Andre Agassi Was At The Top Of His Game, But He Had A Wild Secret Hidden Under His Headband

An expectant crowd awaits Andre Agassi as he prepares to walk onto court at the 1990 French Open. It will be his first chance at a Grand Slam honor, and he’s hotly tipped to win. But the people watching on could never guess what’s bothering Agassi. And as he limbers up to take the title, he does so with an extraordinary secret weighing down on his head.

That secret is something that Agassi keeps entirely to himself as he powers his way up the rankings. He goes on to win eight Grand Slams, in fact, as well as Olympic gold. And he helps his country to triumph in three Davis Cups – all while keeping a huge skeleton in his closet.

The tennis legend took his first Grand Slam in London when he won Wimbledon in 1992. That title proved to be the first of several, as he went on to emerge victorious at 1994’s U.S. Open and the Australian Open the following year. And while Agassi then went through a fallow period, he ultimately rose again to win both the U.S. and French slams in 1999.

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Still, it wasn’t only tennis that brought Agassi attention. His good looks didn’t exactly go unnoticed, with images of the athlete and his long flowing locks plastered on bedroom walls around the world. Wolf whistles would ring out, too, when Agassi needed a shirt change. No wonder sponsors lined up for him! And it was Nike that would eventually win his signature for a money-spinning deal.

But nothing lasts forever, and that was equally true of Agassi’s tennis career. As time went on, he found himself plagued with back problems that threatened to spoil his game. Then after missing competitions because of the issue, Agassi finally quit pro tennis entirely in 2006. And it was a decision he seemingly didn’t regret. While speaking to The Guardian in 2017, the star even revealed, “It’s remarkable, but if I went back in time I would probably retire sooner.”

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Perhaps Agassi would have liked to have revealed his secret a little sooner, too. But it hadn’t always plagued him – not when he was a kid being trained by his dad, Mike, anyway. Agassi Sr. had been an Olympic-level boxer but hadn’t wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Instead, he believed that the young Andre would become a tennis star.

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Fortunately for Mike, Agassi showed enough ability to justify moving into a full-time training schedule as a teenager. So, he upped sticks to Florida, where he studied at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy – and excelled. Agassi was proving a champion at youth level, and by the time he turned 16 the juniors were no longer big enough for his burgeoning talent.

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That meant only one thing: Agassi was ready to turn pro. And it’s fair to say that, with his flowing locks and colorful clothes, he caught the eye when he hit the court. Some were naturally suspicious that Agassi was all flash and no substance, but these naysayers were proved wrong as he rose up the ranks, culminating in that maiden slam success at Wimbledon in 1992.

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And once Agassi had the Grand Slam under his belt, there was no stopping him. On his way to world number one status three years later, he scooped two more Grand Slams. Another proud moment came in 1996, when he wowed a home crowd in Atlanta, Georgia, by taking gold for Team USA at the Olympic Games. Those achievements are all the more incredible when you consider what the tennis star was hiding at the time.

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Thankfully for Agassi, his secret wasn’t unearthed by the tabloids – although he became somewhat of a media mainstay. This was as much to do with his love life as for his prowess on clay. His affair with Barbra Streisand gained plenty of column inches, for instance. But when Agassi got to know the actress Brooke Shields, he seemed to have found true love. According to Shields, the tennis player courted her – if you’ll pardon the pun – by “sending long heartfelt faxes” while she was filming in South Africa.

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Still, even with the support Shields and Agassi received from their colleagues, their marriage proved stormy. But the actress had no regrets. She remembered in her 2014 autobiography, “The whole relationship with [Andre] was so necessary. He gave me my first taste of freedom from my mom. He swept me away.”

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And while Agassi and Shields eventually called it quits just two years after they tied the knot, it appears that the multiple Grand Slam winner wasn’t entirely put off the idea of marriage. You see, he’d walk down the aisle once more in 2001. Agassi’s bride, Steffi Graf, was a good match for him, too, as she was also a renowned tennis champion.

