Saturday 19 August 2017

I never knew you were expecting

Keeping a pregnancy secret is no mean feat, yet some celebs manage to conceal their bumps, and indeed babies, from the public eye. Tanya Sweeney reports

Amanda Holden hid her bump on the red carpet with Spanx
Amanda Holden hid her bump on the red carpet with Spanx
Little is known about Isla Fisher's second child

Once upon a time, the birth of A-list celeb spawn went a little something like this: once rumours began to brew, an announcement was made — via ‘People’ magazine or gossip blogger Perez Hilton — about a pregnancy.

All eyes would then swivel towards the growing bump and, specifically, how it was being dressed.

Acres of coverage would be devoted to the minutiae of the pregnancy until a joyous statement was issued detailing baby’s weight, name, and the fact that Mum and Dad were ‘joyously happy’. And then, the A-list offspring would make its debut in front of paparazzi, star in its own glossy magazine spread (for a hefty fee) and start down the long and arduous path of public life.

But that was then, and this is now. In what could be viewed as a two-fingered salute to Hollywood’s gossip hounds, a growing number of celebs are sidestepping that time-honoured publicity process altogether.

It’s an interesting turn of events; many stars are paying lip service to the idea of privacy and bleating about a gross invasion of their personal lives. In a way, those who are cutting the media out of the equation are effectively putting their money where their mouths are.

Of course, with interest in A-list babies running at a vertiginous high, getting a celebrity baby — that most cherished and exciting of commodities — past the all-seeing eyes of the gossips is no mean feat. But, as these stars ably demonstrate, it’s not entirely impossible.

Earlier this month, Nicole Kidman ensured that all chatter at the Golden Globes was focused on her. Just as she walked the red carpet with husband Keith Urban, it came to light that the pair had become parents for the second time on December 28.

Yet this was no orthodox baby story: the pair had paid a surrogate mother a reported $150,000 to birth their second daughter Faith Margaret. What’s more, no one had reported a hint of the child’s existence.

It couldn’t be further from the overexposed, omnipresent existence of Suri Cruise, born to Nicole’s ex-husband Tom. In a statement, the couple said: “Our family is truly blessed, and just so thankful, to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular, our gestational carrier.”

The new baby joins two-year-old sister Sunday Rose, who was born the traditional way.

The episode is an echo of Sandra Bullock’s recent foray into motherhood. One minute, the star was accepting an Oscar in front of devoted husband Jesse James. A week later, a bombshell of epic proportions had been dropped; Bullock was divorcing James (due to his infidelity), and had adopted a baby called Louis Bardo.

As she appeared on the cover of ‘People’ last March with her new son under the headline ‘Meet My Baby’, the question loomed large: just how had Bullock managed to keep the mother of all secrets under wraps?

In hindsight, Bullock may have dropped a hint about her new arrival in her Oscar speech: “I would like to thank what this movie was about for me, which are the moms that take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from,” she said.

It is thought that Bullock and James began the process of adopting four years ago, but only got a call about a possible placement in January of last year. By then, awards season — with Bullock in the running for several gongs — was already in full swing. In the ‘People’ article, Bullock noted her surprise that no one had caught on to her secret. On Oscar night, she said one of Louis' lime-green socks kept falling out of her purse and people would hand it to her without saying anything.

“We only told a handful of family and friends, and it then became their mission to make sure Louis was safe and happy and had everything he needed,” the actress told the magazine. The child’s bris (circumcision ceremony) was even done outside the hospital, so that staff couldn’t tip off the paparazzi.

Recalling the week that the shock story broke, Bullock remarked at the time: “All I remember is thinking, ‘I need to get Louis out of here before the vultures descend'. I wasn't sure if I could go into deeper hiding than I had already been in, but again, that small group of friends and family made it their life to make sure we all had what we needed to heal and be safe and make sense out of all of it.”

