“Hi, I’m Brooke Shields and I think we need to talk about the Calvin Klein ads.” With that phrase it starts the video that the American actress Brooke Shields (New York, 56 years old) has done together with the American edition of the magazine Vogue to review, for almost 10 minutes, what in the eighties became one of the most iconic commercials of the moment, so much so that it has lasted in the popular imagination for four decades.
Then, Shields was a very young 15-year-old actress who had been playing small roles all her childhood and with a beauty that took the breath of viewers and that exuded innocence. But the ad became famous precisely for a mixture of Shields’s purity and a point of eroticism of which she, as she claimed then and as she insists now, was never aware.
“You want to know what comes between my Calvins and me? Nothing ”, was the phrase that the adolescent pronounced and that happened to posterity. The spot The Cowboys television show was directed by Richard Avedon, in the renowned photographer’s first foray into that world. “Someone on Calvin’s team got in touch with my mother, and she basically said,” So they want me to put on some jeans and be in an ad? “She recalls. “When I was 15 years old, I basically didn’t understand why Calvin was becoming representative of the spirit of his age. It was more that Richard Avedon reached out to my mother, and me, and said, ‘Look, I’m doing a series of very special announcements.’
According to the actress, behind all this there were “very specific word games, historical or literary references, there was an intellectual discourse” that guided the ads. “During filming, no one was allowed to enter the filming set. I think because for Avedon it was his first foray into the world of advertisements. I think I was nervous, the expectations were very high and there was a lot of pressure. So we did many, many, many takes. The choreography was specific and intentional. Every little piece ”. But she assures that that confidence made her feel “proud” of being counted on and of becoming part of that spirit of the times that Calvin Klein had become a teacher of.
What caught her off guard was the boom that came later and when they began to ban the spot in different places. “The paparazzi and the public were yelling at me, yelling at my mother: ‘How could you?’ It all seemed very ridiculous to me, ”recalls the actress. She also admits that at no time was it raised that this question had an obvious erotic quality. “I was naive, I didn’t think anything about it. I didn’t think it had to do with underwear. I did not see sexual connotation. I compared him to my sister: nothing is opposed between my sister and me. What was a shock for me it was being reprimanded for an “ah, you knew that was going to happen, you thought about it.” She was a girl, she was naive, she was very protected, she was a very isolated young woman, in a bubble that my mother protected from the outside. I think it was assumed that I was smarter than I really was, ”she reflects.
In fact, Shields herself saw that the press continued to attack her for it, harassing her with questions about sexuality, about modesty, about corporality, with only 15 years old, when, she says, she had a body double on the set. from The blue lake, filmed that same year. “There was a lack of association with what I was experiencing,” she says. “They started like that, respecting me because I was young, but then they were very condescending, and then you saw that they were out of control. They didn’t want my answer because they kept asking me the same thing and they weren’t interested in my answer. It was like: ‘No, I didn’t think of any of that,’ she explains about how they insisted on sexuality in the ad. “My mother was totally uncomfortable with the cameras. It was us against the world ”.
Today his vision is a little different from all that. She acknowledges that there was indeed a sexual part in everything that went unnoticed and of which she, on the set, was not aware. “At 56 I can go back and look at the camera and say: it’s true, they are doing zoom first to my genitals and then up to my face, it’s true. But sex has sold since the beginning of time. On every cover I’ve appeared on, whether I was 15 or any age, there is always something in the look. ” She also explains that she became something like America’s new girlfriend: “I was a virgin, I was a virgin forever after that. And that became what people got hooked on because I was honest about not losing my virginity. I always thought she was the most famous and celebrated virgin in the world, ”she explains, already laughing.
However, for her the balance remains positive and she believes that Calvin Klein was smart with the tone of the campaign, the form, the content and choosing her and Avedon. For her that ad will always be there: it made her grow up and be who she is. “On the one hand, I don’t think I can escape what I did in the eighties; but on the other hand, I have done so many things that we would not have dreamed of … Now there is an assimilation of sexuality that obviously I did not have when I was 15 years old. […] We were very protected from all that, and I am grateful for having been in my naivety, because I came out relatively unscathed ”, he recalls. In fact, Shields reveals that he recently interviewed Calvin Klein for a radio show and that he also let him know that this was a huge personal and professional shock that “put him on the map in a very different way, which is what they wanted ”. “He told me: ‘You changed the course of my life and my career. And I said, ‘Well, you changed mine too. We were at the right time and place ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.