Brooke Shields has been famous since she was 11 months old. From her first Ivory Soap commercial to her teen modeling and controversial movies to her headline-grabbing romances, she’s lived her entire life in the spotlight—just as her mother, Teri, a bus driver’s daughter from New Jersey, wanted. “I was her greatest creation,” Brooke, 49, tells PEOPLE’s Liz McNeil. “It was us against the world.” Brassy and bold, Teri was also a lifelong alcoholic who, Brooke says, “was never really sober.” She earned notoriety as the ultimate stage mom, slammed for pushing her daughter into provocative turns in Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon and an infamous Calvin Klein ad. “She never had a career plan for me,” says Brooke. “It was just—more.”

Now for the first time the actress and model opens up about their complicated relationship in her memoir There Was a Little Girl. She reveals how Teri could be emotionally cruel, criticizing Brooke as “fat,” and still fiercely protective, picking her daughter up from school every day through high school. It wasn’t until her death from complications due to dementia in 2012 “that I could fully understand her,” says Brooke, sitting barefoot and cross-legged on a cream sofa in the Manhattan townhouse she shares with husband Chris Henchy, 50, and their daughters Rowan, 11, and Grier, 8. “And even though I understood her better than anyone, I’m not sure I ever will fully.” The writing, she says, was “the least cathartic thing I’ve ever done. I kind of went dark. I stayed in, drank more and ate Kit Kats for breakfast. I knew I needed to be uncensored.” She reveals the extent to which her mom loomed over her romantic relationships and how she was sure Teri would know when she lost her virginity. Brooke hopes her book will allow people to see “the good and the bad and all the love that was there.” Despite the pain, she misses the fun they shared. “We would laugh till we couldn’t breathe,” says Brooke. In that spirit, she keeps Teri’s ashes in a silver urn on the bar in her living room. “She would have thought it was hysterical,” says Brooke. “That it was fun and perfect and fitting. I figured she’d like it.”

In 1964 Teri Schmon, a long-legged bombshell from Newark, N.J., met the handsome, blue-blooded Frank Shields at a Manhattan bar. She got pregnant, and they wed but divorced when Brooke was 5 months old. Teri took Brooke everywhere.

I was one of those babies you see out late at night in restaurants and being passed around the table. I slept soundly, lulled by the low din of voices and silverware clinking. Even before I could talk, people often remarked to my mother about my looks being rather extraordinary.

At 11 months Brooke starred in an Ivory Soap commercial, and Teri later became her manager

Mom continued to take me to bars even as I got older. I remember when she taught me to shoot pool from behind my back. I couldn’t have been older than eight and I learned fast. When I called my father and said “Dad! I just learned how to shoot pool from behind my back,” I remember him saying “Where are you?” “At a bar,” I said. “Jesus!”

I remember thinking that I wished I only knew my mother in the mornings. She never drank before school, but come 3:00, I knew I’d find her in an altered state.

One Christmas Eve Brooke decorated the tree after her mom had passed out on the couch. The next morning there were no presents from Santa under the tree.

That was the year reality hit me and the blow was threefold. Mom was a drunk, there was no Santa and Mom’s drinking ruined Christmas.

At age 11, Brooke got the starring role in director Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby, playing a child prostitute—and doing nude scenes.

I only remember being slightly disappointed that I had no real breasts yet. I didn’t feel violated or compromised. There was a firestorm and Mom took most of the heat. As a mother of an 11-year-old today, I myself would not allow my daughter to be photographed topless, but it was a different time and not only did my mother really believe we were creating art, but this film was special too. I was labeled a nymphet whose mother pushed her into inappropriate situations. My mom’s response was “F— ’em if they can’t handle it.”

In 1978, at 13, Brooke staged an intervention to get Teri to rehab. She went but soon resumed drinking.

Mom could always turn even the most clear-cut situations into ones where she was calling the shots. “I’m doing this for you Brookie, not for me. I don’t have a problem.” I suddenly had the urge to run after the car and apologize and take it all back.

In high school Brooke was labeled “The ’80s Look” by TIME and made her famous “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins” jeans commercial. (She still has the “very tight” jeans in storage.)

In no way did I think I was saying anything controversial or sexual. It never occurred to me that the line could mean I wasn’t wearing underwear. I was once again perceived as both a Lolita and an abused daughter.

Despite her celebrated looks, Brooke grew up feeling “disconnected” from her body. When she wrote a book for teens, her mom insisted she proclaim her virginity in its pages.

People said I had the most beautiful face in the world. I thought about my persona only existing from the neck up, so when I became the most celebrated virgin of our time, it became even easier to not think about my body. All my life I’d been terrified of physical contact with boys. I believe my mom wanted me to stay a virgin for as long as possible.

Brooke’s “huge crush” JFK Jr. gave her a tour of Brown, and they spent the day together and went out a few times. Her “dates” with heartthrobs John Travolta and Scott Baio were mostly for show. Her friendship with Michael Jackson was intense but chaste (see box). One night at a party, her crush George Michael took her home in a limo.

As we were nearing the house, George put up the partition and turned to me. I thought oh my God I’m going to have my first time with George Michael in the back of a limo. I gazed at George and puckered my lips. He looked deep into my eyes and said, “I think we need to take a break. I need to concentrate on my career.” I was devastated.

In her junior year at Princeton she fell in love with a football-player classmate, future Superman Dean Cain.

