NEW BRUNSWICK — Actress Brooke Shields, who appeared Tuesday evening at the State Theatre to kick off the 2006 Smart Talk Women’s Lecture Series sponsored by the Home News Tribune, has made her share of mistakes.
“I didn’t need to say I was a virgin,” said Shields, referring to her 1981 book “On Your Own.” “I didn’t need to do that.”
“My other mistake was dating George Michael. Couldn’t somebody have told me he was gay? Also, don’t go to an awards dinner with Michael Jackson, Emmanuel Lewis and a monkey named Bubbles.”
Fair enough. But sharing her battles with postpartum depression after the 2003 birth of her first child, Rowan Francis, was certainly not a mistake, she said.
“Somebody had to talk about this,” Shields said. “It’s very destructive yet it’s quite common.”
Shields was drawn into a controversy of sorts this spring when actor Tom Cruise criticized her “misguided” use of anti-depressants in the fight against her postpartum depression. Cruise, a Scientologist, claimed that a healthy lifestyle and vitamins was all that Shields needed.
Shields, 40, wrote about her battles in the 2005 book “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.”
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted at What judges have to say about Scientology
“In 2003, my angel was born and I thought my career wouldn’t matter, I would be whole,” said Shields Tuesday night. “I would be happier than I ever was in my life. Unfortunately, it was one of the darkest periods I ever went through.
“I was completely undone. Contrary to certain opinions, it wasn’t just exercise and vitamins that saved me,” said Shields to robust applause.
The audience at the State Theatre was firmly on her side.
“You saved my daughter’s life,” said a middle-aged woman during the evening’s question-and-answer segment. “She related to what you said and you’re wonderful.”
Shields, wearing a black top and black slacks with a gray jacket, is expecting a second child with her husband.
She spoke for about an hour from a podium before taking questions. Shields spent much of the evening detailing her attendance at a public high school in Englewood, her time at Princeton University, where she graduated with honors in 1987, and her struggle getting pregnant.
She did not dwell on her early provocative movies and image. She played a child prostitute when she was 13 in Louis Malle’s “Pretty Baby,” and in 1980’s “Blue Lagoon” a scantily clad Shields starred in the film that depicted adolescent sexual discovery.
“In hindsight, with regards to what I did, we used body doubles and that took away a lot of the discomfort. I didn’t have to suffer that,” said Shields, answering a question about her films. Shields added that her “provocative” films were made by respected filmmakers such as Malle.
Throughout the evening, Shields was tentative, a bit uneasy and her speech was hesitant.
“She was nervous, very nervous, but it was very nice,” said Elaine Strampp, 73, of Hillsborough, who appreciated Shields’ candor about postpartum depression. “You heard about it years ago that women really suffered, but her being open and coming forward like this, I think she’s doing a very great thing for young women.”
The 2006 Smart Talk Women’s Lecture Series presented by Smart Carpet and Flooring, now in its ninth season, continues on Feb. 7 at the State Theatre with Candace Bushnell, author and real-life alter ego of “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw.