Brooke Shields says she was “naive” about the ambiguity she uttered in her iconic 1980 Calvin Klein commercial when she was just 15 — and dismisses the critics who “shouted at her” and assumed she got the sexual message willfully and knowingly delivered as ‘ridiculous’.
In the commercial, one of several Brooke, now 56, filmed with legendary photographer Richard Avedon for Calvin Klein, the then-teen posed in jeans and said, “Want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.’
In a new interview with FashionBrooke said she was very “protected” and “didn’t think it was sexual in nature” — so she was “shocked” when the media went nuts over it, accusing her of using a control over her sexuality that she didn’t. possess.
“I think the assumption is that I was much smarter than I ever was,” she said.
‘I couldn’t care less. [The line] didn’t get into my psyche because it was something overtly sexual, sexualized in any way,” she added.
Iconic: Brooke Shields, 56, rose to fame when she starred in a series of Calvin Klein commercials in 1980 when she was just 15
Famous: In the most iconic, which was banned in some countries, she said, ‘You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing’
Chill: Brooke insists she was ‘very protected’ and ‘naive’ about the ambiguity: ‘I didn’t think it had to do with underwear’
Brooke recalled Calvin Klein approaching her mother, Teri Shields, about getting Brooke into the ads, and she was just so excited about the opportunity.
“When I was 15, I didn’t understand Calvin Klein in the way he got into the zeitgeist, it was more about Richard Avedon coming up to my mom and saying, ‘We’re doing a series of very unique commercials,'” she said.
‘The shoot itself, nobody was allowed on the set. I think because of Avedon, it was his foray into the commercial world. I think he was a little nervous. There was quite a lot at stake and I think there was a lot of pressure,” she recalls.
‘The choreography was specific and intentional. Every little bit,” she continued, thinking about a specific pose she had one in knee on the floor, the other knee on her foot, with her other foot in the air.
“I was just so proud that they entrusted me with something that involved acting as well as just the visual. And it would hit and be part of the zeitgeist or it wasn’t,’ she said.
They shot several ads, including the one that would jump-start her career — due to the implication that she wasn’t wearing any underwear with her jeans.
“I was just so proud that they entrusted me with something that involved both acting and just the visual,” she said.
“I was naive, I didn’t like it,” she admitted. “I didn’t think it had anything to do with underwear. I didn’t think it was sexual in nature’
“I was naive, I didn’t like it,” she admitted. “I didn’t think it had anything to do with underwear. I didn’t think it was sexual in nature. I would say that about my sister, no one could come between me and my sister.
“If they meant ambiguous, they didn’t explain it to me,” she continued. ‘I couldn’t care less. It didn’t really get into my psyche because it was something overtly sexual, sexualized in any way.”
Brooke even said she’s a… ‘disassociation’ and ‘compartmentation’ with her own sexuality, despite becoming a sex symbol at age 15.
That same year, she starred in the R-rate movie Blue Lagoon and revealed that she had a body double for the film.
But while Brooke didn’t think she was talking about a commando, the audience sure did—and the response was quick.
“I was gone when they all came out, and then I heard, ‘Oh, the commercials are banned here and Canada isn’t playing them.’ And [there were] paparazzi and people yelling at me and yelling at my mom, “How could you?” I just thought it was so ridiculous, the whole thing,” she said.
Brooke’s mother and manager coordinated Brooke’s role in the campaign (pictured in 1981)
Dislikes: Brooke was ‘shocked’ that people would ‘swear at her’ about the sexy ad, assuming she was ‘much smarter than I ever actually was’
‘I was a child. And where I was, I was naive. I was a very protected, secluded young woman in a bubble, where my mother just released me on par’, she said (photo 1978)
“What was shocking to me was that I was berated by, ‘Oh, you knew this was happening. This is what you were thinking. You were thinking about these thoughts.’
‘I was a child. And where I was, I was naive. I was a very protected, secluded young woman in a bubble that my mother just let me out of,’ she said.
“I think the assumption is that I was a lot smarter than I ever was,” she continued.
This felt especially true when she would be interviewed by journalists, who she said would pretend to “respect” her for being young before they tried to get her.
“It would be really condescending. And then it would change from condescending to, “Oh no, I mean, you know.” And you’d just watch them see their personalities spiral out of control,” she recalled.
She said it felt like they didn’t really want her answers to their questions because they kept “asking her the same question in hopes of a different answer.”
Compartmentalization: That same year, she starred in the R-rate movie Blue Lagoon and revealed she had a body double for the movie
It seemed even more bizarre to her that she had been painted as a flirt, even after talking about being a virgin in public.
She would later reveal that she had sex for the first time when she was 22.
“I was a virgin, then I was a virgin forever. Then that became the thing people hooked on because I was honest I didn’t lose my virginity,” she said.
‘I always thought it was weird that I could switch from [being perceived as] this all-knowing coquettish, she knows what she’s doing, she plays it, and then suddenly I’m the most celebrated famous version in the world.’
Brooke admitted that now, looking back, she can see that the ads were sexual.
“When I’m 56, I can go back and look at the camera, ‘Well, does it zoom in? Yeah, a little bit on my crotch, then it comes to my face.’ But sex has been sold since time immemorial,” she said.
“Every cover I’ve ever been on, I don’t care if I was 15 or whatever, there’s something in the eyes.”
Rude: Although she wasn’t bothered by the sexual nature of her ads, she yelled out ‘condescending’ interviewers who projected stories on her
Can’t be both: Brooke has previously said she was a virgin until she was 22 and indicated there was no point in being able to be both that and an ‘all-knowing coquette’
“Now I see my teens with different body images and different fears and different insecurities,” she said (pictured in September with her daughter Grier Henchy)
She also thinks the backlash against the ads has backfired.
“The campaign was extremely successful,” she says. “There’s an undeniable appeal to it, and they’ve taken advantage of it. They knew what they were doing. And I think it set the tone for decades.
“On the one hand, I don’t think you can get away with much of what I was doing now in the ’80s, but at the same time, so much more is being done now than we could have ever imagined.
“And there’s an assimilation of sexuality now that I certainly didn’t have when I was 15. Whereas now I see my teenagers with different body images and other fears and other insecurities.
“A lot of them were pretty protected back then. I appreciate being protected in my naivety because I feel like I was relatively unharmed.
But whatever the controversy, Brooke seems to be at peace with the career decision and how it has catapulted her into a superstardom.
In fact, Calvin Klein herself recently told her that her campaign has changed his career and life.
“It put Calvin on the map in a very different way,” she said. “He said, ‘You changed the course of my life and my career.” And I said, “You did mine too.”