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Hip to Be Round
Maybe theres something in the water. Even the most casual pop-culture consumer has probably noticed that the latest must-have celebrity accessory is, apparently, a belly. Check out the July 10 issue of Star magazine. It features the Hollywood Bump Brigade with pictures of preggo Jennie Garth, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Sofia Coppola. Britney Spears channeled her inner-Demi Moore by posing naked with her bump on the cover of this months Harpers Bazaar. Angelina Jolie took it all to a whole new level by commandeering a coastal African country for her delivery.
Whats going on here? Are more stars having babies than ever beforeor does it just seem that way? Julia Beck, founder of Forty Weeks, a marketing company that studies expectant and new parents, says there has indeed been a bump in the number of visible bumps. The culture of pregnancy, she says, is undergoing something of a rebirth. What was once something to be endureda practically taboo means to an endhas become the end in itself. Its hip to be round.
Why is that?
I think what were looking at is a shift from pregnancy simply being a means to an endin other words, it was a 40-week obligation, there was a gestational period going at the end of which thats when the fun began. The exit strategy was literally a babys entry into the world. So we shifted.
When did that start?
The major shift was about five years ago. It became much more experiential. People began to see pregnancy as a major accomplishment and they really began to think about it as the moment itself. So you then began to see products that are answering that call.
Were certainly seeing a lot more celebrities promoting their pregnancies.
That's the open factor. If you look at what the movies stars did in the 50s, they went away to have babies very, very quietly.
Like it was something to be ashamed of?
Right, absolutely. So you flash forward to where we are now, its an amazing opportunity to show themselves and the true spectrum of who they are. Theyre very open about it. They certainly set trends with their pregnancies. I think they do a great deal towards opening up possibilities for Main Street moms because theyre really driving a whole different attitude.
They set trends like what?
First of all this whole notion of being very pleased with your pregnant self, this notion of finding ways to celebrate pregnancy by having very interestingly themed baby showers or very well-thought out nurseries or a higher standard of baby carriage.
Yeah, higher standard of baby carriage, but some of them go for $800 or more. It also gets to the edge of ridiculous.
It does get to the ridiculous. But at the same time its all about range of option and the one thing you cant argue with is more options. More women are able to really find what they want and parents are able to find the right parenting tools for themselves. Before we had a really, really narrow field. I have an 8-year-old and I couldnt decorate that nursery in anything that wasnt really typical duck and bunny look. But then people came out like Amy Coe and she started to infuse vintage-inspired fabrics into a nursery. More sophisticated, more elegant.
Was the Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover a tipping point?
I think of the Demi Moore cover as high art, or like fashion on the runway. Main Street moms werent ready for it yet, but culturally I guess we were ready to get touched by it a little. I think she was definitely out there feeling very beautiful, voluptuous, celebrating her curves. I think Cindy Crawford was even more of a pivotal player. She was out there in gorgeous leather maternity pants and she was so sexy when she was pregnant. She was consistently radiant, curvy and funny pregnant. She enjoyed her pregnancy; she talked about her pregnancy; she was on the Internet writing about her pregnancy and different products. She wasnt removed.
So with Britney Spears have we jumped the shark?
[Laughs.] I dont think weve jumped the shark. We cant choose which of our celebrities get pregnant. Celebrities show us a range of options that are out there. There are different versions of pregnancies. Theres Angelina Jolie who has a certain style. Then youve got Kate Hudson, who was one of the quintessential earth-mother pregnancies. There are all these different ranges.
And theres Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
Katie Holmes was a little bit of a managed pregnancy. You didnt get to see as much natural stuff. With many of these people you get to see this beautiful other side of somebody. It used to be weddings; we liked to see weddings. But those were such canned, precise moments. Motherhoods kind of dirty. Motherhoods got ickiness.
You mentioned Angelina Jolie. Its easy to have a beautiful pregnancy when you look like her.
I dont think anybody should be trying to mimic a celebrity all the time. Its really the concept of taking that moment, being present in it. Its more about seeing what the range of options are. Its more about saying 'am I more of a Kate-Hudson-mom type or a Reese-Witherspoon-straight-laced Southern girl kind of mom?' You see so many more variants than what you see in normal life.
And in the case of, say, Brooke Shields, it becomes less taboo to talk about things like post-partum depression.
You make a really, really salient point. Its not just the good stuff. Its the challenging stuff too.
Women are waiting more often now than they used to. Why are they waiting and how does it affect their lifestyle to suddenly become pregnant?
You take a woman who has accomplished great things in the career place. Shes used to having support personnel under her; she knows how to solve problems. Youre literally throwing her down on her back at the bottom of the learning curve. What that does is open a whole new industry which is the expert baby advice, because they are less likely to go with their intuition. That is one of the elements that is the most troublesome to me.
That there are more experts?
I dont mind experts. I mind that women arent willing to be a little more intuitive. That bothers me a lot.
Any sense of what the next big thing is going to be?
Im fixated on everyone else trying to pretend theyre
pregnantI call it pregnancy by association. Expectant fathers,
expectant grandparents, expectant siblings and expectant pets.
Theres products for everybody right now. There are diaper bags
just for dad. There are Im a Big Sister T-shirts.
The other trend that is here but growing by leaps and bounds is the
green baby. Certainly celebrities are embracing that trend, and, as
always, theyre the first. Theyve been doing organic baby
food on the West Coast for a while. I got a phone call from somebody
that said, I have a really amazing entrepreneurial idea.
Im going to come up with an organic baby-food mill.
Im like, We all have them. Its called a