Brooke Shields Says Comparison Is Toxic

Photographed by Danielle Kosann

We couldn’t think of a better person to debut our newest column – The Close Up – than iconic model Brooke Shields. This new column explores beauty, body image and self-confidence in ways that inspire everything from our regimens to our day-to-day mindset. Shields took us through how modeling has changed, the keys to self-confidence, her new role on Law and Order SVU, and why comparing oneself to others is absolutely toxic…

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

It would have to cover a lot of cultures. I would have to have something very spicy, like an Indian dish or a Thai soup of some kind. I’d have to have some pasta with good old tomato sauce and a Branzino or a Swordfish. In the morning, I would probably do something counterintuitive. It would be green, like a good green juice. I actually like the taste of that stuff. I’d have different beverages throughout the day, too, with each meal, ending with tequila and probably a Campari and soda. If you’re going to throw a dessert in there, I’d go for Häagen-Dazs chocolate chip or mocha, something with coffee and chocolate.

Can you take us through your morning and nightly beauty routines?

The morning is usually much quicker, because I’m usually rushing. It’s basically: brush teeth, get your face washed, put sunscreen on, and get out the door. I usually use some type of a Vitamin C product and a moisturizer in the morning; I use Renova. It’s really good for repair. In the evening, I usually have to take my makeup off if I’ve been working. I will use some Renova or Vitamin C and a really, really good moisturizer before I go to bed. For me, it’s about a really good clean and then a good toner; I’ve been using a new toner with an apple cider vinegar base. It really helps get the dirt and gunk out of my pores – it’s a probiotic toner.

Are there any foods you eat a lot of and any foods you particularly avoid? Why?

It depends. I’m working a lot right now, so I’m really having to avoid breads and pastas, rice, all those carbs. I’m much better off when I stick with certain grains, some fruit but not a lot; I keep the sugar down. I try to eat sweet potatoes. I know it’s a carb, but it’s a different kind of carb. I love grain bowls and vegetables, if I’m trying to be healthy. I really love good clean fish and broccoli rabe with garlic. I really like spices, too. I try to stay away from fried food and anything battered, especially if I’m trying to stay in shape for work. I find I’m hungrier the more I workout, though, so I really have to keep a lot of proteins around. It’s not as much fun. I think if I could eat anything I want, I would just eat all the time. I really love food; I love everything about food!

Can you tell us one thing you used to be insecure about and how you drew confidence and moved past it?

I used to be insecure that I was not thin enough. I was never as skinny as models that did runway; I was always curvier, more athletic, and that wasn’t really celebrated. Now, I’m so much healthier and stronger because I’ve had that muscle understanding and that physical shape. I’ve had muscle memory, and I find that in my fifties, this body type is really serving me. It doesn’t break down as easily; I’m not frail at all. I’m probably pretty good on the Osteoporosis scale because I’ve worked out and been athletic so much my whole life. Saying I was athletic was when I tried to be confident before, but now, I’m actually thankful for this body type. I like my butt now way more than I did before.

What’s the advice you’d give young girls, struggling with being self-confident?

Try not to compare yourself. Comparing is so toxic. I’ve probably done it my whole life. I’ve got two daughters, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s a different era, but they’re so proud. They stare; they look at their butt and their sides, and part of me wants to go “Stop staring at yourself!” And yet, I don’t stop them because they are loving what they see! I would not look in the mirror. In dance class, I’d fall because I wouldn’t – and I wouldn’t smile. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. But these girls – they adorn themselves. They take twice as long getting out of the house, but they’re celebrating themselves. I love that! So don’t compare yourself if you can. Pick the things you like about yourself, and just stare at that.

What’s your personal definition of good content?

Authenticity. Not content just for content or content to look like someone else’s content or content simply for followers or content for the wrong reasons. I feel like the word “content” to me means something of substance, at least if it is real to you and makes sense to you. That’s the thing that is really hard, like with Snapchat and those things: it is all about the other people. It is about topping them or matching them. There’s something about it that takes away from what it’s supposed to be or do. I have a very fraught relationship with it. I can look at it more as a business at times and still struggle to find the authenticity of it, too. That kind of self-absorption is really weird for me. So I don’t feel creepy when I do it, I have to have a connection to whatever it is. If it’s my dog or a picture of me from the seventies – it has to be something I have some sort of a reason to put out there. You can tell, when you follow some people that have that authenticity. You’re like, “Oh! I think I like that person. I feel like I know that person a little bit more.” That should be the point of it. I like a little humor, too; you should never take yourself too seriously.

