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A Model Life: Life Lessons with Brooke Shields

Chris Taylor

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Brooke Shields has been in the public eye - and earning money - nearly from birth. But unlike many other child stars, Shields has not flamed out, or gotten lost to drugs. Instead shes a married mom of two, plugging away on business ventures like her Timeless clothing line for QVC.

Shields got her start in an ad for Ivory Soap at 11 months old, then starred in the Louis Malle film "Pretty Baby" at 12. She became a teen icon after "Blue Lagoon" and snared the cover of Vogue at 14. Her more recent roles on TV include "Suddenly Susan," "Lipstick Jungle" and "Law & Order: SVU."

For the latest in Reuters Life Lessons series, we spoke with Shields, 54, to talk about her past, present and future life in the spotlight.

Q: How did you handle success at such a young age?

A: Because I never had relative anonymity, it never came as a total shock. It was more of a gradual understanding of how that part of my life was going to work.

Q: How did you and your mom, who was your manager, approach wealth?

A: My mom didnt really have a financial background, and to her owning land was the most important thing. She had very romantic visions, such as what it would be like to have a ranch in Montana. At one point we had like six properties it was insane. When I started paying closer attention to money, we had to liquidate a lot of that. Luckily I still had the potential to earn.

Q: Did financial advisers help steer you in the right direction?

A: I was never cognizant of how diversified I was. So I found advisers who helped put me in a position where I never had to make risky career decisions. They help me grow my money consistently, without going for big windfalls, which Im totally fine with. And my husband and I both continue to work at a heavy rate.

Q: Youve been very public about your struggle with depression what life lessons did that period teach you?

A: This was something that flattened me. All of a sudden hard work, and a good attitude, and a great education were just not enough. It is important to be able to say that you need help, or that you are not feeling strong. There is still shame around that, and I only got released from that shame myself by sharing my story with others.

Q: You are now a spokesperson for Life Happens, which raises awareness around life insurance, so what is your message there?

A: There is a real stigma surrounding the idea of life insurance, because people dont like to talk about death. My mother, for instance, never talked about it. But I always knew that if I ever had children, I would want to protect them. Many people seem to think that life insurance is cost-prohibitive but its not. Life is so unpredictable, and its good to give yourself peace of mind.

Q: What charities do you devote your resources to these days?

A: I work with one called Win (Women In Need) in NYC, which helps women in dire financial straits. It houses them, and provides a safe place for their children, so they can get out and work. Many people are homeless because housing is so expensive in New York City, and they have been financially displaced. A big portion of the citys homeless are women with children, and a lot of people are surprised to find that out.

Q: What do you envision retirement looking like?

A: They are going to have to pull me off the stage. The idea of retirement is kind of like death to me; I cant even wrap my mind around it. Work is a huge part of my identity, having done it for 53 years now. Its like a blood source to me.

Q: Since you have two teenagers, what life lessons do you try to pass along to them?

A: Maintain your integrity, be present, and keep things simple. Everyone has a tendency to make things so complicated. Just work as hard as you can, dont take handouts, and surround yourself with good people. (Editing by Beth Pinsker and Chris Reese Follow us zReutersMoney or at http://www.reuters.com/finance/personal-finance.)