At one point in the '80s, supermodel and actress Brooke Shields was arguably the most famous teenager on the planet. However, her road to stardom was paved with a number of controversies.
Managed by her mother, Teri, Shields had her first taste of the limelight as a model for a soap ad at the age of eleven months. She continued to appear in ads as a toddler, and at the tender age of 10, the child model posed nude in a series of photographs taken by Garry Gross. Teri commissioned the photos in 1975 because she wanted to turn her little girl into a star.
A few years later, Shields was 12 when she made her silver screen debut in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby (1978). That’s also when she got caught in the middle of her first scandal.
See, Shields played the role of a preteen prostitute, Violet, in the red-light district of New Orleans, and although she garnered critical acclaim, many members of the public were furious.
In an interview she gave a few years ago, Shields recalled her mother saying that as long as she liked the role she played, “then f**k ‘em if they can’t handle it.”
With her mom cheering her on, Shields landed an even more controversial role as Emmeline Lestrange in the film adaptation of Henry De Vere Stacpoole's novel "The Blue Lagoon." She was just 14-years-old at the time, but had to film a number of nude scenes. The production team found it challenging to keep her covered so they had to tape her long hair on her breasts during topless frontal shots.
The infamously sexy film shocked the audience when it premiered in 1980, and decades later, an adult Shields was implicated in some legal matters concerning child sexual exploitation.
Famed film critic Roger Ebert gave the movie 1.5 stars, and said that it "made him itch," while popular gossip columnist Rona Barrett claimed “it borders on kiddie porn.”
The negative reviews did not seem to phase the film’s director, Randal Grease Kleiser or thousands of moviegoers, who helped make it a box-office success.
“It’s an R-rated film I hope parents take their kids to see,” said Kleiser. Well, he was right. The movie grossed over $58 million in the U.S. and Canada, and even got nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
Shields soon started appearing on the front page of newspapers and magazine covers, including The New York Times and People. All of these publications addressed Shields’s underage nudity, and the notorious sex scene that scandalized viewers.
The film's creators and Shield's later testified in front of U.S. Congress that many of her nude scenes were done by a body double.
"You sort of desensitise yourself to anything sexual. In Blue Lagoon, I’m using a glue gun, taping my hair, anything I can so my body doesn’t show I have boobs," Shields said in an interview with The Guardian. And I didn’t realise I was doing it, because I was a kid. I was in a cocoon with my mom.”
However, amidst all the frenzy, Shields’s stage mother was negotiating a modelling contract for a provocative campaign that would change her life forever, and turn her into a household name for years to come.