Brooke Shields's Mother, Teri Shields, Dies at 79

"I loved her, laughed with her, and respected her," says the actress, who had a bumpy relationship with her mother

Photo: WireImage

Teri Shields, who long exerted an iron fist in guiding the career of her daughter Brooke Shields from the time the actress-model was 11 months old, died in Manhattan last Wednesday after what is described as a long illness.

She was 79 and had suffered from dementia, a spokesperson for Brooke Shields told The New York Times, which reported the elder Shields’s death.

“My mother was an enormous part of my life and of who I am today,” Brooke says in a statement. “I loved her, laughed with her, and respected her. And although she had her share of struggles, she was my mom.”

Although their relationship was said to have hit the rocks as Brooke, now 47, matured and Teri apparently still attempted to manage her daughter’s career – and life – their story began when Theresa Anna Lillian Schmon, a cosmetics saleswoman from Newark, met Frank Shields, handsome son of Francis X. Shields, a top-rated U.S. tennis player in the 1930s.

According to a 1978 PEOPLE profile of mother and daughter, Brooke was conceived five months before her parents married – and quickly split. “He was very young,” said Teri, then 30 to Frank’s 23, “and he wanted to be adventuresome. I didn’t mind.” The marriage certificate arrived in the mail the day the Shieldses were divorced.

“When she was born Brooke looked like a beautiful doll,” Teri (a hairstylist, a makeup artist for Lord & Taylor and a model before the birth of her child, according to The Times) recalled for PEOPLE. “I couldn’t believe she was mine.”

At 11 months Brooke was paid $25 to pose for an Ivory Soap ad – and her professional career was launched. She then went on to work for such prestigious clients as Breck, Band-Aids and Colgate.

Then came two controversial gigs: the 1978 movie Pretty Baby, a period piece set in a New Orleans bordello in which Brooke played a teenage prostitute and had a nude scene, and provocative Calvin Klein jeans ads. “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins,” Brooke said in the spots.

“It’s only a role,” Brooke said at the time of Pretty Baby, which caused a loud uproar, with a lot of the criticism directed at Teri for allowing her daughter to take such a part in the first place. “I’m not going to grow up and be a prostitute.”

Not that the road between them was ever particularly smooth. “Occasionally the intimacy between mother and daughter turns into anger,” PEOPLE reported when Brooke was still 12. ” ‘Oh, Mommy, you’re so dumb!’ Brooke complains. Teri, offended, snaps back, ‘I don’t have to take that crap!’ and storms out of the room.”

In 1994, amid reports that there were growing problems between mother and daughter, Brooke Shields, who described herself as “the caretaker,” told The New York Times, “I grew up in an alcoholic household.”

In the same article, Teri is quoted as saying she could no longer discuss her daughter’s professional plans, telling the newspaper, “Talk to Brookie,” but adding, “Brookie doesn’t know what she s talking about.”

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