Brooke Shields is still wrapping her mind around being the boss. “I’m used to signing on the line that says ‘Talent,’” she says, with a laugh. The launch of her new brand, the lifestyle platform Beginning Is Now, means Shields isn’t just the face — she’s where the buck stops. “You’re meeting employees and lawyers, and there are documents and contracts to sign. It definitely feels like being shot out of a cannon.” Shields, on Zoom, is wearing Gloria Steinem-evocative aviators, seated behind a desk and looking very much like a boss.
“Every time I start to get nervous, I remember that the entire message of Beginning Is Now is what I’m feeling right now,” she says. “Jumping off a cliff and not letting fear of failure stop me.”
It’s a challenge she’s been mulling for a while now: a new online community dedicated to the unique possibilities of reinvention in middle age, for women in particular. Even Brooke Shields is not immune from wondering: Well, what do I do next?
“It’s this shift,” says the 56-year-old Shields, “where you’re more confident in your own skin now, but maybe you’ve taken care of everybody else but yourself. Or you’ve been at a job forever and you think, ‘Is this it? What more do I want?’ We’re not in a much-older bracket, and we’re not the influencers in their twenties. I think it’s a rich demographic, this generation.”
Shields has put her mark on plenty of other phases in life. As a child model and actress, her appearance in Louis Malle’s “Pretty Baby,” at 11, stirred up controversy, as did her subsequent films “Endless Love” and “The Blue Lagoon.” At 15, her jeans ads — “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” — became one of the most enduring Calvin Klein taglines ever, and set off hand-wringing about the spots being too risqué for TV. When she became a mother, Shields spoke publicly about struggles with postpartum depression, publishing a book on the subject and igniting a feud over antidepressant use with Scientologist Tom Cruise.
Now, Shields is tackling middle age. But lest you think of certain other sites started by female celebs that focus on women … Goop, this is not. For one thing, Shields and her team are approaching their mission with a healthy skepticism of the term “wellness.”
“This isn’t just yoga mats and vitamins and a mantra. It’s not just about diet and exercise, or fitting into some size clothing. It’s about overall health, finding things that make you happy. Sometimes just staying up late drinking tequila with a friend is healing. I’m not going to do it every night, but I think the well-roundedness of that is what we tried to focus on, rather than that we have this product or that product.” (The site does sell tees and sweatshirts, but so far the mini-workouts they offer are free.)
Shields is still refueling from a quick trip to Milan, where she treated her younger daughter Grier, 15, to a VIP visit to the Ferragamo show at fashion week. “It was her first time doing anything like that,” says Shields. “I never really go to shows, but it was fun for her to get made up and wear something from the runway. I think she was a little enamored of it. I told her, really, it’s not always that glamorous. It’s usually a lot more work.” The two swept into town for the show, attended a dinner hosted by the Ferragamo family, and headed back home. There was no time for further investigation of their fascinating family history, which
Shields explored on a 2010 episode of the genealogy show “Who Do You Think You Are?” A deep dive into her heritage on her father’s side found Shields is the descendant of several noble Italian families.
Shields’ older daughter, 18-year-old Rowan, headed off to college in August, with Shields writing on Instagram that despite being excited, “this was the saddest drive away from anywhere I’ve ever had to make.”
It also, inevitably, was a middle-age milestone. What is it like, I wonder, to witness the aging process when your face has been such a definitive feature — not just for you, but for American culture?
“Growing up,” she says, “I tried to separate myself from it: ‘She’s the face of this,’ or ‘She’s the eyebrows.’ I didn’t really want to look at myself any more than I had to.
“I see my girls staring at themselves all the time, critiquing this and that,” she continues. “Taking hundreds of pictures of themselves. They worry about it so much, and they’re so beautiful — it just takes your breath away.”
But because Shields’ entire life was in front of the camera — her first modeling job was at 11 months old, for Ivory Soap — she never spent as much time in front of the mirror as her daughters seem to. “A dance teacher said, ‘Well, you’re going to fall on your face if you don’t spot in the mirror, so get over that.’”
