For Brooke Shields and her equally brilliant, beautiful daughters, ’tis the season to slow down and celebrate joy.
"I hit a certain age and I really started to feel like I was in my own life in my own skin. I wasn’t doing anything for anybody else,” says acclaimed actress, author, entrepreneur and model Brooke Shields. “I finally felt alleviated from a lot of the insecurities that I carried, just as a woman and as a girl. And it shocked me that I finally felt empowered, unapologetic and myself—physically and emotionally. I got to this place where I stopped comparing myself to other people. Now, granted, it took a while. But it was shocking to me that the marketplace was not marketing to women over 40. When I started speaking to other women that I know that are over 40—and many of them over 50 have started so many new, unbelievable chapters—but when you start to really branch out and talk to people, women over 40 feel like they’re forgotten. They feel, maybe it’s once your ovaries aren’t keeping the population alive, somehow your currency has changed. I really wanted to positively change that narrative around age and well-being for women. We’re not all crusty and over. We’re just starting a new chapter in our lives. And I wanted to create that platform to amass the community.”
That platform, Beginning Is Now, is just one of Shields’ new endeavors that offers an authentic angle on aging. The global digital platform hopes to inspire women over the age of 40 to live their fullest lives—and have their voices heard—all with a healthy dose of wit and wisdom.
“Look at marketing: You’re either in your 20s or you’re in Depends,” Shields says. “There’s this margin in the middle. It’s quite vibrant... And financially, many of these women want to spend on themselves. Self-care is not selfish.” Shields says the idea started from a dialogue with girlfriends. “When you really open up the dialogue, it’s touching to see how women just want to be represented,” she says.
This fall, Shields also launched her original iHeartPodcast, Now What? With Brooke Shields, that examines pivotal moments in people’s lives. “I wanted to call it ‘Oh Fuck, Now What?’ but iHeart didn’t let me do that,” she says, laughing. “But truthfully, they’re the ‘Oh fuck, now what?’ moments when life deals you something that you just did not see coming and are not prepared for... And how do you rise and go through it?”
Shields could clearly teach a master class in resilience. She started her career on screen at a mere 11 months of age as the Ivory Snow Baby. By age 3 she was on the runway. Early acting roles in Alice, Sweet Alice; Pretty Baby (the Palme D’or Award winner at the Cannes Film Festival); Blue Lagoon and Endless Love soon followed. Deemed the “Face of the Eighties,” magazine covers and Calvin Klein campaigns eventually evolved into a highly successful film and television career (her work on the NBC hit Suddenly Susan garnered her a Golden Globe nomination). Bestselling books... Broadway... There is little the multihyphenate has yet to conquer.
“To me, resilience has been my source of survival,” Shields says. “You can knock me down, but I’m gonna get back up. It may not be pretty, but I’m gonna do it.” The supermodel recently broke her right femur and was in the hospital for a month. “I really started thinking about what separates the people who get up from the people who don’t get up,” she says. “When you look at every successful person you’ve ever seen, they’ve had pitfalls and mistakes and failures—everybody has. There’s something very interesting to me about how people move through those sort of shocking moments—those pivotal moments when they didn’t get into that school; they didn’t get that job; they got fired; they were cheated on; they got a diagnosis—whatever the thing is that really stops them in their tracks. I’m interested to see how people move through those moments. And to me it’s a strong signifier of the kind of person they are—so I call them ‘now what?’ moments.”
When asked what some of her own “now what?” moments have been, Shields shares how there have been plenty of heartaches mixed in with all her success. “I really think that they’ve happened my whole life,” she says, reflecting back on her early days being thrown
into the public eye. “Recently, I had to rewatch some of my earlier interviews. I watched this little girl in these adult situations. I watched these adults... it’s not really berating, but it is a very disrespectful line of questioning, if you will. And I watched this little girl clench her fists and say, ‘I’m not going to be a victim to this. It feels wrong. And it feels hurtful. And it feels like they don’t see me, but I’m not going to let them win.’ I think that those moments started for me at a very young age,” says Shields, who was raised by a single mom.
“My mom was a very serious drinker, but I was not going to let it not have me love her and not support her,” she shares. “I was 13 when I did my first intervention with my mom. My primary family was my mom, and I needed to keep her alive. And those are ‘now what?’ moments. It was going to college, it was getting a divorce, it was losing a child... They’re all ‘now what?’ moments, and it’s how you move through them.”
