‘Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields’ recounts actress’s childhood trauma

Shields has won many awards throughout her career, including the GLAAD Media Golden Gate Award in 2002. Photo courtesy of @BrookeShields, Twitter

Celebrities speaking out about their traumatic experiences throughout stardom has only recently become a topic of interest. “I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy and “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir” by Matthew Perry are two examples of stories that took audiences by surprise, and recently Hulu released a documentary titled, “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” that follows the story of her career and personal life. 

Shields, famously known for her beauty and roles in movies such as “Pretty Baby” and “Blue Lagoon,” is the narrator of this two-part documentary. Both episodes are about an hour long and start with warnings of mature themes, recommending viewer discretion.

The documentary involves interviews and notes from experts, friends and authors, focusing on Shields’ rise to fame as a child model and actor as well as the impact the industry has had on her life. Modeling since the age of 11 months, Shields was thrown into the industry before she even had the chance to consent.

She appeared in commercials and advertisements, and eventually moved to acting as she grew older. The documentary provides old footage of interviews and pictures from photoshoots, which tremendously helped me as a viewer understand the time period and what exactly Shields was doing. 

The first episode dove into femininity and the sexualization of young girls in the media. It was incredibly informative. We were presented with great historical background, with speakers who had knowledge of the period as well as images from protests and magazine covers. 

The photos shown of Shields as a child were shocking, and honestly gross and creepy. It was insane to see what these people had a minor wearing and how they posed her. There was even a magazine cover we were shown that was titled, “America’s Newest Sexy Kid Star!”

Of course, these controversial pictures would not have been possible without her mother giving the okay, which is another aspect of Shields’ life that the documentary covers. Teri, her mother, was an alcoholic and was pushing her daughter to do all of these questionable things. 

She was only 11 when she starred in “Pretty Baby,” a movie that is set in a brothel. Shields appears nude twice within the film. She was 15 when filming “Blue Lagoon,” where she is naked almost the entire time. At 16, she was inappropriately posed for Calvin Klein, which boosted the company’s sales by 300% in only three months. At only nine, she posed completely nude for her mother’s friend who then sold the pictures when she grew older. 

These facts were horrifying and opened my eyes to how the system ran at that time. The documentary’s use of experts on feminism and the media was perfect, as they explained how these controversial roles were not just a fault of Teri Shields, but the system as well. They had outstanding insight into the entire situation.

Part two of the short series focused more on Shields growing into adulthood, and we saw as she went to college, wrote books, got married and had children. This second half I found to be much more relatable as a college student, and I thought it was incredibly important as it showed celebrities as people with real struggles and feelings rather than just a prop, which was what Shields was seen as when she was a child and young adult.

She talked about her battles with dissociation, religion, image and motherhood. However, the themes of exploitation, independence and women being seen as objects did not go away. Shields shared a story in which she was taken advantage of by a man of higher power all while the media was obsessed with the idea of her being a virgin. 

It was a very tough documentary to watch, as it brought up uncomfortable topics and even showed photos that made me uneasy. I argue that it was vital, though, as no one truly understands the nightmares children and women experience in the media industry until they see it.

I recommend this documentary to anyone interested in media and celebrities, but also to those who are willing to educate themselves on the horror that is in the industry. It was so enlightening and, although hard to watch, was quite entertaining. 


5/5 Stars



Image courtesy of @iHeartPodcasts, Twitter