Brooke Shields Reflects on ‘Ridiculous’ Controversy Surrounding 1980 Calvin Klein Ads: ‘I Was Naive’ 

Brooke Shields Reflects on Controversial 1980 Calvin Klein Ad
Brooke Shields attends the American Ballet Theatre's Fall Gala in New York on October 26, 2021. Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

Controversial campaign. More than 40 years after starring in the now-famous Calvin Klein ads, Brooke Shields is reflecting on the “ridiculous” backlash that followed the commercials’ release. 

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Rewind to the 1980s, and the actress, who was 15-years-old at the time, was the poster child for the brand’s jeans. She would pose in awkward formations and say phrases that came to be interpreted as sexual in nature. Perhaps the most popular was: “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” 

In a Thursday, October 28, interview with Vogue, the 56-year-old The Blue Lagoon star recalled being shocked by the public’s response. “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?’” 

Brooke Shields Reflects on Controversial 1980 Calvin Klein Ad
A young Brooke Shields in the 1980s. Elisa Leonelli/Shutterstock

The whole “double entendre” wasn’t explained to Shields at the time. “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. I would say it about my sister, ‘Nobody can come between me and my sister.’”

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She continued: “What was shocking to me was to be berated by, ‘Oh you knew this was happening. This is what you thought. You were thinking these thoughts.’ I was a kid and where I was, I was naive.” 

All these years later though, she see that the choreography was “specific” and “intentional,” resulting in a hyper-sexualization of the ads. “Yeah, at 56 I can go back and look at the camera and see, ‘Oh well, they’re zooming in kind of on my crotch are and then it comes to my face, okay.’” 

While she may not have known how the campaign would be perceived, in retrospect she sees that scandalous composure led to their eventual popularity. 

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“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,” she said. “there’s an appeal to it that is so undeniable and they tapped right into it. The knew exactly what they were doing and I think it did set the tone for decades.” 

In fact, almost four decades after her original ad, Shields stripped down to a Calvin Klein bra and underwear for a photo shoot with Social Life Magazine in 2017. 

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