'Dear Mom," begins a letter Brooke Shields wrote to her mother, aged nine. "I just want to say thank you for being so very good about drinking. I love you for that (not only that). I also feel that we are happier together when you are not drinking. We don't fight as much, we laugh more and have much more fun."
Reproduced - with all its girlish curlicues and earnest underscorings - in the actress's recent memoir, There Was A Little Girl, the note appears a few chapters into what is essentially a longer love letter to Teri Shields, who died in 2012. "I worry to hear it described that way," frowns Shields today, as she waits for turgid rain clouds to burst above her Manhattan townhouse. "Because although the book is a sort of love letter, really loving someone means going through a myriad of different emotions. I haven't shied away from parts you wouldn't associate with happiness and love."
Unlike that poignant note, there are no ill-concealed rubbings out in the 49-year-old's autobiography. Every mistake made by both daughter and mother has been left in - from her own youthful dalliances and failed two-year marriage to tennis ace Andre Agassi in 1997, to her mother's increasingly drunken escapades. "The intention was to have my say," Shields tells me, "after decades of sticking up for my mother."
As a former child star defined for years by the 'momager' who had her modelling baby soap at 11 months, put her on the catwalk at three years old and turned her into an international movie star and Vogue cover girl by the time she was a teenager, Shields doesn't feel the need to defend her mother's actions. She does, however, want to explain them.
"I can't fault my mother for what she did because what kind of a life would this kid from Newark who was divorced by the time I was five months old have had? We would be dirt poor - still. So I understand the genesis of it."
Shields tells me she "savoured" her early career: being cast, aged 12, by Louis Malle as a pre-teen prostitute in his 1978 film, Pretty Baby, and subsequently appearing - naked again - in the 1980 hit The Blue Lagoon. "I had this understanding that I was going to be a part of the film world," she shrugs. "Then all of a sudden it went on to having dolls named after me and hairdryers with my name on them. That signified success for my mother - and for me, too."
Did she never feel exploited? "I didn't," she smiles. "Because I was so young. I was too young for the casting couch so I was never told: 'You have to do this to get a role.' Exploitation happens when anything other than talent is capitalised upon."
Those infamous Richard Avedon-shot Calvin Klein ads of her 14-year-old self - "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing", went the ad - provoke nothing but pride in Shields now. "I was proud of them then and I'm proud still. Actually I'm proud of all the things that have been surrounded by the most controversy. Not the less-than-stellar things I went on to do."
Working with directors such as Franco Zeffirelli in the 1981 drama Endless Love or Woody Allen in Annie Hall (sadly Shields's scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor) were experiences the actress wouldn't have forfeited for anything, she says. But some passages still make for uncomfortable reading, I tell her - such as hearing Shields describe her role, aged nine, in Annie Hall as that of "a sexy pilgrim".
"But isn't it funny that that's taboo and yet what is being done and seen [on screen] now is such that you have to have censorship on every button in your house? You have to be so vigilant these days, but it wasn't like that when I was nine. It's complicated, but I do think that we have changed our perception of things. I also think that there is something in real, true youthful innocence that doesn't go immediately to the sordid. I was getting validated and I was getting attention. I was supported and I was loved and it was real at the time. I don't ever look back at what I did and cringe."
For all the criticism Teri Shields endured for revelling quite so openly in her daughter's talents and looks ("Like any beautiful painting," she once told a TV interviewer, "I think the world should enjoy Brooke and view her"), her daughter insists that Teri was a world away from today's Hollywood 'momagers'.
"When I watch a lot of these young girls now, the mums are absolutely basking in the attention as well - right down to the way they take care of themselves. It's all about their look and style, too - at least from the outside it appears that way. What distinguished my mother is that she was ballsy and fought for me but the one or two times where she was photographed, she hated it. She wasn't trying to still be a sexy young girl herself - she just transferred all the attention on to me."
Although the intensity of that attention eventually became too much for the actress to bear (the two parted ways professionally in 1995), Shields doesn't believe that such relationships are necessarily doomed.
"Even if they're trying to profit from their kids," she says, "nobody is going to protect your kid like you, right? So if it could only be a healthy relationship like the one Beyonce had [with her manager/father, Mathew Knowles] for example, it could be so good. The problem is that although it may work in the beginning, as the child matures things become greyer and more difficult."
It's perhaps a testament to the vehemence of Teri's love for her daughter that Shields never turned into a wild child. "My mum was always the one acting out," Shields laughs. "She was the storm: I was just always in the wake. That was an arrangement we set up years prior."
The restraint and moderation her mother couldn't master "in almost any aspect of her life" became a point of principle for Shields, who waited until she was 22 and studying French literature at Princeton University to lose her virginity to Superman star Dean Cain, and gave up alcohol for long periods throughout her life. Today, she will drink the odd Belgian beer "because I don't want to go so far in the other direction and deny myself something I actually enjoy. But I monitor myself - and I've been like that since I was a kid."
Shields gracefully mastered a transition into adulthood many child stars find impossible. By the time she met her husband of 14 years - sitcom writer, Chris Henchy - she had reestablished herself as a successful TV actress in comedy dramas such as Suddenly Susan and Lipstick Jungle. She went on to stun audiences in both the West End and on Broadway with her performances in Grease and Chicago.
But, in 2003, Shields was rocked by the biggest emotional turbulence of her life when she suffered severe post-natal depression after the birth of her first daughter, Rowan.
"You can imagine my shock when I had my first child and didn't revel in this creature, my creation, in the way my mother so had in me. You can imagine the heartbreak that I felt. Because all I ever knew was a mother who looked at her daughter as her angel - as everything.
"Now of course I feel that way too because I'm healthier. And when I had my second daughter [seven-year-old Grier], I thought she was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen in my whole life because I was healthy at the time."
Shields bravely spoke out and wrote about her experience in the book, Down Came the Rain - something she has "zero regrets about" today. "It produced a great deal of change and got a dialogue going. The only residual worry," she adds quietly, "is a need to explain myself to Rowan when she's old enough. I hope that one day I can make her understand that it never had anything to do with lack of love."
Shields's own mother might say the same of the demons she battled throughout her life, were she alive today.
"I thought I'd feel a release once the book was finished," Shields admits, "but I don't. It just made me sad. Revisiting bad times is not that hard because they're over, but revisiting good times . . . well that's hard because they're over, too. There's this desire to reconstruct history when you go back. You can't help but think: 'If she just does this now, then it'll be happily ever after.'"
If she could say one thing to her mother now? "I go over that in my head all the time when I'm feeling down. I said, 'I love you' a lot, but I don't know if mum felt worthy of love, so I would have liked her to have been able to look at me and say: 'I know you do - and I'm OK'."
'There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me', is out now
Sunday Indo Life Magazine