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Brooke Shields posed naked for a Playboy publication when she was just 10-years-old


Brooke Shields was just 10 when photographer Gary Gross took photos of her posing nude in a bathtub in 1975.

Wearing heavy makeup and nothing else, her body was later displayed in a series of shots published in Playboy publication Sugar and Spice.

At the time she was just a little girl with her bare body splashed across the pages of a glossy magazine, but just a few years later she’d star in her first film role that would kick off her acting career.

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Brooke Shields seduces Keith Carradine in a scene from the film ‘Pretty Baby’, 1978. (Getty)

It’s almost ironic that her character in that film, Pretty Baby, was a child prostitute.

But the sad truth is that at just 10 years old, Brooke had no way of knowing or understanding what those nude photos meant, or how they would affect the rest of her life.

The naked photos

Gary Gross was reportedly paid $450 to photograph a prepubescent Brooke in the nude, though it’s been suggested the photos weren’t meant to be pornographic in nature.

Surprisingly, her mother Terri Shields was on board with the shoot, as she had long dreamed of her daughter becoming a star.

Brooke Shields and her mother (and manager) Teri Shields in New York, 1978. (Getty)

Terri declared her desire for Brooke to go into show business just five days after the little girl was born in 1965, saying: “She’s the most beautiful child and I’m going to help her with her career.”

It seems Terri’s dreams of her daughter’s fame inspired her to agree to the photoshoot, which saw Brooke painted in heavy eye makeup and lipstick and covered in oil.

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The 10-year-old was then directed to pose standing and sitting in a bathtub, with two images showing Brooke full-frontal and completely exposed.

Gross told the Daily Telegraph of one of those photos in 2009: “The photo has been infamous from the day I took it and I intended it to be.”

Brooke Shields was photographed naked when she was just 10-years-old. (Heritage Auctions)

He added that the images weren’t meant to be pornographic, but conceded Brooke “was supposed to look like a sexy woman”.

Publication for Playboy

The photos of Brooke were shot for Playboy-owned Sugar and Spice, which was more toned-down than the true Playboy publication.

Playboy’s ‘Sugar and Spice’ paperback from 1976. (Amazon)

Released as a series of books that promised “surprising and sensuous images of women”, Sugar and Spice was marketed as more artistic than its counterpart, though it still contained plenty of images of nude women.

The publication included Brooke in 1976, printing two naked photos of her 10-year-old body, one splashed across a two-page spread.

The issue she appeared in reportedly also contained three other pages featuring photos of “nymphets”, defined as “attractively and sexually mature young girls”.

It’s unclear how old the girls in the other photos were.

The fallout

At the time the photos were published Brooke was just a schoolgirl, but two years later she starred in her first feature film and by 1980 she had gained international fame, starring on the cover of Vogue and in the film The Blue Lagoon.

Like Brooke’s first film Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon featured substantial sexual content involving the then-14-year-old actress.

It was less than a year later that her mother, realising Brooke’s star was on the rise, took Gross to court to sue him for $1 million in damaged over the nude images of Brooke.

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Christopher Atkins, Brooke Shields, Blue Lagoon
Actor Christopher Atkins cuddling actress Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon. (Getty)

Terri argued the photos could seriously harm her daughter’s career, and that Gross shouldn’t have been allowed to continue to profit from the images.

She had signed over any rights to the photos to Gross in 1975, when they were taken.

However, the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit, Justice Edward Greenfield saying the photos were “not erotic or pornographic” except to “possibly perverse minds”.

“[Terri is trying to be] maternally protective but exploitative at the same time.”

He added that even though the photos could cause Brooke personal embarrassment, they wouldn’t do “irreparable harm”, and criticised Terri for suing over the photos while allowing Brooke to star in sexually-charged films.

He accused Terri of “living through her child” and trying to “engender an image [of Brooke] that [was] sexually provocative and exciting” while attempting to preserve her innocence.

“[Terri is trying to be] maternally protective but exploitative at the same time… she cannot have it both ways,” Justice Greenfield added.

Brooke Shields and her mother and manager, Teri Shields, in 1981. (Getty)

For his part, Gross saw no issue with the photographs.

“It certainly doesn’t breach child pornography laws here because a judge said so,” he said in 2009. “In order for it to be considered pornographic here, she would have to be doing something sensual or sexual, but she’s not.”

An appellate court later overturned the decision, but in 1983 the original verdict from the 1981 lawsuit was upheld.

Modern controversy

Throughout the 80s and 90s Brooke’s star continued to rise, the actress and model appearing on the covers of magazines and starring in several big budget films.

But the nude photos of her as a child resurfaced when artist Richard Prince used one of the photos in a transformative artwork of his own.

Brooke Shields, child star
Brooke Shields circa 1981 in New York City. (Getty)

The artwork, entitled Spiritual America, was set to be displayed in 2009 at the Tate Modern Gallery in London, but there was a problem.

Scotland Yard suggested exhibiting a photo of a naked 10-year-old could violate London’s obscenity laws, and the artwork was subsequently removed.

Since then, the photos have remained under the radar, with only a few copies of the images reproduced online and most of them censored.

Several uncensored copies were also auctioned in 2017 by Heritage Auctions.

Recently they have become public knowledge again, as the result of a meme showing Hugh Hefner’s face photoshopped over Brooke’s naked photo.

The meme mistakenly credits Playboy magazine for publishing the photos in the 1970s, though it was actually Sugar and Spice.

Thankfully, these days there’s no way a publication could get away with publishing provocative photos of naked children the way Sugar and Spice did of Brooke decades ago.


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