Brooke Shields still has some thoughts on the fallout from the Calvin Klein ads she made as a teen and which made her a star. At age 15, she became the subject of a controversial and highly sexualized series of CK commercials that feature Shields asking the camera: “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” In the early 80s, this all led to a “maddening” interview with Barbara Walters that she calls “practically criminal.”
On Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, Shields spoke frankly about the commercials. And while the ads were their own media frenzy, she tells Shepard that the Walters interview was “not journalism.”
Both the ads and the interview are pretty gross to watch. The infamous tagline caused a public outcry, restricting the commercial to airing after 9 p.m. In another ad, an adult man puts his face inches away from the 15-year-old and waxes philosophical. “I always thought beauty must be as isolating as genius,” he says. “When people look at you, they’re so dazzled you must never know if they actually see you, the deep and complicated person you really are. I felt that about you instantly.” “Mama warned me about guys like you,” Shields replies.
The Walters interview wasn’t much better. Diving deep into the controversy, Walters asks the teenager such questions as “what are your measurements” and “Do you have any secrets from your mother?” Just a normal journalist asking a normal question.
Shields recalls not paying much mind to the controversy, though. “I was naive, I didn’t think anything of it,” Shields said. “I didn’t think it had to do with underwear. I didn’t think it was sexual in nature. I’d say that about my sister, nobody could come between me and my sister.”
“If they had intended on the double entendre, they didn’t explain it to me. It didn’t faze me. It didn’t sort of come into my psyche as it being anything overtly sexual, sexualized in any way.”
Calvin Klein saw it differently. He reportedly told Shields that the ads put CK on the map. Nevertheless, Klein dropped the model the following year because people were associating Shields with the jeans, not Klein.