Brooke Shields was, long before Millie Brown and Skai Jackson, the most famous teenager on the planet. She started as a shampoo model at the age of 11 months, then slowly made her way to the big screens as a teenager.

In 1980, she appeared in The Blue Lagoon as Emmeline Lestrange, a girl who had no idea what menstruation was, and asked her male friend to inspect what she thought was a wound, a critical failure but commercial success.

However, it was not the movie that brought the world’s attention to her; the credit goes to Pretty Baby, released in 1978, in which she played Violet, a 12-year-old prostitute.

Few can argue that Hollywood is littered with rumors of women and child exploitation, but back in the 1970s, stories like that rarely, if ever, reached the kind of publicity and public outcry as they do today.

Even as pure fiction, the idea of featuring a preteen as a s*xual object living in a brothel would never pass a smell test among the “woke” audience nowadays. That said, Shields claimed to have no regrets.

Vicki L. Miller /

10 /10 America's Sweetheart

Throughout her entire teenage and early adult years, Brooke Shields lived under the near-constant companion of her mother and manager, Teri Shields.

They started a journey together when the daughter made an acting debut in an Ivory Soap commercial; she was only 11 months back then.

Film debut happened at the age of nine in “Alice, Sweet Alice” followed by the controversial “Pretty Boy” when she was 12.

Playing as a prostitute, Brooke Shields became America’s sweetheart, almost like Julia Roberts did in “Pretty Woman.”


9 /10 Obligatory S*x Scenes

The similarity in the titles appears to be nothing but a perfect coincidence. In Pretty Baby, the prostitute character is a 12-year-old child, while in the other movie, a grown-up woman.

Because Brooke Shields was only a little girl back then, the director was accused of child exploitation. Given the subject matter, there were, of course, nude and s*x scenes involving Violet.

As a result, the movie was banned in some parts of Canada, Argentina, and South Africa. It received an R-rating in the United States and an X-rating in the United Kingdom.


8 /10 New Orleans Brothel

As the story goes, Violet was born in New Orleans and raised in a brothel when her mother works.

She does everything a typical child likes to do, such as riding a pony, playing in the garden, and listening to music.

However, before she reaches consenting age, she is auctioned off as a prostitute to a man willing to pay enough money to deflower the girl.

It was a perverted topic, although many critics now agree that the film overall is far from being perverted. Pretty Baby tells a period of history with a surprisingly good deal of compassion.

Bart Sherkow /

7 /10 Borderline Child P*rnography

Despite Brooke’s bewildering portrayal of a child prostitute, the controversy surrounding the nudity and s*xual scenes was near impossible to avoid.

Whether or not the s*x scenes were essential soon became a heated topic. The public blamed director Louis Malle, but the outrage was targeted even more intensely to Brooke’s mother, Teri.

In many shows and public appearances, she was attacked and accused of allowing her daughter to lead in a borderline child p*rnography film.


6 /10 International Furor

The movie’s R-rating in the United States immediately triggered controversy. Looking back, some would say that the whole quarrel partly was because of Brooke’s unusually excellent portrayal of the character.

She was pretty tall for a girl her age back then at 5’4″ and blessed with flawless skin, silken hair, black lashes, and deep blue eyes.

Even at 12 years of age, Brooke’s appearances in the movie screamed s*xuality. She was not a child model but already a movie star to bring life to the prostitute character.


5 /10 Stage Mother

Anger toward the director was light in comparison to the protests against Teri. In a statement, she admitted that the press had referred to her as a stage mother, a frustrated celebrity who could only get by through Brooke, and a film-wrecking woman.

In her defense, she said her intention was only to protect her daughter from harmful publications.

Considering how young the daughter was, it only made sense for a mother to do that. However, it was also the mother who brought the daughter to the situation in the first place.


4 /10 Se*x Symbol

At the same time, Teri said she didn’t mind if people called her daughter a s*x symbol. She believed there was nothing wrong with the movie; it was pure fiction anyway.

During the filming of one particular scene where Violet had to pose naked for a photographer, the director closed the set except for himself and the cinematographer.

Teri was not there to protect Brooke, but then she believed the result would be tasteful. Adding to the debacle was the director’s statement claiming that Brooke was a “natural” role.

Vicki L. Miller /

3 /10 Only A Role

Brooke maintains her positive view over the role regardless of what happened during the filming and the subsequent uproar. She once said that Violet was only a role and would not grow up as a prostitute.

Furthermore, the actor explained it would be dumb to worry if the fictional role became any meaningful part of her private non-fictional characteristic.

The director himself seems astonished that Brooke came out just fine, instead of becoming a robot or monster, growing up with the controversial role and the subsequent issue,


2 /10 There Was A Little Girl

Brooke Shields released a memoir, “There Was A Little Girl,” in 2014, detailing the nature of her relationship with her mother and manager.

After her parents divorced when she was only five months old, Brooke lived with Teri in Manhattan. Brooke described her mother as a glamorous alcoholic woman who drank and cursed like a construction worker.

Her mother would sometimes take her out of bed while drunk to have a conversation in the middle of the night.

When Brooke was in her 20s, Teri often interrupted journalists during the interview, claiming her daughter needed to go tinkles.


1 /10 Protective Mother

In some cases, the protectiveness was contradictory. For example, she let her young daughter play in a movie that, without a doubt, exploited her s*xuality at a tender age.

Still, when the Brooke Shields doll came out of production, the mother demanded the torso be modified in such a way to represent the daughter’s flatter chest.

Teri took control of her daughter’s career mainly because she didn’t want anybody else to do it. After the mother’s work as her manager ended, the two remained close until Teri died in 2012. 

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