How has the modeling industry changed since you started?

I don’t think I could handle it now. I feel like there seemed to be more individuality when I was doing it. Maybe I was in a different realm, but it was more about hard work when I was doing it. You were only successful if you were really, really willing to work really hard and be on time and not have an attitude and not demand anything and sort of suffer. Not that suffering is a good thing, because they really didn’t care about the models, but I notice now the entitlement. You want to say, “Hey kid, you’re going to have to really stand out to last. You won’t last if you have this attitude!” So, I notice that the models themselves have changed. There seem to be so many more.

What would you say to people complaining about seeing the same models over and over again? Like the Instagram-famous models? Do you think it has always been like that, and people are just noticing it now because of social media?

Well, I guess you’ve got like Karlie Kloss and everything, right? She’s so sweet, and Gigi [Hadid] is so sweet. It was [always] like that, though, once you’d get pegged for something. Look at movies, too – there are like five actresses out for every movie. Now, in TV, it’s the same chunk of people. For every four you see, there are another hundred more of them really working. I think people look for something to complain about.

People now are trying to be the next Kate or the next so-and-so. People never became something by trying to be someone else; Kate was just Kate! I was just there. Cindy was her own thing. All of these girls, we were all just different. Claudia was her own thing; Christy was her own thing. Brinkley and Turlington were individuals. I don’t see that as much because everything now seems to be derivative.

It’s so funny, working with Calvin Klein again. Raf [Simmons] has done a very good, smart thing; he has a lot of reference to the brand but is making it his own in a really respectful way. And it’s so interesting because even the young girl in all of the campaigns [Lulu Tenney]…people are like, “Oh she could be your daughter, because she has the structure of your eyebrows!” There should be a new so-and-so, but as themselves. Just them. They shouldn’t be derivatives of someone else.

If you could have a quote of the day, to sum up your mood in this current climate, what would it be?

Really lucky to still be here. I’m just really thankful that I’m being invited, that I’m still around and living my life and doing what I love to do. I just joined SVU, and it’s so great to do what I love. I love Mariska [Hargitay]. She’s the real deal, one thousand times over. Women supporting women, the way she has supported me. She is solely responsible for my being in this part, for the depth of this part. She saw me when I did Nightcap with Jimmy; it’s the Ali Wentworth show on Pop. Mariska saw that, and based on that, cast me in this. Women are supporting women and not being jealous. How do we support each other and lift the other one up and talk about how brilliant our differences are and how we’re different but all the same? There’s a true female energy and power that I’m finally feeling a part of.

15 thoughts on “Brooke Shields Says Comparison Is Toxic

  1. Thank you for this interview! Brooke Shields IS the real deal! I love how down to earth she is and such a role model. She seems like the kind of person you would want for a best friend. Not to mention that she is and has always been drop dead gorgeous!

  2. Brooke pretty much saved me when I heard an interview with her on Terry Gross after her book about postpartum depression came out. I’ll never forget sitting in the car and listening to her talk about it and realizing OOOHHH, that’s what’s going on. This was before every celebrity came out with their mental health issues and for that, Brooke, I am forever grateful.

  3. Love this article!! Brooke is such an eloquent and incredible woman. I’d love to see an interview like this with Tatiana Maslany or Troian Bellisario!

  4. I really respect her candor. Brooke has always been the ultimate model & now a role model for her daughters & young women everywhere. I’ve been a fan for yrs., when I was 13, I would stop @ the library on my way home
    From school to read the VOGUE magazine she was in, Brooke was probably 15-16yrs old at the time. My Mom wouldn’t buy me the magazine

  5. Briliant interview! Love Brooke! I actually owe her a “ThankYou”.
    We met her on Harbour Island in a unique jewelry store and thanks to her positive (unsolicited) input I now own beautiful rosegold hoops with a matching bracelet. No way my husband was not going to pull out the plastic with her endorsement! Haha . Genuine, talented, lovely and still grounded. Inspirational.

  6. It’s nice to hear a sincere, “grounded” celebrity who doesn’t have to make front page news either naked, drugged up or vulgar! I loved an excerpt she published in People’s magazine a few years ago about her mother’s death. It described what I was going through with my Mother’s death. A great articulated article!!

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