The former child starlet Brooke Shields – whose 1972 Super Bowl commercial for Calvin Klein clothing was pulled after parents complained, says she took a “patriotic” stand and called the outrage “a tough period”.
“I was young, doing it because I thought it was great,” Shields told CBS Sunday Morning, recalling how she and her mother appeared in a Super Bowl commercial wearing sweatshirts that said: “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”.
The airing of the advert led to a backlash of protest, including death threats against the actress and public accusations of child abuse. The National Organisation for Women (NOW) went so far as to lobby for a boycott of the brand on concerns that it “normalised” the use of children in commercials.
“That part I was naive about, because that was my first exposure to America,” Shields said.
The issue of childhood commercialisation received renewed attention in the recent Netflix documentary Thirteen Ways of Looking at Jane, which re-examines the history of the predominantly white influence on children’s clothing.
“I did not come up through doing advertisements or being exploited,” Shields said, calling the Super Bowl ad “entirely patriotic”. “It was a love letter to my country.”
She clarified that the sweatshirts were made by American denim manufacturer Major League Baseball Players’ Association of Washington DC, which manufactures the sweatshirts in conjunction with the Polo Ralph Lauren Company in New York.
Shields went on to succeed as a model at age 13, however, she now says that she was too eager to please and not strong enough to carry on.
“It’s so easy to make mistakes in your career and not be able to play the game that you want to play,” she said. “There’s a really hard thing that happens as you get older and it just goes away.”
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In addition to maintaining her childhood ties to her American roots, Shields sought to re-acclimate with a more European aesthetic. At 15 she moved from New York to Paris with her mother, Karen, who is an author and producer. The pair attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, but Shields stopped going on a “day-to-day basis” around the age of 17 due to the pressures of the city.
“I just couldn’t do it. I just had to do it.”
The actress is now married to Chris Henchy, the producer and son of Alan Cumming. Despite the recent sitcom New Girl, and the film Butter starring Jennifer Aniston, Shields said she has “never been tempted to make a sitcom.”