Skip to main content

Perfectly pregnant celebs? Don't fall for it

By Peggy Drexler, Special to CNN
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
Chelsea Clinton's prediction that <a href='http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/17/chelsea-clinton-announces-shes-pregnant-with-first-child/?hpt=hp_t2' target='_blank'>this would be the Year of the Baby</a> came true! The only daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expecting her first child with husband Marc Mezvinsky. "I just hope I will be as good a mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me," Clinton said when she shared the big news. Chelsea Clinton's prediction that this would be the Year of the Baby came true! The only daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expecting her first child with husband Marc Mezvinsky. "I just hope I will be as good a mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me," Clinton said when she shared the big news.
HIDE CAPTION
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peggy Drexler: Kate Winslet on Vogue is pregnant but it's impossible to tell
  • Drexler: Pregnant celebs on magazine covers look flawless, skinny with a bump
  • Drexler: It says big is OK only when you're expecting and Photoshopped to perfection
  • In reality, she says, women change shape and don't look perfect, and that's fine

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler.

(CNN) -- Actress Kate Winslet appears on the cover of the November issue of Vogue, now on newsstands. She is radiant; glowing and fairly ageless in that way that, one has come to suspect, only professional photo editing can achieve, although Winslet has objected to digital manipulation of her image in the past.

Still, much ado has been made of the fact that Winslet is pregnant with her third child during the shoot -- but it's impossible to tell. On the cover, only her face is visible; inside, her body is shrouded in layers of thick fabrics. She looks gorgeous. But pregnant? Aside from the maternal wrapping of her hands around her nonexistent belly, not particularly.

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

The publishing industry has a history of putting pregnant celebrities on magazine covers and featuring them in fashion shoots. Naturally, these women are made to look flawlessly chic and as comfortable as ever in their skin, two characteristics not typically associated with the very physical nine months of carrying a child.

Demi Moore photographed by Annie Leibovitz was, of course, the pioneer of this particular genre of cover modeling when she posed naked -- aside from some giant jewels and an aloof expression -- for the cover of Vanity Fair back in 1991. It's an image that's inspired countless others, with magazines recreating the look since then with celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Jessica Simpson and Claudia Schiffer.

And the bodies keep getting better: At least Leibovitz, or Vanity Fair, let Moore retain a bit of realistic cellulite. But by the time we got to supermodel Miranda Kerr, naked and pregnant in W in 2010, it was official: Pregnancy is just regular life, albeit with a slightly rounded tummy.

And so it goes this month, both with Winslet and with Ivanka Trump, who is seen posing for the cover of FitPregnancy magazine in a dress with a hip-high slit looking both very pregnant and very trim. The cover elicited such raves as "Ivanka Trump is flawless!" And indeed she is, enviably, almost impossibly, so.

"Big is OK when you're expecting and Photoshopped to glowing perfection: after all, it's only temporary. Otherwise, forget about it."
Peggy Drexler

Putting aside the now-standard practice of electronically "perfecting" already gorgeous women for the purpose of selling magazines, there is something particularly dangerous about depicting pregnant women in such a way. One might argue that these magazines are celebrating a woman's natural shape during a beautiful time in her life. But is it a celebration? Or an exploitation?

The fact is that it's the rare instance in which a female celebrity larger than a size 4 is put on the cover of a magazine, especially a fashion magazine. When she is, it's often because the magazine is running a "special issue" -- or because she's expecting. Or both. In 2003, for example, Vogue put a pregnant Brooke Shields on the cover for its Shape issue. But pregnancy isn't a shape; not exactly. It is, however, to hear these magazines tell it -- or, rather, to see them depict it -- pretty damn glamorous.

The message: Big is OK when you're expecting and Photoshopped to glowing perfection: After all, it's only temporary. Otherwise, forget about it.

Consider Elle's current issue, which features six different cover celebrities as part of its annual "Women in Hollywood" theme. One is actress Melissa McCarthy, who looks gorgeous in an enormous Marina Rinaldi coat, as the other cover actresses are shown in form-fitting dresses or various states of undress. How come we don't get to see McCarthy's bumps the way we do Trump's?

Of course, women respond differently to pregnancy. Perhaps these female celebrities, who are indisputably genetically blessed, look no different posing pregnant than they do when they're not expecting. Perhaps, but not likely.

What's likely, though, is the message society is getting: that ease and beauty in pregnancy are the norm. By unequivocally depicting expectant women as beautiful and glowing and ready for a night out in a tight dress, these magazines set up unrealistic expectations for both pregnancy and motherhood, neither of which is easy, beautiful, or picture-perfect, at least not all the time.

Proof of shifting expectations has already emerged, and society has indeed come to expect a certain level of beauty from its pregnant stars. Though Kim Kardashian is generally admired for having a body that does not succumb to the Hollywood ideal, she received constant negative press throughout her pregnancy for her weight gain; for not being, at all times, "cover-worthy."

People, with the help of the media, seem to forget that pregnant women change shape, and that's a wonderful, natural thing that needn't be covered up or defended or cloaked in haute couture. It needn't always look perfect, because when is it, really?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peggy Drexler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT