The “There Was a Little Girl” Interview
with Kam Williams
A Look at Brooke!
Brooke Shields is an award-winning actress and a Princeton graduate with honors in French Literature. She started in iconic films such as “Pretty Baby,” “The Blue Lagoon” and “Endless Love.”
Brooke is also a renowned model, and starred in the long-running TV show “Suddenly Susan” as well as the critically-acclaimed “Lipstick Jungle.” She has appeared on Broadway on numerous occasions, too, and wrote and performed in her own one-woman show, “In My Life.”
A gifted writer, Brooke penned the New York Times best-seller “Down Came the Rain” and a couple of well-received children’s books. She lives in New York City with her husband, Chris Henchy, and their daughters, Rowan and Grier.
Here, she talks about her life, her career, and about her new memoir, “There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.”
Kam Williams: Hi Brooke, I’m honored to have this opportunity to interview you.
Brooke Shields: Omigosh! Thank you, Kam, for wanting to. I’m losing my voice a little bit, but I’ll try to speak up. I hope it’ll sound clear.
KW: I live in Princeton, and once met you briefly, when you were a student here, in that tiny pastry shop on Palmer Square. We were both being waited on and I remember being quite stunned when I realized it was you in line ahead of me. But you were quite natural when I said “Hi” and struck up a little chit-chat about the offerings in the case. Was that a favorite place of yours to frequent?
BS: Yeah, they had those really big, like three-pound bran muffins. [Chuckles]
KW: Yep! My readers sent in a lot of questions for you. Let me start with Editor Lisa Loving. She says: Brooke, what an interesting person you are! We are around the same age and I have always followed you. What was the turning point in your life? To me, it seems that you have had more than one.
BS: That’s a very astute way of looking at it, Lisa. Most people assume there’s only supposed to be one turning point which dictates the rest of our lives. But I think we have to be open to additional turning points when they arrive. Things happen in our lives. Classmates graduate… careers change… babies are born… friends are lost… loved ones die… There are so many milestones that I believe are important to acknowledge as being significant to you. That’s a very refreshing perspective that Lisa shares, because there really isn’t just one critical turning point in a life, but rather a number that you’ll need to be willing kind of bend with.
KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: You are awesome Brooke! What was your favorite spot to hangout in Princeton?
BS: Ooh! Wow! In town, it was all about food. I became a bit addicted to Thomas Sweets [ice cream] which is one of the reasons why I gained about 20 pounds while I was in college. [Chuckles] Winberie’s [restaurant] was always an unbelievable, safe place where we could go as a group and have meals and have fun playing games. I don’t even know if it’s there anymore.
KW: It is.
BS: I’m glad. Well, those were my favorite spots in town. At school, I felt very free anywhere on campus. On warm, sunny days, I especially loved sitting outside the library, hanging out by the fountain or camping out in the fields behind the independent study. They were all amazing!
KW: Princeton has eating clubs instead of fraternities. Had they begun admitting women when you arrived?
BS: Yes, although when I went there in ’83, Ivy Club was all-male when I arrived and it was still all-male when I graduated. I joined Cap & Gown.
KW: Dave Roth asks: Who is your intended audience for this book? Is there a particular demographic you believe will gain from it?
BS: I think there’s a difference between who will be interested in reading it and those who might be able to gain perspective. I’ve been around for so long that those people who have actually grown up with me might read it just for the trivia. However, I’m hoping that younger audiences will sort of tap into the part that simply deals with getting to know your parents and asking them to try to understand who you are. That’s a dialogue that needs to happen.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What becomes a legend most? That’s the old Blackgama slogan. Do you remember those ads?
BS: I do! I do, Harriet!
KW: Harriet goes on to say that “What becomes a legend most?” is an interesting question to pose to you, given how you’ve been a legend since childhood.