Shields has always been an advocate for women as well as a role model, especially in the fashion and entertainment industry. “I do think we’ve come a distance—and I think there’s always room for improvement,” she says when asked about how far the industry has evolved in terms of rights and representation for women. “I think women are being celebrated. Roles are being written. The last Netflix movie I did was about a woman my age. And the next one I’m doing is also about a woman my age,” she says of her two most recent holiday films (last year’s A Castle for Christmas and this year’s Holiday Harmony).
“I think that those kinds of stories are starting to be told more. And there are brilliant actresses that are representing this age bracket. It used to be the ingenue—and then God bless any of us if we can even be close to Judi Dench... But the middle ground is actually starting to get attention. And I always think that there’s room for growth. I think that you just have to keep talking about it.”
No doubt, we all need these feel-good flicks more than ever these days. “When you look at the state of the world and you look at the fear, the anxiety, the angst, the anger, the frustration and the vitriol—it’s all so around us all the time,” Shields says. “These entertaining moments, they’re not challenging you to feel angst. They’re asking you to take a respite to give yourself just a moment to breathe, laugh—maybe cry a little bit—but know that it’s going to all be OK. I think the promise of these rom-coms—whether they’re Christmas movies or just regular rom-com—is entertainment. And it’s entertainment at its best.”
Shields reflects on memories of entertaining the troops through her past work with the USO, “watching the faces of these young soldiers whose lives were at stake, and doing a stupid joke and singing a dumb song. It gave them a moment of breathing. And to me these movies are like that,” she says. “I went all over the world with Bob Hope entertaining troops, and the joy that it provided in the moment... freedom from fear and angst and pain and fighting. It was all we could do to contribute to the effort—but it had a value to it. And I never lost sight of that,” she says. “I feel lucky to be in that environment to be able to provide people with a little vacation for a minute—or a little laughter. I think that there’s something very psychologically necessary about these types of movies.”
As for her own holiday respite, Shields enjoys quiet time spent in the Hamptons with her family the most. “I walk on the beach with big sweaters and hats and gloves,” she says. “I love the air. I love lighting a fire. I love doing puzzles. I love needlepointing—I’m such an old lady in my heart,” she admits, laughing. “It has been my dream and my wish since I was a little girl too,” she reveals of her humble Hamptons childhood. “I grew up going to very fancy houses in the daytime. And at night after going back with my mom to our one-room rental, thinking it was the best place in the world. And it’s been a place of real acceptance and freedom for me. It’s where I can kind of take a breath.”
These days the focus during the holidays in the Hamptons is just a celebration of a slower pace of life and family. “It’s just time together,” offers Shields. “It’s stupid things like playing dominoes because it makes your kids get off their phones... And playing Words Against Humanity. Because we’re all so wrapped up in technology—we forget to communicate. It’s during the holidays that I find we really do slow it down. We love those kinds of rituals.”
Shields, who also serves as chief brand officer for Prospect Farms’ clinically tested full-spectrum CBD sleep and anxiety products as well as her multitude of other endeavors, explains how this staying grounded amid the hustle is something she works to teach her own daughters. “I try to teach my girls by example. They see me working really hard. They see me hustling. They see me really trying to get my own company off the ground as an entrepreneur and as a CEO. They see their mother, being a mom, but also putting herself out there.”
Shields sagely notes how setbacks are just a part of life—and it is how we handle them that defines us. “I tell my girls: ‘You’re going to get rejected more than you’re going to get accepted,” she says. “You’re probably going to get fired more than you’re going to get hired. And it’s a matter of how you dust yourself off, keep going and move through. And I think that they see that. They see, especially in our industry, we actresses get rejected many more times than we get accepted. But people only focus on the few acceptances—and they think that it’s been a breeze—but it’s a slog.”
This very real take on the industry applies to all aspects of life, and Shields shares her own “now what?” learnings with her girls. “These kinds of rejections are just part and parcel for this crazy industry. But they open up conversations: ‘You didn’t get that on a test. You didn’t get into that club. That boy didn’t ask you out. Someone was mean to you on Snapchat.’ They’re all these moments that we feel rejected or hurt, and they’re just opportunities to say, ‘OK, that really hurt. That sucks. Now what are you going to do about it?’”
Well, if you are the indomitable Brooke Shields, you launch a podcast—and help evolve an industry—one authentic conversation at a time.
Photography by: Photographer’s assistant: Miki Takashima
Digital tech: Sam Morgan Sylist’s assistants: Ashley Tsao & Kelsi Amberson
Tailor: Morgan Foote, Altered Agency
Hair (Brooke): Tim Nolan Makeup (Brooke): Mark de los Reyes, The Canvas Agency Hair (Grier/Rowan): Avery Golson, See Management Makeup (Grier/Rowan): Jenna Scavone
Producer: Claudia Di Maio