IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Brooke Shields on miscarrying and losing friend to suicide: 'You just don't recover'

The actor opens up about aging, facing her mortality and the "scar tissue" that with comes with loss.
Brooke Shields
Courtesy Brooke Shields

What's it like to be famous since almost birth? Just ask Brooke Shields.

"Sometimes I'm amazed that I survived any of it," the actor says in the new Hulu documentary “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields.”

The two-part series chronicles Shield's meteoric rise to fame during the 1970s in films like "Pretty Baby" and "The Blue Lagoon," along with her modeling career, including the controversial Calvin Klein jeans ads, deemed by some as bordering on pornographic.

The documentary offers an unflinching glimpse into the good, the bad and the seamy underbelly of being a child star and the impact of being one of the most recognized faces in the world by the time she was a teen.

Now, at 57, Shields tells in a sit-down interview that she's just getting started and at this stage of life she's "much more confident and relaxed" in herself, her body and pretty much everything else, too.

“I feel like I’m a Macy’s (Thanksgiving) Day parade balloon, I’m just going down Fifth Avenue,” she says. "And it’s such an interesting position of power rather than defeat."

In the latest chapter of her long career, the actor is shifting gears to entrepreneurship, founding Beginning Is Now in 2021, an online lifestyle and wellness brand aimed at women over 40, a demographic that Shields says is often dismissed.

"We're not marketed to. We've got one foot in the grave or we're over-the-hill, or we're not viable anymore," Shields says. "We're not 20. So, that means we're done."

Instead, Shields says that the phase that follows the traditional motherhood track should be about feeling empowered and comfortable in your own skin without insecurities.

"And it doesn't have to be 'Hear me roar. It's, 'I am woman, hear me more, just more,'" she says.

“Look at what you’ve survived just by being this age. Think of what you’ve done, how your body has kept you alive, the friends you’ve made, the people you’ve helped, the people you’ve loved, the pivots you’ve had, the drama, the pain."

'This is what real loss is'

Survival is familiar territory for the actor. Shields made an early start in the entertainment business, appearing in an Ivory Soap ad at just 11 years old. By the time she was a teen, Shields was circulating among the Hollywood elite and dealing with issues at home.

Portrait Of Brooke & Teri Shields
Brooke Shields and her mother, Teri Shields, in 1981. Jack Mitchell / Getty Images

A single mom and Shields' manager, Teri Shields battled alcoholism much of the young star's life, checking in and out of rehab.

"I did my first intervention when I was 13,” Shields recalls during an April 4 appearance on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna. “She said the kiss of death, which is, ‘Fine, I’ll go, but I’m going for you, not me.’”

Of the experience, Shield says, "As a daughter, I was so busy trying to keep her alive and protect her against the world," Shields says.

However, as the actor tells, those difficult times pale in comparison to some of the bigger trials still awaiting her, including the loss of her first child with husband Chris Henchy.

"In one night, I became a full-blown adult," she says of the miscarriage she suffered. "It was the way I looked at it. I was like, 'Oh, this is what real loss is."

Another pivotal moment was the sudden death of her "Suddenly Susan" costar, David Strickland, in 1999, when he was 29.

"Losing my best friend to suicide was just ... you just don't recover, really, from those things," Shields says.

Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields and David Strickland in 1999.Dan Callister / Getty Images

"A lot of therapy, a lot of tears," helped with the healing, she says. And, eventually, Shields was able to get through "a whole day without crying."

"I'm forever changed, but there's nothing I can do about it (but) try to break up the scar tissue."

Focusing on 'being alive'

Along with the losses, Shields unexpectedly came face to face with her own mortality after suffering a broken femur in a freak accident.

"I never thought about mortality," she says. "I just always was thankful and feel lucky and blessed that I still get another day."

There were complications throughout her recovery. "The Blue Lagoon" star spent more than a month in a hospital bed during which time she says she became focused on living and "being just alive."

"It made me that more more appreciative and wanting to stay healthier and alive for my daughters, to witness their lives," Shields says.

"Impractical Jokers: The Movie" New York Screening
Brooke Shields and husband Chris Henchy with daughters Grier (left) and Rowan (right).Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

Now what?

Shields refers to those dark times as "make or break moments" in her podcast "Now What? with Brooke Shields," a series that explores how people endure tough times and come out on the other side.

The episodes touch on a variety of topics, including sexual violence and childhood trauma and she speaks with notable figures like Monica Lewinsky, Celeste Ng and Geena Davis, among others.

"You have to find a way to keep moving through," Shield says in explaining why she initiated the project.

“Everybody, I don’t care what they look like to you now, they’ve failed, they’ve been fired, they’ve lost,” Shield says. “What makes one person get up and just forge ahead? And what makes other people just succumb to it?”