Brooke Shields Recalls 'Ridiculous' Controversy over Her '80s Calvin Klein Ads: 'I Was Naive'

"I didn't think anything of it," Brooke Shields recalled of her now infamous 1980 Calvin Klein jeans campaign, which came under fire at the time for its perceived sexual innuendo

Brooke Shields Calvin Klein
Photo: courtesy Calvin Klein

Brooke Shields is setting the record straight on one of her most infamous fashion shoots more than 40 years later.

The two-time Golden Globe nominee, 56, reflected on her 1980 Calvin Klein jeans campaign, which caused quite the uproar over perceived sexual innuendo in the then-15-year-old's performance, in a recent video for Vogue.

"I was away when they all came out, and then started hearing, 'Oh, the commercials have been banned here, and Canada won't play them.' And paparazzi and people screaming at me and screaming at my mother, 'How could you?' It just struck me as so ridiculous, the whole thing," Shields recalled.

She was made to model the jeans in a variety of contorted poses, while reciting different lines, one of which was interpreted as overly sexualized. "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing," Shields said in one of the now-infamous commercials.

"They take the one commercial, which is a rhetorical question. I was naive, I didn't think anything of it. I didn't think it had to do with underwear, I didn't think it was sexual in nature," she explained. "I would say it about my sister, 'Nobody can come between me and my sister.'"

Shields recalled being shocked that she was being "berated" by the public, who assumed she knew the intention behind the commercials. "I think the assumption is that I was much more savvy than I ever really was."

"If they had intended on the double entendre, they didn't explain it to me. If they'd explained it to me, why? Would they have wanted me to say it differently? It didn't phase me, it didn't come into my sort of psyche as it being anything overtly sexual, sexualized in any way," Shields added.

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Shields subsequently went on a press tour, attempting to mitigate the backlash. Regardless of the outcry, the campaign was an overwhelming success, and put Calvin Klein on the map for a whole new demographic.

"I feel like the controversy backfired. The campaign was extremely successful. And then, I think the underwear sort of overtook the jeans, and they understood what sells and how to push the envelope. There's an appeal to it that is so undeniable, and they tapped right into it. They knew exactly what they were doing, and I think it did set the tone for decades."

The actress has opened up in the past about how being sexualized at an early age affected the way she parents her own daughters. "Their bodies are so important to them," she told PEOPLE in 2019 of Rowan Francis, 18, and Grier Hammond, 15, whom she shares with husband Chris Henchy, 57.

"Whatever you say is heard, so you have to really be careful how you say whatever it is you're saying to girls in particular," Shields said. "I really have to be like, 'How would this sound if it was said to me at 13?' I celebrate the differences in their bodies."

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