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Graf and Agassi are still together, with the pair living in Las Vegas alongside their two kids. And, these days, Agassi has turned his formidable energy to philanthropy. His focus is on education, helping children who are at risk to enjoy opportunities in learning and sports. He’s even opened a school in the Nevadan city.

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But despite the life of glamour and success tennis brought him, Agassi was conflicted behind the scenes. In his 2009 autobiography Open, he revealingly wrote, “I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis – hate it with a dark and secret passion – and always have.” And it seems that this hidden struggle drove him to seek comfort by illicit means.

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In his book, the tennis star revealed that his checkered love life and failure of form in the late ’90s had led him to drug use. He described the experience in stark terms, writing, “There is a moment of regret followed by vast sadness.” And it appeared as though the grind of top-level tennis had also taken its toll.

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Agassi outlined how he had felt towards the end of his playing career, writing, “I’m a young man, relatively speaking, [at] 36. But I wake as if [I am] 96. After two decades of sprinting, stopping on a dime, jumping high and landing hard, my body no longer feels like my body. Consequently, my mind no longer feels like my mind.”

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Agassi had grown tired of tennis, then, and the reason was that it had all been too much. In fact, according to the star himself, he’d never been allowed to choose not to play. His father had forced him when he was young, you see, and from then on events had taken on their own momentum. And Agassi’s lack of power over his own life had ultimately led him to detest the sport that had given him so much.

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In his autobiography, the star talks about reaching the number one spot, revealing, “I’ve knocked Pete [Sampras] off the mountaintop. The next person who phones is a reporter. I tell him that I’m happy about the ranking, that it feels good to be the best that I can be.” But he’s not exactly telling the truth.

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“It’s a lie,” Agassi continued. “This isn’t at all what I feel. It’s what I want to feel. It’s what I expected to feel, what I tell myself to feel. But, in fact, I feel nothing.” And if this confession wasn’t enough to shock his many fans, another astonishing secret would surely have knocked them off their feet.

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Basically, it was all to do with Agassi’s hair. As the star’s many admirers may remember, he had shaved off his long locks the same year he topped the tennis world rankings. In 2016 Agassi spoke about that moment to Business Insider, saying, “When I [shaved my head], I never felt freer in my life.” He added, “It was like a weight off my shoulders.” That last statement can probably be taken both literally and metaphorically.

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As it happens, it was Shields who had actually given Agassi the idea to remove his hair. The tennis legend said as much in his autobiography, writing, “She said I should shave my head. It was like suggesting I should have all my teeth out.” And while Agassi was able to eventually convince himself to take the plunge, it only came after hours of considering whether it was indeed the right thing to do.

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However, once Agassi had shaved off the hair that had been his trademark ever since he’d entered the public eye, the change was amazing. In just 11 minutes, he’d been transformed. In Open he explained how surprising the difference was even for him, writing, “A stranger stood before me in the mirror and smiled.”

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But at the same time that the superstar mentioned the shaving in his autobiography, he dropped a bombshell. Shockingly, the hair that he’d taken off had not all been exactly his. He said, “My wig was like a chain and the ridiculously long strands in three colors like an iron ball which hung on it.”

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Yes, Agassi had been wearing a wig after being plagued by hair loss for years. He opened up to explain, “Every morning, I would get up and find another piece of my identity on the pillow, in the washbasin [or] down the plughole.” How could he fix that? Well, Agassi added, “I asked myself, ‘You want to wear a toupee? On the tennis court?’ I answered myself, ‘What else could I do?’”

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So, for years, Agassi fooled the world with hairpieces. But as the star later explained in Open, doing so had not made him happy. He wrote, “I hated feeling like a fraud. When you’re not honest with yourself – that [feeling] got very tiring for me.”

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The height of Agassi’s deception had been the eye-catching mullet that he had rocked during his early career. Of the dated ’do, the former tennis pro told Business Insider, “The truth is that if I found a picture of myself like that, I’d probably burn it.” Luckily for Agassi, photos of the mullet are less common now than they were in the 1990s!

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But tricking everyone didn’t just cause Agassi despair. You see, fear of the wig hitting the deck also led him to lose his first Grand Slam final. He had been playing scared, terrified that the hairpiece would drop from his head and cause a scandal in the media.

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As fans may recall, Agassi managed to win his way through to the 1990 French Open final, where he was hotly fancied to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires. He was due to face the Ecuadorian Andrés Gómez – an aging star whom Agassi thought was not too far from retiring. And confident for victory, the young buck prepared himself for battle.

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But disaster would strike from a direction that Agassi could not have foreseen. He described what had occurred in his autobiography, writing, “A fiasco happened. The evening before the match, I stood under the shower and felt my wig suddenly fall apart.”

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An aghast Agassi could do nothing but watch the fake locks fall to bits in his grasp. Reflecting on that horrible moment, he later explained, “Probably I used the wrong hair rinse.” But that knowledge would do nothing to help him at the time. And with calamity looming on the horizon, Agassi decided that there was only one thing for it. He revealed in his autobiography, “I panicked and called my brother Philly into the room.”

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Luckily, Philly showed admirable sangfroid. He also had a solution: the wig could be put back together with clips. All he had to do was locate a bunch of bobby pins before the match started. And after a morning scramble around Paris proved a success, Philly and Agassi fortunately managed to restore the hairpiece.

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In the end, the two brothers needed 20 of the hair clips to do the job. “Do you think it will hold?” the tennis legend asked. His brother shrugged, “Just don’t move so much.” Perhaps not the best advice for a sportsman! But Agassi took it to heart. He wrote, “During the warming-up training before play, I prayed – not for victory, but that my hairpiece would not fall off.”

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And Agassi spent the match tormented by images of his hairpiece on the court surface. He imagined the astonishment of fans looking at their TVs, thinking, “Did Andre Agassi’s hair just fall off?” You may be unsurprised to hear, too, that this secret agony put him off his game.

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But the legend created high comedy from this terror when he described that fateful match in Open. He wrote, “With each leap, I imagine [the wig] falling into the sand. I imagine millions of spectators move closer to their TV sets, their eyes widening and, in dozens of dialects and languages, ask how Andre Agassi’s hair has fallen from his head.”

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Couldn’t Agassi have simply been bald and proud? Well, in Open he answered that very question, writing, “Of course I could have played without my hairpiece, but what would all the journalists have written if they knew that all the time I was really wearing a wig?”

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Well, perhaps it would have been a load off Agassi’s mind during that French Open final. Distracted by his hairpiece, he fell to defeat in what at the time was thought to be a huge upset. In retrospect, Gómez was a tough opponent, and perhaps Agassi just wasn’t ready to justify the hype at a mere 20 years old.

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Fast-forward to a few years later, however, and another Grand Slam final defeat would be clouded by fears over the wig. This time, Agassi had fought a grueling five-set battle against Austrian Thomas Muster. And it was no upset. In 1994 Muster was such a good player on the surface used at the French Open that he had the nickname “the King of Clay.” Of course, we should acknowledge that these days this particular accolade belongs to 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal.

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But what had perturbed Agassi? Well, while it’s customary for players to shake hands after a big tennis game, Muster had an extra gesture in mind. To Agassi’s horror, the Austrian reached for his head and, as Agassi wrote in Open, “[mussed his] hair.” This would have been a little rude even if the hair in question had been real.

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And Agassi recalled his fury at the Austrian’s gesture in his autobiography. He seethed, “Apart from being condescending, [Muster’s] gesture nearly dislodges my hairpiece. ‘Good try,’ he says.” Safe to say, then, that Muster had not made a new friend that afternoon. Agassi continued, “I stare at him with pure hatred. Big mistake, Muster.”

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His secret nearly revealed, Agassi fumed. He wrote, “Don’t touch the hair. Don’t ever touch the hair.” And that wasn’t all. You see, the American made a vow to Muster. He continued in his book, “Just for that, I tell him at the net: ‘I’ll make you a promise. I’ll never lose to you again.’” And, amazingly, Agassi was as good as his word, as the Austrian never beat him after that.

