Brooke Shields reflects on her Calvin Klein ad backlash: 'I was naive'

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Brooke Shields is setting the record straight about her controversial Calvin Klein Jeans campaign over 40 years later.

It was 1980 when the actress and model, then 15, famously said: “You want to know what comes in between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The fashion shoot, directed by Richard Avedon, caused an uproar over perceived sexual innuendo in the teen’s performance.

“I was away when [the campaign] came out, and then I started hearing that the commercials were being banned,” Shields, now 56, told Vogue on Thursday.

The star admitted to the outlet that she was not prepared for the backlash. Both ABC and CBS banned the ad.

Brooke Shields caused a stir when she famously posed for Calvin Klein.

“The paparazzi would scream at me and my mother, ‘How could you!’” she recalled. “It just struck me as so ridiculous.”

“I didn’t think it was about underwear or sexual in nature,” Shields continued. “I was naïve. I think the assumption was that I was much more savvy than I really was. I was a virgin, and I was a virgin forever after that.”

According to Shields, she initially didn’t know who Klein was or how he was a rising force in the fashion world. However, she was eager to work with Avedon.

“[My mom] was like, ‘Do you want to put on these jeans and do a commercial?’” said Shields. “It was going to be [a lot of] wordplay, or historical and literary references. There was a real intellectual spin on how they were going to produce [the ads]. Nobody was allowed on set. Because it was Avedon’s first foray into the commercial world. I think he was pretty nervous. Stakes were pretty high and I think there was a lot of pressure. We did multiple, multiple takes of everything.”

Brooke Shields attends CALVIN KLEIN, INC. Celebrates Milestone 40th Anniversary at the High Line on September 7, 2008 in New York City. 
(Photo by BILLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Despite the outcry, the campaign was a massive success for everyone involved.

“The campaign was extremely successful, and then the underwear overtook the jeans,” said Shields. “[Calvin Klein] understood how to push the envelope. It set the tone for decades.”

In 2020, Shields told Fox News she had no interest in squeezing into the designer denim again.

“I can get into them, but it looks painful,” Shields said at the time. “I recently found them, [but] I think the last time I fit into them comfortably was probably while I was in ‘Wonderful Town’ on Broadway [back in 2004]. They’re so high-waisted.”

Brooke Shields said she’s proud of the body she has today.
(Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for MoMA)

“When I was that age, I was built like a little boy,” the star continued. “I don’t have any desire to fit back into them. I’ve had two children and I’ve grown into a more womanly shape that I feel comfortable in and that I’m proud of.

“I’m celebrating who I am now, not trying to get the body I had when I was 15. One of the messages I want to share with other women is to celebrate yourself. Own your curves and strengths rather than trying to look like somebody else or be skinny. I’d rather be strong and fit than anything else.”

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