke Shields has reflected on how her family helped her analyse her childhood trauma.

The 55-year-old actor spoke candidly about motherhood during a conversation with Oprah Winfrey for Oprah Daily’s “The Life You Want” class. Shields is the mother of two daughters - Rowan, 20, and Grier 17 - who she shares with husband Chris Henchy.

During her conversation with Winfrey, Shields discussed the complicated relationship she had with her mother, Teri Shields, who also served as her manager throughout her days as a child star. She noted that when she was younger, her mother often bought inexpensive cashmere sweaters, rather than just one “good” sweater.

“I would say, ‘Why don’t you buy the one nice one and take really good care of it?’” she recalled telling her mother. “She said, ‘Yeah but you’ve got 10 now, or 11 of them or whatever. So you’re like OK, but they weren’t good quality.”

The Pretty Baby star noted that after witnessing her mother’s behaviour, she would be extremely cautious with the expensive items she owned.

“Anytime I got something nice, I put it away,” she explained. “I don’t wear it. I don’t use it.”

Shields then added that one of her daughters ultimately had some concerns about her mother’s shopping habits abd questioned her for not making use of the expensive items.

“[My daughter] was so incensed and she said, ‘I went into your closet and there was dust on everything.’ She’s like, ‘Those nice bags! You work hard for your money mom, use them. Because if you’re not gonna wear this stuff, I’m going to wear it,’” she explained.

According to Shields, her daughter hilariously pointed out that she’s one day “going to die,” so it’s important to take advantage of the pricey items she has now. After Shields explained to her child that she’ll be passing down her stuff to her, she shared the deeper meaning why she’s kept these items in her closet.

“I said, ‘You have to understand that I’m trying to understand my past, my attachment to things but then I don’t use them. I don’t enjoy them. What am I saving them for?’” the Endless Love star continued.

When Winfrey asked her why she kept this stuff, Shields said that she had “no idea”. She also noted that once she finally gets around to wearing the clothes, she either “doesn’t fit” in them or they’re “out of fashion”. Shields further explained that according to her therapist, her need to keep these items ties back to her relationship with her mother.

“She said [it’s] because you have such a fraught relationship with money and things from your mother, who was in the depression, who saved every little thing, in case. All of the in cases and stuff,” Shields continued. “So I inherited a lot of her stuff, and for my daughter, I said, ‘It’s my problem.’”

Shields noted that while she “loves” when her child wears her “vintage things,” such as when they attend awards shows together, she feels strange about her daughter wearing her luxury items.

“But when she goes into my closet and gets a Chanel sweater, I’m angry at myself that I haven’t enjoyed it,” she added.

During the conversation, the actor acknowledged that while her daughter called her “the most down to earth famous person,” her child also reminded her that she’s still an A-lister. Shields explained that she had mixed feelings about her child saying that, given the kind of mother she’s tried to be.

“I really don’t know how to take that because I spent their entire lives not being Brooke Shields, just being their mom,” she said. “And then in this world that they’re in, this fame obsessed world, she sees it but she doesn’t. She wants me to enjoy it more.”

She emphasised how the conversation with one of her daughters was “an interesting moment,” since the celebrity said that she “doesn’t live in her bigness”.

This isn’t the first time that Shields has reflected on her relationship with her mother. During an interview with Drew Barrymore last year, she said that her mother had no interest in dating men because she was too busy managing her daughter’s career.

“I was her main focus. Both of us were cut off from our sexuality,” she explained. “I was going to stay a virgin. She was going to be just Terri terrific and being there.”

In her Hulu documentary, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, the actor opened up about the exploitation and sexualisation she experienced as a child star – including how her mother allowed her to pose nude for Playboy when she was just 10 years old, and play a child prostitute in the 1978 film, Pretty Baby.

In an interview with The Sunday Times in March 2023, Shields recalled her daughters’ reactions when they learned their mother had played a child prostitute at such a young age. “It’s child pornography!” her 19-year-old daughter said in the documentary. “Would you have let us [do that] at the age of 11?” she asked, to which Shields responded: “No.”

Shields then acknowledged how difficult it was for her to have this conversation with her daughters, and how she couldn’t give them a reason why their grandmother let her do the projects. “I mean, I could say, ‘Oh, it was the time back then,’ or ‘Oh, it was art,’” Shields said. “But I don’t know why she thought it was all right. I don’t know.”

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