Thursday 21 September 2017

Does my bump look big in this? The celebrity maternity photoshoot

Only two months in and 2017 is already a banner year for the celebrity maternity photoshoot

Beyonce's Instagram announcement
Beyonce's Instagram announcement
Cheryl Cole.
Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair.
Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover of W magazine.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Meadhbh McGrath

It's the moment we've all been waiting for. Enda Kenny has stepped down? Nasa has discovered alien life? No - the artist formerly known as Cheryl Tweedy has finally confirmed her pregnancy, dramatically unveiling her bump in a charity campaign with L'Oreal.

The reveal comes after months of speculation that the 33-year-old was expecting a child with ex-One Directioner Liam Payne (23). Paps hungrily chased the 'so-called pregnant' star, thwarted by tricky 'optical illusion dresses' and misleading angles. But now, the writing's on the bump, marking another strange chapter in our cultural fascination with celebrity pregnancies.

It's not so long ago that pregnancy was considered vulgar - fathers weren't crouching in the delivery room, livestreaming their baby's birth on Facebook. In the 1950s, Lucille Ball's expectant character in I Love Lucy famously had to dance around the word "pregnant", a term the network deemed too crude to utter on screen.

Fast forward to 1991, and Demi Moore was screaming it on the cover of Vanity Fair. The iconic nude shoot sparked the trend for "pregnancy porn", as women's magazines tracked the "glorious bumps" and "natural glow" of the A-list, and featured gushing post-baby interviews. Pamela Anderson, appearing on the cover of People magazine in 1996, gleefully cried, "I just love getting up with him in the middle of the night to feed him or soothe him!"

The glamorisation of motherhood reached a peak in the early Noughties. There was Julia Roberts, smiling as she revealed she was expecting twins in People, an eight-months-pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones performing 'All that Jazz' at the Oscars and Gwyneth Paltrow, marking her first pregnancy on the cover of W magazine.

The media baby boom was seen as a response to glossy images of single life in TV series like Sex and the City and Ally McBeal, and as a reaction to the political instability in the years post-9/11 - pregnancy was a joyful story to counter the tragic events occupying the news elsewhere in the world.

And so perhaps we have Donald Trump and Brexit to credit for the resurgent celebrity baby boom. Only two months in, and 2017 is already a banner year for the maternity photoshoot. No longer relying on a press statement, stars are taking matters into their own hands with carefully crafted 'reveals'.

Beyonce announced she is having twins with a high-art photoshoot that broke Instagram records earlier this month. It added to her mystique while simultaneously permitting a level of privacy that has been crucial to her celebrity (the singer rarely does interviews, and her Instagram posts double as press releases). It also delivered a spectacular "screw you" to those who didn't believe she was really pregnant with her first child Blue Ivy in 2011.

Critics dismissed it as a narcissistic move, but it was Beyonce's way of rewriting the rules of celebrity pregnancy, disrupting the usual narrative of pap shots "outing" expectant stars, and announcing it on her own terms.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley took a similar, albeit less spectacular, route a week later, sharing a snap of her belly on the beach, and, despite Storm Keating's initial fondness for tradition (she released a statement in December announcing her pregnancy), she's also jumped on the bandwagon with a sultry photoshoot of her own, modelling a series of figure-hugging looks with Ronan caressing her bump for the Sun. It's only a matter of time before Amal Clooney and the twins join in.

The maternity photoshoot has its risks: letting the public inside your pregnancy means they assume they are along for the ride - should anything go wrong, the rest of the world feels entitled to know about it.

But these images also offer women the opportunity to reclaim their sexuality during pregnancy - and provide the rest of us with a pleasing distraction from the mess going on around the world. Based on this latest breed of announcements, it seems becoming a mother is not just a major life event, but an opportunity to shine.

Irish Independent

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