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Brooke Shields is getting older in the public eye — and she wants to talk about it

Brooke Shields wants to bring better representation to women in their 50s.
Guy Aroch
Brooke Shields wants to bring better representation to women in their 50s.

Brooke Shields has worked in the entertainment industry since she was 11 months old, when she took her first turn before the cameras as the face of Ivory Soap. After that, more ads followed, then movie deals, TV shows, stage roles – and almost every career move was documented by the paparazzi.

Shields, 56, grew up in the public eye, and now she is getting older in the public eye and wants to talk about it. At the top of her list is the idea that women in their 50s aren't represented in lots of places, especially in advertising.

"Why? I mean, why are we forgotten? And we're forgotten just in this middle chunk," Shields said. "Because there's 20s and then there are people, you know, in the more aged or geriatric world, and it's like you go from sexy to depends."

As for those decades in the middle, Shields said she thinks of them as a period of vitality.

And she's on a mission to highlight the vitality of women over 50. Shields started an online community for women and signed with winemaker Clos du Bois to rebrand chardonnay. Additionally, the one-time face and body of Calvin Klein Jeans is now doing ads for Jordache Jeans.

Shields talked with NPR's All Things Considered about being sexy in her 50s, the expectations of the advertising industry, and the pride that comes with getting older.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On the unrealistic body expectations that the advertising industry puts out

Listen, it is all true. But that's why advertising is changing and it's becoming more inclusive.

I can't apologize for what I look like, but I know that I've worked hard at it and I've made sure that I wasn't just that. It's about the dialogue that you have with your children, with people. It's about aligning with companies that do believe in body inclusivity. I'm one version of that.

I can say that this is my age. You know, this is my age and this is where I am today. I have to find my own pride in my own shape. And it looks different now than it did, you know, when everything was all up higher.

On how her understanding of being in an ad that emphasizes sex appeal has changed since her iconic Calvin Klein campaign

I think it's probably the first time I've ever felt the sex appeal. You know, you can't really feel it at 15. When I did [the Calvin Klein campaign], I did not own the sexuality of it in the same way that I understand it and do now. And it's taken me a lot longer. I have a very fraught historical relationship with sexuality and virginity and all of that for decades. Now I understand it differently. So I'm much more inclined to do something that is more overtly sexual that I understand because I own it now. It's mine, you know?

On breaking the idea that wanting to look good and wanting to look young mean the same thing

That's hard. Because it's one thing to say, "Oh, you know, these wrinkles are from laughter," and everybody's like, "Oh, that's good," but they weren't there then [when I was younger]. And I look at my little baby girl's faces and they are just flawless. It's like I gaze at them and then I think, 'Wait a minute, I was once that.' I didn't even know it. I didn't even think it. I didn't even understand how great that was. So then I look at myself and I think, "OK, now I don't look like I did in my 20s, and my skin is looser, and I don't have that. My butt's lower. I've got more love handles."

It's like you look at all those and you take them apart and then you look at these sort of nubile bodies that are just emerging into these incredible women and you're just like, "Oh my God, I have to be careful. I have to be careful not to compare myself." And the thing for me that's more important than the look of it is I'm partially broken down. Like my knees are bad, weight loss is more difficult, I can't drink in the same way that I used to, even though I love it. Those are the kind of things that I that I'm fighting more than just what I look like in the mirror.

On what she wants women who are feeling conflicted and wrestling with these same ideas to hear

I don't think there's any shame in being afraid of doing new things. There's no shame in being older and getting older. There's a sense of pride I think that comes with it, but I don't want to wait for that pride to have to look like ancient wisdom. You know, I'm not stopping a thing I love doing. Yes, I'm limited in a lot of the physical activity, but I'm still going. I'm still taking on new jobs. There is still more to come. And this is all a part of it. So I want that message to be out there, because I want especially women over a certain age in their 50s to feel like they are at a new beginning. You know, just because their ovaries are not producing babies anymore, are they supposedly not as important or not as valuable? I don't believe so.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.