Brooke Shields

Wide-eyed and delicate at age 12, she starred as the naive child prostitute in 1978’s acclaimed Pretty Baby. But by the time the mid-’80s rolled around and she’d reached an awkward 6-foot height, Brooke Shields had plummeted from cinematic favor. Bombs like Brenda Starr and Sahara might have prompted a less determined woman to fall back on her Princeton education, but, Shields says, “I think longevity is directly related to perseverance. I don’t often get deterred.” Two years ago the 31-year-old actress negotiated a professional parting from her mother, Teri, who had managed Brooke’s career since her days as an infant Ivory Snow model. She then switched to fiancé Andre Agassi’s manager, Perry Rogers, who helped her tap into one of her more endearing—if not often marketable—qualities: her klutziness. Instantly, Shields’s NBC sitcom, Suddenly Susan, became the highest-rated new show of the fall TV season.

Brooke’s big break came last winter, when she landed a guest spot on Friends playing an obsessed, finger-licking fan of Matt LeBlanc’s character, Joey. “Brooke was showcasing comedic ability no one knew she had, just as Candice Bergen did,” says Gary Dontzig, Susan’s co-executive producer. That’s not news to Brooke’s pals. “She’s such a goofball,” says costar Nestor Carbonell. “Once we went to this restaurant called Olé L.A., and she kept pronouncing it Oléla. At first I thought she was kidding, but that’s just part of Brooke’s charm.”

A February change in the show’s plum Thursday post-Seinfeld time slot will test its mettle, but nothing can take away the wonders that Susan has done for Shields’s self-esteem. After years of struggling to refasten her star, she says, “I now have a deep belief in my own talent.”

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