Months after giving birth to her second child, Isla Fisher still hasn’t released the name, birth date or sex of the baby. In fact, rumours abound that Fisher and her partner Sacha Baron-Cohen have put the child’s name as ‘Baby Cohen’ on the birth certificate.

Even while her baby bump grew, Fisher refused to publicly acknowledge her pregnancy. From May 2010 onwards, the Australian star kept a low profile. It was only when shutterbugs captured an image of Fisher’s first child Olive (three) holding an ‘I’m A Big Sister’ book that the pregnancy was in some way confirmed. Even her colleagues on the film ‘Burke & Hare’ were kept in the dark. Costar Simon Pegg says: “I didn't know what was going on. She didn't look pregnant until the last minute. I saw her a couple of months later and she was like a balloon. None of us knew, not even [director] John [Landis] knew. She hid it well.”

Earlier this month Fisher and Cohen finally revealed their second child was a girl called ‘Mystery’, although her official name remains just that.

Closer to home, U2 bassist Adam Clayton has managed an even more spectacular feat. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Clayton had become a firsttime dad to a son. It turns out that the child is already a year old, and the details — mother’s name, birthplace, child’s name — still remain at large. Yet it’s not for want of trying on the part of the world’s media.

U2’s entourage and handlers have always been fiercely protective of band members down the years, but, even by celebrity standards, pulling off a secret of this magnitude is a nigh-on impossible feat.

Almost matching Clayton in terms of sheer surprise factor is Cristiano Ronaldo. At a time when most of his fellow footballers were embroiled in extra-marital affairs and scandals, Ronaldo managed — somehow — to go one better. Last July, via Twitter, the footballer revealed that he had become a father: “It is with great joy and emotion that I inform I have recently become a father to a baby boy. As agreed with the baby's mother, who prefers to have her identity kept confidential, my son will be under my exclusive guardianship.”

The event was shrouded in mystery and confusion, not least because the baby’s mother was not Ronaldo’s girlfriend, underwear model Irina Shayk. In the end, the baby’s mother is believed to be a penniless American waitress, who is thought to have been paid £10 million (€11.5 million) to keep her identity secret and hand the baby over to his family.

Fatherhood seemed a highly unlikely turn of events for the self-confessed playboy, yet it transpires that the footballer is quite the hands-on parent to Cristiano Jr. “Of course I change nappies,” he said in an interview recently. “It’s not the thing I like best in the world, but I do it.”

Once upon a time, fatherhood seemed just as unlikely a prospect for the endlessly extravagant pop diva Elton John. Yet Elton and his partner David Furnish became parents on Christmas day when their son Zachary was born to a surrogate mother. Only those in the couple’s inner sanctum had any idea about their fatherhood plans. It had been a long-time dream for the couple — they almost adopted a baby from the Ukraine last year — yet few knew of the new arrival until the couple posed for the cover of ‘US Weekly’ with their son earlier this month.

Elton was even moved to remark at a press conference, “I love the smell of nappies”. He added: “Fatherhood is fantastic. It's been the most wonderful thing that’s happened to me after meeting David. This little soul that you're feeding, changing, bathing and telling bedtime stories to is a blank canvas.”

Now that it has been proven that a secret pregnancy and low-key parenthood are possible, expect more celebs to follow suit. Already, the trend for maternity Spanx is fast growing — Amanda Holden recently admitted that control pants have helped her keep her own baby news from the world. Now seven months pregnant, and after looking unfeasibly svelte at a red-carpet event last month, news of her impending arrival has only come to light.

“No one guessed!” she said in a newspaper interview recently. “Although a lot of my girlfriends confessed they’d thought I’d had a boob job when my chest got bigger!

I was waiting for someone to write a piece in one of the newspapers saying I’d eaten a few too many mince pies over Christmas, but the Spanx have served me well.”

Some might argue that the days of the paraded celeb baby — the ubiquitous likes of Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt — are finally coming to an end. Yet celebrity watchers will find much to like in this new world order where stars are more circumspect about impending parenthood.

After all, no one can argue that those bombshell baby tales are much more fun to watch unfold.

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