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But while Agassi continued his illustrious career, his ex-wife was forging ahead with hers. Shields is highly accomplished in her own right, of course, with multiple movies, TV appearances and books under her belt. And over the years, it’s fair to say that her style has been pretty eclectic. Her fashion journey has taken in every genre conceivable, in fact, and her transformation since she first rose to fame in Pretty Baby is little short of incredible.

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In a career spanning more than five decades, Shields has pretty much done it all. Appearing in movies and ad campaigns, and on TV, magazine covers and even Broadway, she’s had quite the varied career and has been successful in every field at which she’s tried her hand. As the star told online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter in 2018, “Each time I do something new, I’m surprised by how far I get.” And her talents don’t end there.

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In addition, Shields somehow found the time to earn a degree in French literature from Princeton University, regularly support the troops through United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) shows, raise a family and write not one, but two books. And while as an adult, the star’s career has been smooth sailing, her early work caused some serious controversy.

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Born in New York to parents Teri and Frank Shields, the future star’s career got underway while she was still an infant. Her mom, whom she would later describe as “the original momager,” was heavily involved in her daughter’s career from the off, and put her in front of the camera for the first time at just 11 months old.

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Shields’ first-ever commercial shoot was a print ad for Ivory soap in 1966. From there, she continued to model successfully and is even credited with the creation of the child division at her agency, Eileen Ford. In 1977, however, the youngster’s career shifted direction when she won her debut movie role.

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The young actor had landed a part in Annie Hall, directed by Woody Allen. Her part, though, was edited out of the final version. Undeterred, Shields continued to look for work before landing what would become her first official movie. And that film would end up causing quite the controversy.

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Set in turn-of-the-century New Orleans, 1978’s Pretty Baby was controversial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was set in a brothel and depicted prostitution in both adults and children. Shields played an underage sex worker, which was bad enough, as she was only 12 at the time. But the movie also contained some other, rather more risqué elements.

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Playing the 12-year-old daughter of another prostitute, Shields also appeared nude in the film, raising questions about child pornography. Perhaps signaling very different times, Shields’ shared her own contemporary point of view about its release in 2018. Talking to Net-a-Porter, she said, “I don’t think Pretty Baby would [get made now].”

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Of course, being famous so young may well have influenced the youngster’s fashion choices. At the time, she could often be found wearing outfits reminiscent of movie characters, such as Annie Hall and Sandy from Grease. On camera, however, her modeling work was far more mature and stylish than your average movie-struck pre-teen.

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Working couture shows as a 12-year-old, Shields’ style was startlingly mature. And it’s perhaps down to this perceived maturity that she made two more controversial movies in the next few years. First came 1980’s The Blue Lagoon. In the film, the youngster played a teenage girl stranded on an island with only a slightly older boy for company.

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The movie instantly became infamous for similar reasons to Pretty Baby, in that it featured underage nudity. Despite the use of a body double for some of Shields’ nude scenes, the film still raised questions about minors taking their clothes off for the camera. Then, just a year later, the teenager caused yet more outcry.

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Shields’ next movie, 1981’s Endless Love featured the youngster as a girl who falls in love with an obsessive boy; its themes include underage sex, voyeurism, arson, death and prison. Once again the star filmed love scenes: this time, though, the controversy also involved the movie being terrible. The star has since shared that all three of her risqué movies feel tame to her now.

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Shields told Net-a-Porter in 2018, “[The movies] were actually so vanilla compared with the porn you can find so easily everywhere now.” Of course, it wasn’t just the teenager’s acting career that caused controversy all those years ago. Around the time of The Blue Lagoon’s release, she starred in an ad campaign that shocked the public.

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In 1980 designer Calvin Klein hired Shields to be the face of his new line of skinny jeans. Just 15 years old at the time, she posed in denim with a bare midriff and a shirt that was almost completely unbuttoned. While the print ads were fairly tame, it was the TV spots that ruffled feathers. During the commercial, the teenager had just one line, and its implications upset many.

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Dressed in the same outfit as the print ads, during the TV commercial, Shields said: “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The teenage-commando implications of the line upset enough people that the ads were banned by two channels in New York. Klein, it seems, was unperturbed. He reportedly said of the controversy, “Jeans are sex. The tighter they are, the better they sell.” The campaign is widely credited with launching the designer to superstar status.

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Shields’ modeling career also had its less controversial, but equally impressive, milestones. Aged 14, she became U.S. Vogue magazine’s youngest-ever cover star and by 1981 was reportedly commanding $10,000 a day. What followed were tons of magazine appearances, prompting Time magazine to bestow a unique title on the model.

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With a face that had graced the covers of all the big magazines, Time declared that Shields was the epitome of “The ’80s Look.” And it’s easy to see why. Growing up in front of the camera, her previous Hollywood-inspired style evolved into pure 1980s chic in the course of just a few years. Glance at any contemporary images featuring the model, and you’ll bathe in big hair, bigger shoulder pads and massive skirts. But it wasn’t just her clothes that were bang on trend.

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As befits the face of the ’80s, Shields was friends with some of the decade’s biggest stars, including Michael Jackson, Carrie Fisher, Bob Hope and Matt Dillon. She had become a Hollywood staple and had the style to match. Bigger hair and puffier dresses were joined by plunging necklines, as well as more demure styles. But those outfits were hiding insecurity.

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Despite what Shields did for a living, it seems she never saw herself as a model. She told Net-a-Porter in 2018, “My mom… would say, ‘Why don’t you move your fat ass?’ So, I’ve always believed that I have a fat ass.” And that, perhaps, led to the star’s attitude about her work. “I was a cover girl, not a supermodel. I was neck-up: the face, the eyebrows.”

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During the 1980s, Shields enrolled at Princeton and earned a degree in French literature. And while she continued to act, her insecurities refused to budge. In 2009 she revealed to website Health.com that she had put on weight while at college because of it. “I had the public and all this pressure. [I] had issues with weight. I carried this protective 20 pounds [in college]. It was all connected.”

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All of which may well explain Shields’ less-hectic work schedule for the remaining years of the decade. Making mostly cameos in movies such as The Muppets Take Manhattan, allowed her to make the most of her time elsewhere. This included touring with the U.S.O. shows, which allowed the youngster to rock that Top Gun look.

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Shields kicked off the 1990s with guest spots in TV shows including time-travel classic Quantum Leap and horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt. In 1993 the star began a relationship with tennis star Andre Agassi; with a serious partner for perhaps the first time, the ’80s style icon suddenly grew up.

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The big hair was replaced with sleek shoulder-length locks, the dresses became miniskirts, which Shields rocks like no one else on Earth; the make-up was understated and barely there. Fresh-faced she may have been, but this outward change seemingly masked some much darker truths, and not just for the model.

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In the 2018 Net-a-Porter interview, Shields candidly explained why she ended up with Agassi. “I needed André to separate from my mother.” It seems the star’s relationship with Teri, an alcoholic, was often a rocky one. And that might explain why, in 1997, she married the tennis star, despite his addiction to crystal meth.

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The star went on, “I’d spent my life, 24/7, being so worried that my mother was going to die, and my whole world was wrapped around keeping her alive.” But while dire, according to Shields the situation still had one positive result. “That probably saved me and kept me on the straight and narrow… But I still had so much growing up to do.”

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Shields’ marriage to Agassi fell apart after just two years. Her career, on the other hand, was taking off once again. Following a hilarious cameo in full ’90s vamp mode in an episode of hit TV show Friends, the actor discovered her talent for comedy. And the networks agreed, giving the go-ahead for her very own sitcom, Suddenly Susan in 1996.

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The show ran for four seasons, and on-screen, Shields’ style was sleek, expensive and oh-so-chic. Off-screen, the star emulated that successful woman-about-town look. Clean lines, sleek hair and vampy make-up made her the epitome of 1990s female empowerment. It was an attitude that seemed to resonate with the industry, as the sitcom star was nominated for not one, but two Golden Globes for her role.

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During Shields’ time on Suddenly Susan, she met the man who would become her second husband, screenwriter Chris Henchy. They married in 2001, and their first child, Rowan, followed a couple of years later. While her daughter was still a toddler, the star appeared on hit TV sitcom That ’70s Show looking exceedingly trim, and laughing at the style of the decade in which she became famous. But once again, the star was hiding a dark secret.