She did, in a big way. Shields went on to have a Broadway career, playing Rizzo in “Grease,” Sally Bowles in “Cabaret,” Roxie Hart in “Chicago” and Morticia Addams in “The Addams Family.”
These days, she has a different relationship with her reflection. “I looked at myself and thought, ‘Oh, you’re an adult. You’ve lived a lot. You’ve raised children.’ There’s a maturity in how I look — a bit more angular, a bit harder. I’m trying to look with appreciation rather than judgment.” Still, she has lapses: “Every now and then a photographer will take my picture and I’ll see it and think, ‘Oh, there must be something on the film.’ And then I realize, that’s not it — it’s called being 56!”
Her latest film role sees her paired with an age-appropriate love interest, the 59-year-old Cary Elwes. They co-star in the Netflix holiday rom-com “A Castle for Christmas,” with Shields playing an American author who travels to Scotland to buy a castle whose owner (Elwes) isn’t interested in selling to a foreigner.
The production shot at a mansion in Scotland. “We were in this little COVID-protected bubble, and it was a dream. Everybody was so happy they were getting a chance to work. Our biggest traffic jam in the morning would be the cows.” For Shields, the movie is a laundry list of life’s most wonderful things: “There are pubs and Irish music and [traditional] Ceilidh dancing and whiskey and dogs!”
The shoot also allowed Shields to dip a toe back into comedy. She’s a sucker for rom-coms, she says: “I love crying, I love wondering, ‘What if they don’t get back together?’ I love the — what do they call it? The feels.”
She also adores slapstick, with which she had a long-running engagement on the ’90s sitcom “Suddenly Susan.” More recently, she got an inadvertent dose right in the face, courtesy of Rowan, who smacked her with a handbag for a TikTok challenge. To Shields’ credit, after her initial astonishment in the clip, she dissolves into laughter.
“I do think I called her an a–hole,” she says. But she couldn’t help cracking up despite the fat lip. “To me, physical comedy is just the best. Slipping on a banana peel is hysterical — there’s pain involved, but it’s hysterical. I don’t have a problem making fun of myself.”
She’s been trying to enlist her girls to teach her TikTok, with mixed results. (You’d think Rowan owed her one, after the bag incident.) “It’s not easy! They learn all these [dances] in seconds. I need counts of eight. Rowan was like, ‘How did you ever survive on Broadway?’ And I said, ‘We had numbers! It’s usually on the downbeat!’”
Shields does have the satisfaction of seeing the TikTok generation embrace ’80s styles. “I wish I didn’t throw away all my big shoulder pads,” she says. “Fashion felt really good then. It was fun, and it was colorful. Just those shapes that are coming back — the higher-waisted jeans, the jackets. The Reeboks with the socks shoved down! I just remember feeling like I’d really figured it out.”
When Shields enlisted her daughters to help model the sweatshirts on her sites, “I was sure both of them would have picked one of the vintage exercise graphics,” she says. “But both of them wanted the one with the picture of me from the late ’70s or early ’80s on it!”
She played it cool, but was secretly delighted. “Who knows, maybe they’ll get a Sharpie and put a mustache on it.”
All jewelry at London Jewelers, 2046 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, LI
Fashion Editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Fashion Assistants: Alycen Humphrey Case, Alejandra Munt, Sean Rodriguez, Madeleine Shepherd; Photo Editor: Jessica Hober; Hair: Matthew Monzon at TMG-LA.com using Oribe; Makeup: Meredith Baraf using Dior Backstage Face & Body Foundation
Our cover shoot took place in the enchanted Northwest Woods neighborhood of East Hampton, NY, on a gated estate that’s asking $4.5 million. The five-bedroom, 5,200-square-foot home, at 20 Edwards Hole Road, was built in 2001 and is surrounded by a 100-acre reserve. The manse boasts a chef’s kitchen with Viking ranges, a fountain, koi pond, multiple fireplaces (both inside and out) and a heated pool with spa. Listed by Nicole Tunick and Zachary Tunick of Douglas Elliman; 631-537-5900, [email protected] or [email protected]