Lifelong New Yorker Brooke Shields has been one of the most recognizable faces in the world since she was a child. Her roles in films like Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon, along with the iconic ad campaign for Calvin Klein jeans in which she appeared as a teenager, vaulted her to the status of international sex symbol and cemented her place in American popular culture. Since the ’90s, the Princeton graduate has been a fixture on television, portraying the title character in Suddenly Susan, which ran for four seasons, and guest starring on shows like Friends, Two and a Half Men and, most recently, Army Wives. She has also appeared frequently as a fill-in host on The View.
City & State Editor Morgan Pehme asked Shields why for the first time in her career she was actively engaging in supporting a candidate for elected office and what her most important considerations are in selecting New York City’s next mayor.
The following is an edited transcript.
City & State: Why are you supporting Christine Quinn for mayor?
Brooke Shields: I’ve always remained rather reticent with regard to almost anything political for a myriad of reasons, but I started to run into her at different events and I started hearing her speak— or I would catch something that she would say on television, and in the midst of whatever the current crisis was in the city, I started to perk up when she spoke, because [she’s] very passionate about New York and also very articulate. I love that she’s a woman. I love that she’s strong. I was able to get to know her a little bit more personally and really enjoyed spending time with her. I find her inspirational, and I think she would be a very committed, driving force in New York. And the little more I’ve learned about her and what she’s trying to do, [like] targeting tech jobs … I think is very impressive. I think she’s really about, from inside out, building New York back to what I think it’s capable of being.
C&S: You’ve taken strong stances on issues pertaining to the perception of women. What would it mean to New York City to have its first female mayor?
BS: On the one hand, I want to say it would mean everything, but that would be shining more light on the fact that she’s any different because she’s a woman. I feel that it would be wonderful—a marked moment in history—but by the same token I think more than just being a woman, she’s capable. Obviously, the first of anything, people are going to say, “Oh, it’s the first,” but her qualifications and her passion for the city are what appeal to me, not just that she’s a woman. I think it’s sort of a shame that those are the kind of conversations that people are still having. I want to be past all that now. She just happens to be the most qualified.
C&S: You contributed to President Obama’s campaign, but it seems that Quinn is the first candidate that you have ever been out front in supporting. Is that accurate?
BS: Yes. Back in the day, I used to do a lot of “I Love New York” stuff with our sadly deceased mayor [Ed] Koch … but it wasn’t the political side of it. It was just about supporting everything in New York. I’ve always felt that celebrities or people who are in the public eye—just because they are celebrities doesn’t necessarily qualify them to speak out politically, and I find sometimes that it’s misused— and so I’ve always chosen to use whatever notoriety that I have toward charity, rather than politics. But [Quinn] is the first person I’ve gotten to know personally, and then from that also just started to say, “Oh, I believe this that she’s doing,” and “Oh, yes, that,” and she’s happens to be a very loyal, solid person as a friend.
C&S: Do you think a celebrity coming out for a candidate can motivate people who might not otherwise pay attention to an election to perhaps take interest and participate?
BS: Yes. That’s across the board. I think, [as with] everything, sometimes you just put a face on it and it gets people to pay attention, and the rest, hopefully, will follow on its own. And I never undermine. … I think that it also depends on who the person is who is the supporter. I am a born and raised New Yorker, through and through, through all the disasters, and just such a loyal member of
this city and have been since the day I was born. And I’m hoping that if that is in fact the case in this scenario [that people decide to listen and participate], that it is because of what the city has meant to me, and how I support the city, not just because I’m a famous person.
C&S: As a lifelong New Yorker, what are the most important issues to you right now in the city?
BS: Creating jobs. Not outsourcing, having these companies bring back [jobs], really making this city the hub that I think it can be. That’s internal. Internal strength and jobs and helping with wages and helping small businesses. New York is an amazing place for everything for industry, and I believe it should be thriving, and I’m very happy she’s focusing on that.
C&S: Do you think New York has done enough to spur job creation in the film and television industry?
BS: I think it’s gotten much better. There was a time when the taxes were so difficult [that] shows weren’t really being made in New York, and you see that really starting to come back. Obviously, that’s a personal thing for me, because I don’t want to leave my kids and go to California and do a show, and I don’t want to [go to] Canada, either. I like the fact that so many shows are being made in and around New York.
C&S: Right now you’re acting on the show Army Wives. What are your thoughts on U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s efforts to take the authority for prosecuting sexual assault in the military out of the chain of command?
BS: We don’t know if we’ve been picked up for another season, but before this last season ended, in the wake of all of this, I called my producer— there was one story last year that kind of touched upon it—and I said if we come back we must really bring attention to this and we must put this in our show and have it part of the story line. … I was appalled as this start[ed] to come to light, and I do think that it’s always shocking when you see where it generates from as far as the chain of command. … I think the prevalence of it has probably been pervasive for so long, but now that it’s coming into the mainstream, and that we’re talking about it and fighting against it, it definitely helps. It has to stop. The abuse of power has to stop on that level too.
C&S: You have been a New Yorker through thick and thin. Now that you are raising your children in the city, do you feel optimistic about its future?
BS: I will always feel optimistic about the future of this city, just because I never doubt it. I never doubt New Yorkers’ resiliency. I never doubt how they adapt. I also never doubt how unified the city is. You see it on 9/11, and you see it during Sandy, but those are the same people throughout the year. New Yorkers sometimes get a bad rap, and there’s sort of a tourist mentality about this city that it’s rougher than it is, and that’s not the case. I feel safer in this city than probably anywhere, and I feel protected by the city.
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