Why is it that so many people are convinced celebrities fake their pregnancies?
I feel I know more about Meghan Markle's pregnancy than I will ever know about my own future family: when she's due, what her cravings are, what her pre-natal yoga preferences are.
Her bump is already more famous than any person I can even dream of meeting and the royal-to-be hasn’t even been born yet. But if you move to dark corners of the internet, you’ll find a margin of people who believe her pregnancy is simply fake news, and that she and Prince Harry are in fact using a secret surrogate.
Britain’s Duchess of Sussex is the latest celebrity to fall victim to the rumour of pregnancy-faking, a bizarre trope preferred by low rent tabloids in the early noughties and now, by those who make their voices heard on messaging forums and on social media.
The #Mexit hashtag is home to some truly bizarre - and specific - accusations the former actress’ bump is just a ruse, the reason for which remains unclear. Kate Middleton also fell victim to a similar rumour after giving birth to Princess Charlotte in 2015. It was claimed that she couldn’t have given birth because she looked so near-perfect introducing the baby to the world, some critics refused to believe it was real.
It wasn’t until she gave birth to Prince Louis last year that the conversation changed and pointed out how ridiculous an expectation it was that she look camera ready a mere hours after giving birth in pictures which would be analysed for months to come, in articles just like this. Little pity is felt for a literal princess whose main job is to have bouncy hair and wear nice dresses, but this occasion proved the exception.
What’s the evidence behind this conspiracy theory? The poor quality of her fake bump of course!
“So Meghan's been an actress for 10 years,” Idorenyin wrote on Twitter. “Now she supposedly wants to act like a pregnant lady & wear a fake bump. With all her money, she buys one that falls to her knees in public, inflates and defates [sic] at whim?? These idiots make me laugh!”
The pocket of people in on this theory is small (and that’s a generous description), but it’s enough to have made headlines this week, particularly among the British press who have taken issue with just about everything Meghan does and the way she does it. As a woman in the public eye, Meghan is once again being reminded of her place in society, more specifically, she lives in a world where her body is a part of national - or international - discourse.
Like many before her, Meghan’s physicality is about putting her in a neat little box - her mixed race heritage, her hairstyle, her single grey hair - but she isn’t the first celebrity to be accused of faking it. A number of these celebrity conspiracy theories can be traced to Scientology members, including Katie Holmes during her marriage to Tom Cruise and Kelly Preston, who announced in 2010 at the age of 47 she was expecting a baby with husband John Travolta. It was easy to link a perceived out-of-the-ordinary pregnancy announcement to a mysterious religion which shrouds itself in secrecy.
Perhaps, most famous of all was Beyoncé, another purveyor of the two hand bump cradle for which Meghan has been so bizarrely chastised, who announced she was expecting for the first time in 2011 at the VMAs. Later, during an interview with Australia’s Sunday Night show, a blurry screenshot of her sitting down on a chair with her stomach 'deflated' was proof enough to convince Beyoncé bump truthers she was pulling a fast one.
By the time she was pregnant again, this time with twins Rumi and Sir Carter in 2017, she made no room for such rumours to arise: she would pose in a bra and underwear cradling her bump in front of a flower wall, covered in a lime green tulle veil and announce it via her Instagram. It was an f-you to haters done under the guise of art and clearly the work of a genius.
And anything Beyoncé can do, Kim Kardashian can do too. In 2013, while expecting her daughter North, the National Enquirer, always the trustiest of publications, reported the fact that her shape changed daily - as is what literally happens to a woman’s body during pregnancy - as evidence enough that her ‘pregnancy’ was a publicity stunt. The fact that she showed her sonograms and detailed her pregnancy-related illnesses on her reality show was clearly just a cover up. Kim may be many things, but for a woman who so clearly hated every second of being pregnant and whose vanity supersedes every other priority in her life, it’s hard to believe she’d put herself through that for nothing.
Some women simply don’t like to have their already changing body analysed publicly with incessant paparazzi pictures - like Jessica Biel in 2015 - who chose to adopt a lower profile during her pregnancy. And some women, like Georgia Penna (née Salpa), who has three children via surrogate, owe no explanation at all as to why they have pursued a non-traditional route towards motherhood, despite what a demanding public may think.
Earlier this week, Margot Robbie criticised the incessant interest in whether or not she’ll have babies, both in personal relationships and in interviews. “I got married, and the first question in almost every interview is, ‘Babies? When are you having one?’ I’m so angry that there’s this social contract, ”You’re married, now have a baby. Don’t presume. I’ll do what I’m going to do,” she told the Radio Times.
And she’s right. If we claim to be as much of an advanced, understanding civilization which prides itself on sensitivity, why is motherhood the last acceptable frontier to debate? Over the years, as conversation around pregnancy has become more honest, women who have adopted or endured a number of rounds of IVF, or had miscarriages or an abortion, or any other myriad problems which can go wrong during a pregnancy, have said that the relentless questioning about their family plans made it worse.
So, let’s start a belated New Year’s Resolution: no woman owes you an explanation. Fin.