BS: Well, there’s a certain sense of longevity that’s associated with legends, as well as a sense of endurance. I think what becomes a legend most is not only that which lasts the test of time but an ability to keep adapting. I’ve been around for decades, and I’ve tried to stay afloat by seizing upon opportunity when presented to me. And the opportunities presented to me now look very different from the ones in the Eighties. But instead of waiting for everything to happen in the way you think it should, it’s a matter of being able to see what the real lay of the land is, and figuring out how you can play a part in it.
KW: That makes me think of Isabella Rossellini, whom I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. She’s also an actress who has made herself over numerous times.
BS: But besides being talented, she’s also smart, artistic and beautiful. There’s a beauty in her that was considered amazing, not the norm. Yet, she managed to maintain a sense of self through all of her films, and she’s endured the test of time. I think that’s what “legend” is, in addition to being willing to fail, get up, and try again.
KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: Can I ask a Blue Lagoon question? Then he says: I fell in love with you after watching that film when I was 12. But he forgot to ask his question.
BS: well, the fact that he was allowed to watch it when he was 12 was pretty forward-thinking of his mom.
KW: Sarah Jane Cion says: I love Brooke Shields! I just ordered the book. My pen name is Sally Shields, and the Shields part was picked for Brooke. When I was 16, you were on the cover of Seventeen Magazine, and I thought you were the most beautiful girl I had ever set eyes upon. I wish I had a question, but all I can think of is how much I admire and appreciate you. Wait, do you need a jazz pianist to play at any functions?
BS: Wow! I’m honored that I inspired you to pick Shields as part of your pen name. And what’s funny is that my first fake name was Diana Williams, which I made from Princess Diana and baby William. And what does she play, jazz?
BS: I’m so much more in awe of people who can play an instrument than of almost any other talent. I wish I could play an instrument.
KW: Peter Brav says: I look forward to reading the memoir. I once sat next to you and your mom at a dinner for the Israeli Film Festival in 1983 and found you both to be very charming. My question is: if you hadn't entered the entertainment industry, what do you think you’d be doing today?
BS: I’ve been in the entertainment industry for so long, before I even knew that I wanted to be in it. So, it would be hard to know what else I might be doing. I probably would have still made my way into it somehow because, to me, making people laugh, and entertaining, and watching people experience storytelling is one of the most rewarding things I can imagine. So, I think I would’ve found a way to entertain people in some capacity.
KW: Both Alice Yi and environmental activist Grace Sinden, a Princeton resident and former Princeton University researcher, ask: How important to you and your career has been the education you received at Princeton University?
BS: It’s been the thing that’s helped me stay standing.
KW: Producer/director Larry Greenberg says: Brooke, thanks for being so nice to me when I met you briefly when you were a student at Princeton. When I see the tremendous wealth of work you have done in the industry, I can't help but wonder when you will try your hand as a director.
BS: Gosh, Larry, that’s just a beautiful sentiment. I directed Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl the summer before last, and I got a bit of the bug for it. So, I’m sure that within the next few years, there will be some sort of foray into it.
KW: Wesley Derbyshire asks: Did classmates ask you out on dates while you were at Princeton?
BS: After awhile. Not much my freshman year. But by my sophomore year, I had asked enough people out that they started to ask me back.
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: If you could talk to your mother today, what would you say to her?
BS: I hope you knew how much I loved you.
KW: Marcia Evans says: I have every intention of reading your book from cover to cover. From the interviews that I've seen this week of you discussing the book had me feeling proud of your courage and honesty, discussing your private emotional and psychological child-rearing matters about growing up with your mother. I believe that your book will help many heal from the pain of being raised in an unhealthy or challenging environment.
BS: I think we can all look at our situations and find reasons to make them healthier and healthier. Nobody really has it all figured out. I believe there’s healthy and unhealthy in each of us. It’s when you operate with a sense of love in your heart that you maintain the integrity that enables you to keep going forward.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier was wondering whether you might be interested in acting in a French language film, given that you majored in French Literature.
BS: I would absolutely say “yes” in a second, if given the opportunity. I would take on that challenge enthusiastically and work really hard.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Brooke, and best of luck with the book.
BS: Thank you so, so much, Kam.
To order a copy of There Was a Little Girl, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0525954848/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20