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Brooke Shields’ Complicated Feelings About Being TIME’s Face of the 1980s

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My cover shoot for TIME magazine was quick. I remember it was in the back room of a studio after a private showing for Valentino that he held for some of his more prominent clients. I wore one dress for that, and then I was whisked away to the shoot, put on a Valentino sweater, and posed for photographer Francesco Scavullo in front of a white sheet draped over a wooden table against a white wall. All in all, the whole thing took about 20 minutes. I was used to rolls and rolls and rolls of film; hours and hours in the studio; hair, makeup, and all of these elements that went into being a model. The photographer took about 20 shots for the TIME cover, and it was over.

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Read more: TIME’s Creative Director on the Meaning of the Magazine’s Cover

But in the photo chosen for the cover, I wasn’t really present. I was looking straight into the lens, but it wasn’t from a place of power—more from being a blank slate because that’s what models were supposed to be during this period. We were supposed to disappear, and that came through on the cover. TIME called me the face of an entire decade, which has always felt weird, but I’ve learned to appreciate it more over time.

At 15, I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of TIME’s influence and what it meant to be on the cover; it felt like another day in the modeling world, and that was because I didn’t have autonomy. I wasn’t reading TIME magazine. There must have been a more significant social relevance that was lost on me at 15, but now I look back at this cover 42 years later and realize how important that cover was.

Read more: See How TIME’s Cover Evolved Over 100 Years

It was a social commentary on what the supposed standard of beauty was at the time—but I find it somewhat controversial, what they chose to focus on. I don’t mean to be critical, but at that time, the conversation always surrounded my beauty. I learned from a young age that my words will always be misconstrued and twisted to fit into someone else’s narrative. This is why I decided to do a documentary with Lana Wilson, my close friend Ali Wentworth, and her husband, George Stephanopoulos. I think Pretty Baby is a film for all of us—the experiences I speak about in the documentary are much more relatable and common than people realize. It was a chance to talk about things like my TIME cover, contextualize different moments in my career, and take back the agency I didn’t have then. – as told to Moises Mendez II

To mark TIME’s 100th anniversary, we’re revisiting some of our most influential covers, with the people who lived that history. Find more of this series at time.com/100-years