Make no mistake: Brooke Shields—a woman who needs no introduction—has been here before. “I’ve been asked questions about myself for all 57 years of my life; I think every single question has been asked of me,” she tells me at the start of our interview, not in a scolding way, that’s not her style, but in a more I’ve-seen-it, I’ve-done-it, and I even wrote-the-book-on-it kind of way.
“Well, let me redo my math…I should shave off two years and say 55, because I guess it took me two years to learn to talk,” she laughs as she corrects herself, segueing into something more serious. “I joke about it, but I recently watched an interview I did when I was 12 that struck such a chord in me; I kept getting asked the same question—it was an interrogation—over and over, until I finally said: ‘Excuse me, ma’am, I don’t think you want my answer. I don’t think you want to hear the truth.’ I have no idea where that kind of confidence came from so young…but I really love that response. I love seeing myself willing to stand up at that moment.”
Shields also assures me that, even with the years of media training and being scrutinized in the public eye, her responses are, and always will be, authentic: “I’m an open book…what you see is what you get. I’ve been out here talking about myself too long to hide it. It’s way too late to try to hide anything. I’d never get the story right.”
You’re currently telling other people’s stories via your podcast. What’s better: Being asked the questions or asking the questions?
I’m definitely having more fun finding ways to ask other people questions! I really like getting to know people. I don’t think there’s that much more to get to know about me—everyone already has their opinions about me, and they’ve had them for a long time. You become a little bit numb to it all, but I always say nothing is off-limits because I’m going to be honest about everything and anything—unless it would hurt someone. The podcast has been really challenging, but also very revealing; I’ve been on the other side of the “questioning” and feeling like someone’s trying to trap you and feeling like someone’s looking for a sound bite or a tagline or a headline. Now, I’m in the other side….
What is your interviewing style?
In the beginning, I told guests they didn’t have to answer anything; I felt like I was betraying them by suddenly being on this “side of it.” I only recently realized that, if I am willing to be vulnerable, people can feel safe talking to me—not like they are in front of a firing squad. The more I make it an exchange, the more authentic it feels. My guests know I’m not going to have an “I got you!” moment. Of course, you push a bit, but if someone doesn’t want to answer a question, you respect that. It’s their prerogative. There have been some guests who are very good at not answering questions, and we still get something interesting out of it.
The biggest thing across the board for me is authenticity; I know I don’t always look or act polished.
Which guests are on your wish list?
The list is so long! I know all these people, but I don’t know them all. I just sat down with Gayle King— what a journey she has had. She’s that wonderful mix of being like you, being a woman, being a mentor, but still willing to learn. To see that in a woman who has achieved so much…that was one of the most important interviews I’ve had so far. Then, talking to Patton Oswalt…he has gone through such tragedy and is still willing to grow from it and share it. All I know is, I want to keep going. I have to do 52 podcasts this year, so ask me again when I’m at 51!
Right now, you have another big story with your Beginning Is Now brand. What do you hope people take away from it?
The brand is for women over 40 and it is a well-being and wellness platform. It’s meant to encourage and inspire women to begin new chapters in their lives and look forward—rather than feel like their life is over because they have hit a “certain age.”
The greatest thing is that we’re having conversations about “the things,” the taboo subjects, the stuff we’ve always been afraid to talk about. Things like postpartum depression and mental health still have a strong stigma, which is terrible. That’s the most positive thing about this brand—we’re talking about things and changing the conversation around what age looks like. Instead of “being over 40” as having the image of old and dried up, I believe it’s a new prime.
You’re so open on social media. Is it something you plan out?
I hired social teams for both Beginning Is Now and for “Brooke” and, yes, we plan it out. In the beginning, I would sometimes post five pictures in one day and then not do anything for a week, so that wasn’t working. I honestly had no knowledge of the metrics and the conversions and the way it all really works.
This is not about showing an ideal of me with filters—this is about showing people that this is what a 57-year-old woman looks like.
The biggest thing across the board for me is authenticity; I know I don’t always look or act polished. This is not about showing an ideal of me with filters—this is about showing people that this is what a 57-year-old woman looks like. This is what I’m doing in my life; I feel blessed to be excited about the future. I’m not putting forth an image; I’m just putting forth as much of my true self as I feel comfortable with, without it being self-indulgent.
People have known you forever, do they ever approach you on the street and ask for advice?
All the time! I posted when my daughter went to her sophomore year of college. It wasn’t even her first year, and I was struggling. Now, so many moms come up to me and say, “Oh God, I relived it all over again. I feel for you. How are you?” It ends up being a nice conversation. It really does take a village. It’s nice when people come up to me like that on the street because it allows me to not feel so isolated in what I’m having a hard time with as well.
You’ve been open about stresses in your life before. What is your self-care routine like now?
That is a good question. I feel that, as of late, I am so revved up and going that I have to be careful. With the podcast, I’m constantly doing homework. Then, on top of that, getting Beginning Is Now to the next level and trying to keep my film and TV career going…there’s so much, it’s hard not to feel fragmented.
When I feel that cortisol rising, I take myself out of that environment. Just recently, I went to Lake Placid with my best friend because I felt like I was unraveling a bit. The good news is, you can develop ways to recognize it and say, “My body is trying to tell me something.”
In order for anyone to be productive, you have to be able to practice self-care—whatever that means for you. It used to be a glass of wine or a nice dinner with a friend, but that started not working as well for me, because there were too many things going on in my brain. Getting out of the mayhem helps me; I’m one of those people who has to read all my emails and have an empty inbox and not leave anyone without an answer—it’s nonstop. It never ends. It’s like housework! I’ve learned that I have to take myself out so I can reenter situations rejuvenated.
The email situation seems to be hitting at tenfold since COVID.
It’s sad. There will no longer be snow days. That’s sad for our youth—that surprise phone call comes in and you get to sleep in or play in the snow. Because of all this digital and Zoom, you’re never not working. That’s exhausting for everyone.
I’m not a meditative person; I’m a run-faster, jump-higher person. It takes a lot to get me to disconnect. I’m trying to find other things that help. I like exercising because then I’m physically exhausted, but that still doesn’t help my brain. It’s hard. I’m still a work in progress.
Beauty By Brooke
“I’ve learned only recently that beauty really is self-care, not self-indulgence. I work with True Botanicals, and they’ve helped me understand what a privilege it is to be able to take care of my skin. Their Pure Radiant Oil is my hero; I put it on all day long, I pat it over makeup to give me a glow. I like doing the little things and not feeling bad about enjoying my routine.”
“I cannot give myself a blowout. I can kind of curl my hair, but I’m very helpless when it comes to everything else. I can’t do a cat-eye. My daughter can do a cat-eye like nobody’s business. I look like I’ve been in an accident.”
“I’m from the era of baking in the sun, so I get spots on my hands and face. Vitamin C helps, but Fraxel really does it; I love it. There are less-expensive versions available, which I think is important to say because not everything is affordable for everybody. I will say this though: Don’t go out right after. The last time I got it, I went to an event, went up to Daniel Craig and said, ‘Hi, it’s so nice to meet you. It’s such an honor because I always get mistaken for your wife [Rachel Weisz].’ He looked at me like I was crazy. Then, I went to the ladies’ room and I was more than a little red. I snuck out right then!”
Photographer: Mikael Schulz at Jack Studios, New York; Makeup: Mark de Los Reyes; Hair: Tim Nolan; Styling: Jared Depriest Gilbert; Styling Assistant: Kylee Morgan