Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields and her relationship with her mom…

We were sorry to hear that Brooke Shields’ mother, Teri Shields, passed away on November 6, 2012 from a long illness related to dementia at the age of 79. While they had a complicated and oftentimes difficult relationship, losing a mother is losing a mother. It’s never easy. Our hearts go out to her in her loss.

Being Brooke

By Jenny Allen, Good Housekeeping

…Brooke was raised by her tough cookie of a mom, whose marriage to Frank Shields lasted less than a year. Brooke’s dad (who died seven years ago, of pancreatic cancer) came from a privileged, educated family; Teri, as Brooke says, was “scrappy, a street fighter.” Frank might have walked away from Teri, but he left her with a treasure: Beautiful baby Brooke was Teri’s consolation, her joy, her obsession. She showered her with toys and clothes, took her to Broadway shows, gave her piano and ballet and riding lessons.

Above all, Teri kept Brooke close — very close. Teri made all the decisions, beginning when she started Brooke modeling at 11 months, in an Ivory Soap commercial. Teri chose the sexualized roles that made Brooke famous, and that made many uncomfortable — the controversial Pretty Baby, in which the 12-year-old played a prostitute; the overtly sexual The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love. (Brooke was also photographed nude, and heavily made up, at age 10, in an image that last year caused the shutdown of an exhibit at London’s famed Tate Modern museum as cries of child pornography were raised.) And, of course, there were the famous and infamous “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvins? Nothing” jeans commercials. And while Teri presented the world with countless images of this alluring child/woman, her real girl was under strict observation: Teri scrutinized Brooke’s manners, forbade swearing, kept her to a 10 p.m. curfew.

And, throughout Brooke’s childhood, Teri drank. And when she drank, she could be dangerous; tales of Teri’s erratic behavior and her explosions circulated. She got sober when Brooke threatened to move in with her father if Teri didn’t change her ways. But Teri would take up drinking again, off and on, over the years.

Brooke had, it almost goes without saying, a lot on her mind. “As the classic child of an alcoholic, I was the caretaker,” she says now. That, and the peculiar spotlight of fame, made her situation “freakish,” she offers frankly. “I should have been a disaster,” she says.

And yet here she is, with her easy smile; her sharp, self-deprecating sense of humor; and her life and career that she’s “passionate” about. So why isn’t she a disaster? Her best guess is that both of her parents had an innate “integrity.” “The respect I had for her made me want to behave,” she says generously of Teri. “That, and my own character. I have to give myself that, and I’m starting to.”

After graduating from Princeton, Brooke knew she wanted more than the career she’d had. “I thought, I’ve got to raise my game.” She turned down movie parts offered to her that would have perpetuated her sexy/sweetheart persona. “The old me felt creepy,” she says, “and I didn’t want to be it anymore.” She immersed herself in acting and dancing lessons; she trained her singing voice. She auditioned for, and got, the role of Rizzo in the Broadway revival of Grease — and braced herself for snarky critics who might take pleasure in watching the 29-year-old stage newbie fall on her face. “Everybody thought I would suck,” she says with a smile. “I thought, If I get slaughtered, I will cry, it will be horrible, but I’ll have taken another step. And I tried not to think about whether I was talented or not — I still don’t like to think about whether I have any real talent,” she says with a laugh. “What I did know was hard work.”

Her hard work paid off — Brooke got glowing reviews for Grease. “I never really turned back,” she says. Other Broadway roles followed, as did Suddenly Susan, the popular sitcom that ran for four seasons and won its star two Golden Globe nominations.

Read More: Brooke opens up about how she broke free from her controlling mother