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Shields had suffered from post-partum depression following the birth of her daughter and spoke openly about it for the first time in 2005. She published a book on the subject that same year, and her honesty regarding antidepressants caused a bitter feud between the star and Tom Cruise. He later apologized for criticizing her use of medication to heal.

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Having rocked Madonna’s Earth mother look easily as well as Madge herself, Shields’ next style evolution couldn’t have been more different. Playing the sexy and refined Dr. Faith Wolper on TV show Nip/Tuck clearly inspired the star, as she carried the character’s look into real life. Little black dresses, perfectly tousled hair and vampy, no-nonsense make-up blurred the line between fashion and fiction. And she looked great.

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Later in the decade, Shields became one of the most famous moms on TV when she took on the role of Hannah Montana’s late mother. Despite having passed away before the show started, the character often appeared in flashbacks and visions, rocking a flowery shirt and denims. Off-screen, the star incorporated that laid-back aesthetic into her own look, often sporting jeans and a t-shirt on chat shows.

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During the 2000s, Shields began to shape her signature look: leather biker-style jacket over excellent tailoring, asymmetric necklines and dresses with deep slits, finished with knee-high boots. And it was about this time that she took on a role that couldn’t have been more at odds with that chic woman. Spending a decade guesting on TV sitcom The Middle allowed the star to really let loose.

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Playing beer-swilling Rita Glossner on the hit sitcom, Shields left her model looks far behind. Donning mullet, Daisy Dukes and the worst fake tan ever to grace a TV screen, the star clearly loved every second of her time on the show. In real life, her signature look continued to evolve, encompassing Capri pants, bodices and spike heels, often teamed with her trademark leather jacket.

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In between movie and TV roles, Shields has also spent a fair amount of time on Broadway, starring in musicals such as Grease and Chicago. And, in a roundabout way, it’s this part of her career that led her to return to her roots. In 2018 following an injury she sustained while working in the theater, she had to have knee surgery. But in order to make sure she was as fit as possible before the operation, she did something she hated.

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As the star told Net-a-Porter in 2018, she hired a trainer. But that’s not something she enjoyed. “I hate trainers. I hate gyms.” Despite that, though, the hard work that she put in paid off in an unexpected way. “I worked so hard, so consistently, that I’ve now got some campaigns, at 53, that I might not have otherwise.” That’s right, in her 50s, the star is once again a professional model.

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And not just any modeling either. Shields’ return to the field was in swimwear, a prospect she found quite daunting. “I modeled swimwear when I was 15, and even then I didn’t think I had a swimsuit body,” the star revealed to Net-a-Porter. So a return to the profession led to even more work. “I really prepared. I stopped drinking beer and wine, and I worked out three times a week. I was the best version of myself. I was also hungry.”

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That hunger, though, hasn’t stopped Shields from working out on a regular basis, partly as a way to help heal her knee. Posting lots of social media updates from her gym, the star astounds many with her gravity-defying exercise regime, including crunches performed while upside down. She also uses kettlebells to achieve her incredible arms and resistance band training for her legs. But a 2019 post set the internet alight.

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Clearly, all that gravity-defying work is paying off, if an image Shields posted during summer 2019 is anything to go by. Bikini-clad, svelte, rocking abs and a tan, the star looks amazing. And the internet definitely agreed. One commenter raved, “You look AMAZING. You’re an inspiration for women of all ages.” Another said, “You never age at all.”

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And all of this came about thanks to Shields’ knee surgery. As the star posted on Instagram in 2019, “It’s been a long road from my knee surgery last year to now – I’ve learned so much about my body and I’m excited to share more of my wellness journey with you.” And, it seems, the star shows no signs of slowing down.

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Having squeezed in a book about her childhood in 2014, following Teri’s death, Shields has since starred in two series and launched her own clothing line for mature women. She told Net-a-Porter, “I have years of access and knowledge, and the idea is that I bring my own aesthetic.” And with that, the star described her perfect style evolution, “Well, if I could, I would want to wake up one day as a Parisian woman.”

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