The Future of the Pregnant-Celebrity-Industrial Complex

Baby Bumps for Everyone!

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A couple weeks back when I saw this headline on The Cut -- New York Mag's fashion vertical -- I knew celebrity-journalism history was being made: "Kate Middleton to Officially Reveal Bump in Two Weeks".

Reading on, I learned that a royal spokesperson had just announced that on Feb. 19, Princess Kate will be visiting London's Hope House, a residential treatment center, as part of her charitable endeavors. The Cut's Charlotte Cowles noted that ever since Kate's pregnancy was revealed in December, "she's been careful to bundle up in puffy coats" when she's been out and about, "so we haven't gotten to see anything." But on the 19th, the duchess will be amidst photographers indoors and at the midpoint of her pregnancy, so Cowles expects that her royal bump will be plainly visible.

Credit: Illustration by Kelsey Dake

Let's linger over this for a moment. What we have here is speculation about the possibility that maybe a celebrity will be wearing a perhaps not-too-bulky outfit at an event that will allow the media to gaze upon the subtle distension of her famous belly and remark upon the fact that she is with child. (Stop the presses, y'all.)

But alas and alack! As it happened, the big "official" bump reveal was cruelly preempted last week by the publication of images of Kate and Prince William on holiday in Mustique. "Royal Fury as Italian Magazine Publishes New Photos of Baby Bump Kate Middleton in a Bikini" was how The Daily Beast, for one, covered the drama. The Beast says the weekly gossip rag Chi paid a tourist roughly $150,000 for 39 snapshots of Kate, Bump and Wills.

That, of course, is a steal. Because if there's one surefire way to sell magazines and rack up page views these days, it's with baby bumps -- and speculation about maybe-baby bumps. (Honestly, for some publications, even just a bit of starch bloat will do.) Celeb-pregnancy-related reporting has arguably become one of the most important subspecialties of modern-day journalism -- one that fuels a frightening proportion of the media economy.

The celebrity weeklies, for instance, would be nowhere without baby bumps. I was gripped with that realization recently while doing one of my periodic print-media purges. As I recycled the last of my late-2012 Us Weeklys and OKs and In Touches and Stars, I concluded that they largely function as essentially very specialized zoological journals that keenly observe and theorize about the procreative practices of members of the celebrity species.

Consider the Dec. 31 Us Weekly, with the coverline "We're Having a Baby!" (a beaming Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan were pictured). The cover a week earlier: "Raising a Royal Baby" (Kate Middleton pictured). The previous week's cover: "Baby at Last!" ("Kate Rushed to Hospital"). The cover the week before that: "OMG! She's Pregnant Again" (Jessica Simpson). And the cover before that: "A Baby for Christmas!" (Princess Kate was shown with Prince William).

And that was just Us Weekly in a single month.

I tend to keep a month or two of magazines lying around. And so in March or April I can look forward to tossing "Angelina: I'm Pregnant Again!" (Angelina Jolie on the cover of Star, Feb. 4), "I'm Taking Our Baby!" (Bethenny Frankel on the cover of Us Weekly, Feb. 11), "Getting Ready for Twins!" (Jennifer Aniston on the cover of OK, Jan. 28) and so on.

My feeling is that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Which is why I'm pleased to announce today that I'm working on launching a celebrity-pregnancies futures market -- a sort of electronic stock exchange that will focus on possible future media coverage of possibly pregnant famous people. It's in beta right now, with some details yet to be worked out, but basically the core unit of value in the exchange will be a speculative headline, which will allow publishers to pre-determine -- by gauging levels of social-media response -- the degree of public interest (and thus the media value) of any given future celebrity pregnancy. For example: "What Will Taylor Swift's Baby Bump Wear to the VMA's?" "Exclusive! Taylor Swift's Baby Bump to Wear Narciso Rodriguez to the VMA's." "Angelina Jolie's Baby Bump Signs Endorsement Deal With Louis Vuitton." And "Gwyneth Paltrow Shows Off Artisanal, Grass-Fed Baby Bump at Cannes."

I'll also be working on a children's book titled "Where Do Babies Come From?" It'll just be page after page of photos of Kate Middleton, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Simpson, etc. I'm pretty sure it'll be a bestseller.

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