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Once She Was Out of the Spotlight, Some Celebs Spoke Out Against Barbara Walters

Photo Credits: Valentina Frugiuele / Paul Marotta / Bruce Glikas / WireImage / Getty Images)
Photo Credits: Valentina Frugiuele / Paul Marotta / Bruce Glikas / WireImage / Getty Images)

In an episode of The Drew Barrymore Show, Barrymore and fellow actress Brooke Shields connected over their similar experiences with famed broadcaster Barbara Walters. After retiring from journalism in 2016, the 93-year-old lived a reclusive life out of the spotlight which had fans concerned for her health.

Just weeks before the incomparable Walters passed away, some celebrities came forward to share their experiences as interviewees – including awkward encounters she had with young stars like Shields and Barrymore.

Shields on her controversial 1981 interview with Walters

Brooke Shields first sat down with Walters in 1981 for an ABC News interview. Around the same time, Shields became the target of backlash over a Calvin Klein ad campaign featuring the then-15-year-old. In the commercial, Shields says, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

Brooke Shields and Barbara Walters together at an event in 1991
Brooke Shields and Barbara Walters attend the Fourth Annual March of Dimes Gourmet Gala, 1991. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

In November 2022, Shields appeared on The Drew Barrymore Show. Both Shields and Barrymore praised Walters for her groundbreaking career, but both actresses also had stories involving inappropriate behavior during interviews. “She asked me what my measurements were. And asked me to stand up,” said Shields. “And I stand up and she’s like comparing herself to this little girl and I thought, ‘This isn’t right. I don’t understand what this is.’ But I behaved and just smiled and felt like so taken advantage of in so many ways.”

In the interview, Walters made Shields stand beside her to show the audience how tall the model and actress was compared to her – even making a comment about keeping Shields’ body shape “down to size.”

Barrymore chimes in

Barrymore also chimed in on the conversation with a similar experience:

“I never thought of Barbara Walters in a negative light nor do I, however, I watched this interview that her and I did when I was in my early twenties, and she would not relent… She was like, ‘Talk to me about the drugs and alcohol, talk to me about your mother, talk to me about bisexuality, talk to me about everything,’ and I kept saying, ‘You know Barbara I’m doing really well,’ and it was five, six, seven times over.”

Drew Barrymore and Brooke Shields together at an event
Drew Barrymore and Brooke Shields in 2017 in The Bahamas. (Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for The Cove, Paradise Island)

Both Shields and Barrymore quickly moved on and buried the hatchet over the awkward interview moments. “I love you Barbara Walters,” Barrymore said, “Oh me too” Shields chimed in. “I really look up to her, I admire her,” Barrymore added, to which Shields agreed.

Why did Walters stay out of the spotlight?

Rumors over Walters’ ailing health could be the reason why stars came forward with their stories. Some unconfirmed sources claimed that she was suffering from dementia, and while this was just speculation, Walters did struggle with multiple health issues over the last several years. In 2010, she underwent surgery to have an aortic valve replaced. She also took a tumble down a set of stairs while attending a party in Washington D.C. to interview Barack Obama.

Portrait of Barbara Walters
Walters in 1970. (Photo Credit: Alex Gotfryd / Corbis / Getty Images)

More from us: How Katharine Hepburn Influenced Barbara Walters’ Decades-Spanning Career

Several former co-workers including Ross Mathews and Jenny McCarthy also came forward with stories of recent encounters with Walters where the aging host forgot who they were.

The legendary Barbara Walters passed away on December 30, 2022.

Elisabeth Edwards

Elisabeth Edwards is a public historian and history content writer. After completing her Master’s in Public History at Western University in Ontario, Canada Elisabeth has shared her passion for history as a researcher, interpreter, and volunteer at local heritage organizations.

She also helps make history fun and accessible with her podcast The Digital Dust Podcast, which covers topics on everything from art history to grad school.

In her spare time, you can find her camping, hiking, and exploring new places. Elisabeth is especially thrilled to share a love of history with readers who enjoy learning something new every day!

The Digital Dust Podcast