“I’m amazed that I survived any of it,” Shields, 57, hinted in the trailer before the two-part documentary hit Hulu on Monday, April 3.
The project premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was helmed by director Lana Wilson, who worked on Taylor Swift‘s Miss Americana documentary. “I’m not interested in famous-person problems. What I am interested in is how fame can amplify and supercharge relatable problems,” Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. “[Brooke’s] life has been extreme and utterly unique, but her experience of being a woman in America is horrifyingly relatable.”
Pretty Baby derived its name from the controversial 1978 film directed by Louis Malle, in which Shields starred as a child prostitute. She was barely a teenager when working on the movie, and her mother, Teri Shields, faced backlash at the time for allowing her daughter to participate in PDA scenes.
Several of Brooke’s famous friends were asked to weigh in for the documentary, including fellow former child star Drew Barrymore. “I’ve been on those sets, you’re having fun, you don’t think about it until later,” the Drew Barrymore Show host, 48, told the cameras while discussing the scandalous movie. “There is an aftermath that then cycles in your head of like, ‘Was that OK?'”
The Jane the Virgin alum, for her part, confessed: “I think I learned to compartmentalize at such an early age and it was a survival technique.”
Brooke’s complex relationship with her late mother and former manager is a large focus of the documentary, but the actress also shared parts of her life that had never been made public before — including an alleged rape in her 20s.
“I did not know if or when or if at all I was ever going to bring this up,” she told THR ahead of Pretty Baby‘s release. “It has taken me many years of therapy to even be able to talk about it. I definitely have worked very hard through it, and I’ve learned to process it. And I’ve come to a place, and we’ve come to a time in our society, where we can talk about these things much more openly.”
The New York native noted that she wanted to lead by example for her daughters — Rowan, 19, and Grier, 16 — whom she shares with husband Chris Henchy. “I wanted to share this story with other men and women who might possibly be struggling or trying to survive this, hoping that at least if I share the incident and the story then it helps others to work through whatever they need to work through,” she explained. “I’m hoping to be that type of an advocate.”
Brooke reflected on the aftermath of her assault in the Hulu special, revealing that she wrote a letter to her alleged attacker. (She did not identify the person by name.)
“I just threw my hands up and thought, ‘You know what, I refuse to be a victim because this is something that happens no matter who you are and no matter what you think you’re prepared for or not,'” she said. “I wanted to erase the whole thing from my mind and body and just keep on the path I was on. The system had never once come to help me. So I just had to get stronger on my own.”
Scroll down for the biggest revelations from the Pretty Baby documentary:
If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.