Brooke Shields claims she wasn't 'scathed' by playing child prostitute

Brooke Shields claims she wasn’t ‘personally scathed’ after playing a child prostitute in Pretty Baby aged 11 because it’s ‘not in her nature to be a victim’

  • American actress Brooke Shields, 56, played child prostitute in Pretty Baby at 11
  • She wasn’t ‘scathed’ by it but admitted ‘doesn’t know if could make movie today’
  • Mother Teri masterminded her career after launching her into showbiz as a baby 
  • Also permitted her teenager to star in provocative Calvin Klein advert

Brooke Shields has claimed she wasn’t ‘personally scathed’ after playing a child prostitute in Pretty baby aged 11 because it’s not in her ‘nature to be a victim.’ 

The actress, 53, was cast as a child prostitute in the controversial period piece which was set in a New Orleans bordello, and had a nude scene and those which saw her character lost her virginity. 

Speaking to The Guardian about whether on reflection, she thinks it’s damaging as a culture to sexualise young girls like that, Brooke explained: ‘There’s something incredibly seductive about youth… 

‘I think it just has different forms and it’s how you survive it, and whether you choose to be victimised by it. It’s not in my nature to be a victim.’

American actress Brooke Shields, 53, was cast as a child prostitute in Pretty baby aged 11 (pictured)

Brooke said growing up in New York meant being exposed to such themes wasn’t damaging because she’d seen prostitution before on the old 42nd Street. Pictured, at American Ballet Theatre’s Fall Gala in New York on 26 October 2021

Brooke went on to say that growing up in New York meant she didn’t find themes of prostitution damaging because it was something she saw going on not far from where she lived. 

However, the actress admits that she’s not sure the movie could be made today.  

‘I guess you’d have to have an actress who was older, playing younger,’ she said. ‘I’m not quite sure what the rules are now [as if it’s an HR issue, rather than a societal one.] But I also wasn’t personally scathed by it.’

Brooke’s late mother Teri has been heavily criticized and was accused of exploiting Brooke during her early years after launching her into showbiz as a baby. 

Brooke and her mother are pictured in 1980 looking close before their relationship soured

The pair had a troubled relationship, eventually becoming estranged due to Teri’s ‘iron fist’ approach to her daughter’s career and resentment that Brooke wanted to be independent of her.  

She first signed on her daughter, whom she once described as looking like a ‘beautiful doll’, to pose for an Ivory Soap ad at just 11 months.

It launched a child modelling career that would include campaigns for Breck, Band-Aids and Colgate.

Teri, who suffered with alcoholism, famously raised eyebrows when she allowed her then 11-year-old to be cast as a child prostitute in 1978’s Pretty Baby.

Louis Malle directed the 1978 movie, which starred Brooke as 12-year-old Violent who lived with her prostitute mother Hattie (played by Susan Sarandon) in a Storyville brothel in 1917 New Orleans.  

Hattie meets photographer Bellocq (Keith Carradine) at her brothel and one night after he photographs her, he befriends her daughter.

Violet is eventually sold into prostitution by her mother’s madam and while Hattie runs off to marry a prosperous businessman from St. Louis, and moves north, it isn’t long before her daughter loses her innocence.

However, Violet’s focus remains on Bellocq and the pair fall in love. However, life with Bellocq is compromised for Violet as soon as her mother returns to town. 

The movie was based on a real place and inspired by the life of E. J. Bellocq, who photographed Storyville prostitutes.  

After starring in the movie, a 15-year-old Brooke then appeared in Blue Lagoon, where many of her scenes were spent naked. However, these were carried out by older body doubles. 

American actor Brooke Shields wears a ruffled blouse and heavy makeup in a still from the movie, ‘Pretty Baby,’ directed by Louis Malle in 1978

Teri also arranged for a photographer to take naked pictures of Brooke when she was 10.

A few years later, she permitted 15-year-old Brooke to famously star in a series of commercials for Calvin Klein jeans, provocatively professing that nothing comes between ‘me and my Calvins.’ 

However, Brooke says that while some accused her mother of being controlling, she saw it as her being protective – adding that she’d often go out with her on nights out just to make sure she’d get home safely.   

While Hollywood is filled with broken careers and lives of child stars, Brooke also adds that her focus on keeping her alcoholic mother Teri ‘alive’ is probably why she didn’t follow the same path. 

Teri previously defended her decision to allow Brooke to star in Pretty Baby, and told an American TV show a few years after its release: ‘They see total innocence, which is totally there.

‘And two, they have the sexy child too, they have the sexy person – that appeals to them.’

In the same interview Shields also said that people who accused her of exploiting her child were jealous.

For her part, Brooke said at the time: ‘It’s only a role. I’m not going to grow up and be a prostitute.’  

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