About her new memoir, Brooke Shields says there was “no other way but to write it with ultimate honesty. Otherwise, why do it?”
“There Was a Little Girl” is a brutally frank recollection of Shields’ career path, romances, marriages and entry into motherhood, but the basic thesis of the book is a deep examination of her lifelong, intense relationship with her own mother, Teri Schmon Shields — a woman who molded Brooke’s life, both personal and professional, for decades.
“I have always thought these things should come out at a point when you can make sense of various thing. For example, with my first book, it was all about the birth of my daughter and the difficulties that brought,” said the actress and model, referring to her battle with postpartum depression.
“After that, the next unbelievable thing that happened to me, something that rocked my world and unsettled me in a way I never anticipated, was the loss of my mother. Of course I knew I would feel grief and sadness, but I never expected to experience the incredible void she left.”
As Shields worked her way through her grief, she said she began to think deeply about “the bigger picture of it … looking at what a profound relationship that is, no matter how you categorize it, no matter whether your relationship with your mother is good or bad — or sometimes both! It is, very simply, a very archetypal relationship. That interested me to such a degree, I knew I had to explore that, obviously from my own life experience with my own mother.”
Shields began to realize how her mother’s all-controlling power over her for so many years differed so greatly from how her own older daughter regarded her.
“It hit me all of a sudden that [my daughter] did not regard me with the same myopic reverence I did for my mother, especially at her age. It shocked me, to be honest. The fact that she was so confident that she could question me. I realized she was more interested in taking care of herself than taking care of me, so to speak.”
Shields then laughed as she admitted, “I realized I was living a double standard. On the one hand I wanted my daughter to be confident, but the minute it went up against me, I felt [like], ‘Wait a minute!'”
Shields deals at length with her mother’s struggle with alcoholism.
“She was beautiful and smart and controlling and often difficult,” said Shields. “It was the complexity of her that was both beautiful and tragic. One minute she could be so brilliant and come up with the most amazing thoughts and ideas, but with her next breath she could turn hard and cruel and downright mean.”
When asked about the universal concept of the mother-daughter relationship, Shields said, “The mother-daughter thing is built on a slippery slope. Why is it that every Disney story about the daughter or princess’ mother involves an evil stepmother, or a wonderful mother who’s now long dead, or a mother locking up her daughter in some tower? I think it’s archetypal. Mother-daughter relationships are inherently complicated, even when they are good relationships.”
Shields was surprised that writing the book wasn’t more cathartic for her.
“I kept wanting it to happen,” she said. “I thought I’d feel a sense of cleansing when the book was done. But it didn’t happen.
“But one thing did happen. I realized at the moment I was done writing the book that I did understand the finality of my mother being gone — that she would never come back and that I was just going to have to live with that and cope with it,” said Shields, who mentioned she keeps her mother’s ashes in a silver urn in her home.
“You never get over your mama. She’s with you forever.”