more than 30 years ago, Brooke Shields Was sexually harassed by a powerful Hollywood executive. But he never said a word. “No one will believe me,” he thought at the time. “People weren’t going to believe those stories. I thought I’d never work again.”
It’s a story she shares as part of an upcoming two-part documentary, Brooke Shields: Pretty Baby, Premieres April 3 on Hulu. This is a deep dive into the life of her one of a kind, young girl who has had erotic roles in such films as Beautiful baby (where she played a child prostitute) and the blue Lagoon made him the subject of fascination, outrage and a pop-culture phenomenon.
It is also a story of the beauty of telling the truth.
“Doing the documentary, you watch it all together, and it’s a miracle I survived,” the 57-year-old actress says in PEOPLE this week.
“It’s taken me a long time to process,” Shields says of the assault, which occurred at age 20. “I’m more angry now than I was then. If you’re scared, you’re right. Those are scary situations. They don’t need to be violent to be scary.”
At the time, she was a recent Princeton University graduate and unable to find much work, “the lowest point in my career,” she recalls.
After dinner with a Hollywood executive (“I thought I was getting a movie, a job”), he invited her to call a cab from his hotel room. There he assaulted her. “I didn’t fight,” as she explains in the documentary. “I just froze.”
Connected: Brooke Shields says new documentary is ‘so big’ from her experience of sexual assault
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Later, he blamed himself. “I kept saying, ‘I shouldn’t have done that. Why did I go upstairs with him? I shouldn’t have had that drink at dinner.’ ,
“It was really easy to take apart because it was old hat by then,” she recalls. “And because it was a fight-or-flight kind of choice. Fight wasn’t an option, so you just leave your body. ‘You’re not there. It didn’t happen.’ ,
Shields learned compartmentalizing early on as a way of dealing with the intensity of the focus. “I always felt disconnected from my body. From my sexuality,” she says. “I was mostly a cover girl, so it’s all here,” Shields said, pointing up her neck, “and it was easy to shut myself up. I was good at it.”
He told only one person, his close friend and one-time security advisor, Gavin de Becker. “Brooke lived for so long judged by others, by millions, so to see her judge herself was heartbreaking,” he says. “It’s also been inspiring to see them integrate the truth.”
Now, she’s sharing her experience “with the hope of helping people not feel alone,” she says. “Everyone processes their own trauma on a different timeline. I want to be an advocate for women so that they can speak their truth.”
Long married to comedy writer and director Chris Henchy58 with whom he is two daughters, Rowan, 19, and Grier, 16His latest passion is the online community and wellness platform that he launched in 2021, just started, which might as well be his motto. “The goal is to ignite a spark in women over 40 that we’ve done,” she says, “and enjoy your next beautiful chapter.”
As her friend Dee Baker observes, Brooke “more than survived, she thrived, and became this intelligent, beautiful soul who helped so many people through her honesty and courage.”
“I saw someone who slowly gained agency over her own life,” says documentary director Lana Wilson. “Brooke was open, game for anything, fearless. The only concern she expressed in that first meeting was that it wouldn’t be deep enough.”
“Nothing scares him,” says Wood. “If something is intimidating or challenging or risky, it means she wants to do it even more.”
In the end, it’s also a testament to persistence. Brooke smiles and says, “I always kept going, like a bull in a china shop. … I wouldn’t give up.”
For more on Brooke Shields, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or rainn.org,