Brooke Shields on the Eyebrows That Made Her Famous

Brooke Shields with her hair down, wearing a pink blazer
Photo: Billy Ballard

When I was a kid, I didn't have any concept of beauty. Maybe it was because I was self-conscious—or because everyone else was taking care of my hair and makeup for me. I wouldn't even look in the mirror when someone did my makeup. They'd ask me, "How do you feel?" And I'd say, "Looks great!" It was kind of boring to sit in those chairs at the time. The fun part was when you got to act and play.

Thankfully, my mom was always very protective of my look. She practically threatened to break the fingers of any makeup artist who approached me with tweezers. She didn't have the foresight to think the eyebrows were going to be iconic. Her feeling was, "This is who she is. If you want this, this is what you get. We're not going to change anything."

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I remember one time, when I was a model with Ford, Eileen [Ford, the head of the agency] wanted me to bleach my eyebrows because my hair got very light in the summer. My mom said no. Eileen said, "Yeah, but her hair is blond. Her eyebrows should match." And my mom said, "Excuse me, but you're not touching her eyebrows." Of course, my mom and Eileen always kind of butted heads, but they really respected each other. My mom just wanted to preserve whatever I had.

It's interesting that we're still talking about the brows. At the time, they were such a contrast from the looks of the '60s and early '70s. The famous Time cover that declared me "The '80s Look" came about after I walked in a Valentino show. We went into a back room and I put a sweater on, and Francesco Scavullo took the photograph. My face was so white, and the brows were really strong, and I thought it was ridiculous. How can you even be the Look of the '80s? Who's to say? It's so arbitrary.

Richard Avedon liked my brows too, particularly this surprised expression that I would do. One brow would go up more than the other. And when he photographed me, he would say, "OK, give me the brows."

When I was doing the TV show Suddenly Susan, I let somebody "clean up" my brows. It was a disaster. She arched them up to here and cut them. She was a famous eyebrow person, and I was devastated. Thank God it all grew back.

There was also the time that I went to the American Music Awards with Michael Jackson when I was 19. He asked, "Do you want to get your makeup done?" And I thought, "Oh, that could be fun." So I went to his trailer to see his makeup artist—of course the chimp was there too!—and she made me look like Michael. My eyebrows looked psychotic. She darkened them and made them go up like this and then gave me a pale face and dark lips. She basically did his makeup on my face. I remember thinking, "There's something really wrong with this," but I also felt sort of cool that his makeup artist did my makeup.

I have never really done much to my brows. I rarely pluck unless there is a weird loose hair. That said, I do love Tweezerman, especially the baby tweezers. I have the leopard and zebra-print versions. If I do anything, I take my Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, or maybe some Aquaphor, and one of those mini mascara brushes and comb them. I don't fill them in with an eyebrow pencil—some makeup artists will a little, but I don't. When I brush my brows up, my kids think I look crazy. I have to tell them that's the style. Thank God for Cara Delevingne with her brows, because I can point to her and say, "Look at her look! Look! She's cool and she's got strong brows!"

It's so funny now with my girls. They say, "Mom, I've got eyebrows in between my eyebrows." And so I say, "Well, let's just leave them be." I really appreciate how Frida Kahlo never cleaned up the middle. She had a unibrow and was proud of it. Authenticity has always been important to me, and it all started with eyebrows.

—As told to Sarah Cristobal

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