He was incredibly and painfully patient with me regarding sex. But even when Mom wasn’t around, I felt as if she was watching. We were always holding hands and trying to find ways to be alone and kiss, but poor guy, I made him wait and wait and my mom kept track.

At 22, she finally lost her virginity to Cain.

Afterwards I got so overwhelmed that I jumped out of my bed. I actually kind of tumbled off it and started running. I was buck naked streaking down a hallway and running like I had just stolen someone’s wallet. Dean leapt up and ran after me with the comforter in his arms. He hugged me tight and quietly asked me where I was going. I was afraid I was leaving my mother. I didn’t know where I began and where my mother ended and that meant I didn’t know how to fit Dean in.

They broke up and she dated Liam Neeson after graduation.

Liam wooed me with his brogue, his poetry and his sh—-y choice of cheap pinot grigio wine. I was so impressed with going out with a real movie star. We got serious after only three months. He asked me to marry him without a ring.

After they spent a tipsy Christmas together in 1992, Liam flew to Los Angeles and told her he’d call when he got in but that it would be “late, darlin’.” He never called. In 1993 she fell for another star, tennis ace Andre Agassi, to whom she was introduced by fax while filming in South Africa.

We began to communicate via long rambling faxes about life and God and the strange burden of fame and overpowering parents. We knew somewhere deep inside that we needed each other. I bared my heart about wanting to be an actress and feeling like a joke and a failure. Mom seemed to be happy about this kid Andre, who was very famous and who, according to her, “obviously had a father worse than even me. Maybe you’ll feel lucky, Brooke.”

Andre recommended she drop her mom as manager; his team took over. But Brooke slowly beganto see another side of her new love. When she played a crazed fan obsessed with Joey on Friends, he went berserk

Andre had stormed off the set. At “Cut,” I ran outside to find him. He said I made him look like a fool by licking Joey’s fingers and he got in his car and drove all the way back to Vegas.

Once there, she writes, he smashed all of his trophies, destroying them. Despite her doubts she and Andre wed in 1997. She felt regrets the very next day.

It hit me all of a sudden—I knew I had made a mistake. For the next two years we saw very little of each other. I was working on my show, Suddenly Susan, and he was playing at various tournaments. He alienated me when he lost and was on to the next tournament after he won. We were drifting apart.

She told him she wasn’t happy and he left without a word. The next day he called.

I never could have guessed what he would say. He explained to me that for the first whole part of our relationship he had been addicted to crystal meth. I was the one who had supported him unconditionally when he told me [after we started dating] that he was basically bald and had been wearing hairpieces most of his adult life. Why should this have been any different? I would have been his biggest advocate and supporter.

She suggested theyget counseling, but he said there was no point, and they divorced in 1999. Within the year she began dating Chris Henchy, a writer and producer. At their 2001 wedding, Teri made a drunken toast.

I started to feel like I was in the middle of a car accident right before the impact. She bizarrely made the toast about herself: “Sure, look at her trying to get rid of the old lady.” I just wanted it over so she would not embarrass herself. I was not angry. I was humiliated for her.

Later that night the cops called; her mother had been investigated for disorderly conduct. Brooke had her first daughter, Rowan, in 2003. Despite postpartum depression (which she detailed in her book Down Came the Rain), the new mom began to break free from Teri’s hold on her psyche.

Survival kicked in. But this time it was not for myself but for my infant. Something deep down within me shifted and I made Rowan my only emotional and physical focus.

In 2006 she noticed that her mom, always unpredictable, was becoming confused and sometimes incoherent.

Once Mom disappeared into the dining area to set the table. She was gone for about two hours. She could not seem to finish the job. I used the moment to shame her. She got this terrible wide-eyed—scared, cornered and broken—look in her expression.

After Teri was diagnosed with dementia, Brooke cleared out her hangar-size storage area full of hoarded belongings.

She had clothes, linens, silverware, fabric, books, art, film reels, bikes, toys, stereo equipment, built-in cabinets she had ripped out from places, machinery, Hollywood memorabilia and furniture galore. She had two wardrobe-size cardboard boxes full of Beanie Babies. I discovered that she had been shopping on QVC and HSN for copious amounts of jewelry. I had never seen so many cubic zirconia items.

In 2006 Brooke put Teri in an assistedliving facility.

All my frustrations, fear and worry and what little anger I really and rarely possessed melted in abject, gut-wrenching and profound sadness. Of all the things I thought my mother would be dying of, dementia was not one of them. Her brain had so long remained seemingly sharp. I was sure it would be her liver that went. This might have been the time to talk to her and get some type of closure or apology, but all I could ever do was tell her I loved her and run away. [By 2012] she lit up every time she saw me and could point to my pictures in magazines but could not access my name.

Teri died on Oct. 31, 2012.

The moment I had been afraid of my whole life. I love you Mama, bye. I was so truly alone. My plan was to put her ashes on my bar and nestle her among the array of glass bottles and sterling knick-knacks and stirrers. I figured this way she could remain forever close to the two most important things in her life: me and booze.

Now that she’s gone, I’m not sure what I miss. I miss the earlier years and who I believe she was. I miss our unabashed laughter. But most of all what I think I miss is her potential. I was always waiting for the drama to be over. She would be normal and sober and happy and we could relax and enjoy all we had experienced in life. Mostly I just feel sad. It seems like such a waste. And yet maybe if she had been healthier, my life would not have turned out as extraordinary.

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