Brooke Shields says she was ‘naive’ about the double entendre she uttered in her iconic 1980 Calvin Klein commercial when she was just 15 — and dismisses the critics who ‘berated’ her and assumed she knowingly delivered the sexual message as ‘ridiculous.’
In the commercial, one of several that Brooke, now 56, filmed with legendary photographer Richard Avedon for Calvin Klein, the then-teen posed in a pair of blue jeans and said, ‘You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.’
In a new interview with Vogue, Brooke said she was very ‘protected’ and ‘didn’t think it was sexual in nature’ — so she was ‘shocked’ when the media went crazy for it, accusing her of utilizing a control of her sexuality that she didn’t posses.
‘I think the assumption is that I was much more savvy than I ever really was,’ she said.
‘It didn’t faze me. [The line] didn’t sort of come into my psyche as it being anything overtly sexual, sexualized in any way,’ she added.
Iconic: Brooke Shields, 56, shot to stardom upon starring in a series of Calvin Klein commercials in 1980 when she was just 15
Famous: In the most iconic one, which was banned in some countries, she said: ‘You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing’
Chill: Brooke insists she was ‘very protected’ and ‘naive’ about the double entendre: ‘I didn’t think it had to do with underwear’
Brooke recalled how Calvin Klein approached her mother, Teri Shields, about getting Brooke in the ads, and she was just so excited for the opportunity.
‘When I was 15, I didn’t understand Calvin Klein in the way that he was sort of coming into the zeitgeist, it was more about Richard Avedon coming to my mom and saying, “We’re doing a series of very unique commercials,”‘ she said.
‘The shoot itself, no one was allowed on the set. I think, because Avedon, it was his foray into the commercial world. I think he was a bit nervous. Stakes were pretty high and I think there was a lot of pressure,’ she remembered.
‘The choreography was specific and intentional. Every little bit of it,’ she went on, reflecting on a specific pose in which she had one knee on the ground, the other knee resting on her foot, with her other foot in the air.
‘I was just so proud that they were trusting me with something that involved acting as well as just the visual. And it was either gonna strike and be part of the zeitgeist or it wasn’t,’ she said.
They shot several different ads, including the one that would go on to jump start her career — because of the implication that she wasn’t wearing underwear with her jeans.
‘I was just so proud that they were trusting me with something that involved acting as well as just the visual,’ she said
‘I was naive, I didn’t think anything of it,’ she admitted. ‘I didn’t think it had to do with underwear. I didn’t think it was sexual in nature’
‘I was naive, I didn’t think anything of it,’ she admitted. ‘I didn’t think it had to do with underwear. I didn’t think it was sexual in nature. I’d say that about my sister, nobody could come between me and my sister.
‘If they had intended on the double entendre, they didn’t explain it to me,’ she went on. ‘It didn’t faze me. It didn’t sort of come into my psyche as it being anything overtly sexual, sexualized in any way.’
In fact, Brooke said she had a ‘disassociation’ and ‘compartmentalization’ with her own sexuality, despite becoming a sex symbol at age 15.
That same year, she starred in the R-rate film Blue Lagoon, and divulged that she had a body double for the movie.
But though Brooke wasn’t thinking that she was talking about going commando, the public certainly did — and the backlash was swift.
‘I was away when they all came out, and then started hearing, “Oh, the commercials have been banned here, and Canada won’t play them.” And [there were] paparazzi and people screaming at me, and screaming at my mother, “How could you?” It just struck me as so ridiculous, the whole thing,’ she said.
Brooke’s mother and manager coordinated Brooke’s roll in the campaign (pictured in 1981)
Not nice: Brooke was ‘shocked’ that people would ‘berate’ her over the sexy ad, assuming she ‘was much more savvy than I ever really was’
‘I was a kid. And where I was, I was naive. I was a very protected, sequestered young woman in a bubble, that my mom was just paroling me outside of,’ she said (pictured 1978)
‘What was shocking to me was to be berated by, “Oh, you knew this was happening. This is what you thought. You were thinking these thoughts.”
‘I was a kid. And where I was, I was naive. I was a very protected, sequestered young woman in a bubble, that my mom was just paroling me outside of,’ she said.
‘I think the assumption is that I was much more savvy than I ever really was,’ she went on.
This felt especially true when she would be interviewed by journalists, whom she said would start with feigning that they would ‘respect’ her because she was young before seeming to try to catch her out.
‘It would go to really condescending. And then it would switch from condescending to, “Oh no, I mean, you know.” And you’d just watch them spin their personalities out of control,’ she recalled.
She said it felt like they didn’t really want her answers to their questions, because they kept asking her ‘the same question hoping for a different answer.’
Compartmentalizing: That same year, she starred in the R-rate film Blue Lagoon, and divulged that she had a body double for the movie
It seemed even more bizarre to her that she was painted as a coquette even after she publicly talked about being a virgin.
Later, she would reveal she had sex for the first time at 22.
‘I was a virgin, I was a virgin forever after that. Then that became the thing that people hooked into, because I was honest about having not lost my virginity,’ she said.
‘I always thought it was odd that I could switch from [being perceived as] this all-knowing coquettish, she knows what she’s doing, she’s playing it, and then all of a sudden I’m the most celebrated famous version in the world.’
Brooke admitted that now, looking back, she can see that the ads were sexual.
‘At 56, I can go back and look at the camera, “Well, is it zooming in? Yes, sort of on my crotch area, then it comes to my face.” But sex is sold since the dawn of time,’ she said.
‘Every single cover I’ve ever been on, I don’t care if I was 15 or whatever, there’s something in the eyes.’
Rude: Though she was unbothered by the sexual nature of her ads, she called out ‘condescending’ interviewers who projected narratives onto her
Can’t be both: Brooke has previously said she was a virgin until 22, and indicated it made no sense that she could be both that and an ‘all-knowing coquette’
‘Now I see my teenagers with different body images and different fears and different insecurities,’ she said (pictured in September with her daughter Grier Henchy)
She also thinks the backlash against the ads backfired.
‘The campaign was extremely successful,’ she said. ‘There’s an appeal to it that is so undeniable, and they tapped into it. They knew what they were doing. And I think it did set the tone for decades.
‘On the one hand, I don’t think you could get away with a lot of what I did in the ’80s now, but by the same token, so much more is done now than we would have ever dreamt of doing.
‘And there is an assimilation of sexuality now that I certainly didn’t have when I was 15. Whereas now I see my teenagers with different body images and different fears and different insecurities.
‘We were pretty protected from a lot of that back then. I appreciate being protected in my naiveté, because I feel as if I was relatively unscathed.
But whatever the controversy, Brooke seems at peace with the career decision and how it catapulted her into superstardom.
In fact, Calvin Klein himself recently told her that her campaign changed his career and life.
‘It put Calvin on the map in a very different way,’ she said. ‘He said, “You changed the course of my life and my career.” And I said, “You did mine too.”