Skip to main content

Perfectly pregnant celebs? Don't fall for it

By Peggy Drexler, Special to CNN
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
On Friday, April 11, CNN's Kate Bolduan started the "New Day" with some big news: <a href='http://newday.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/11/breaking-news-kate-bolduan-is-pregnant/' target='_blank'>She's expecting her first child</a> with her husband, Michael Gershenson. The couple, who wed in 2010, are preparing to welcome their bundle of joy in October. See which other stars are growing their families: On Friday, April 11, CNN's Kate Bolduan started the "New Day" with some big news: She's expecting her first child with her husband, Michael Gershenson. The couple, who wed in 2010, are preparing to welcome their bundle of joy in October. See which other stars are growing their families:
HIDE CAPTION
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
Oh baby! Stars who are expecting in 2014
<<
<
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
>
>>
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
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1146 GMT (1946 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT