Big may be beautiful these days, but plus-sized models shouldn’t get their hopes up just yet.
From Britney Spears’ racy Harper’s Bazaar cover to Angelina Jolie’s jaunt across Namibia, pregnant celebrities renowned for their lithe figures are stealing the spotlight on magazine covers and television screens as they bare their bulging baby bumps, immortalizing their temporary shapes.
And while the paparazzi delight in shooting photos of these stars from the waist up as they enter nail salons and movie premieres, the celebs themselves are choosing to pose in the buff as a personal memento of the nine-month experience.
“In Hollywood, people put so much emphasis on being really thin,” said Delaina Dixon, a staff writer for OK! Magazine. “This is a time when women can say, ‘Listen, our bodies are changing. We’re not ashamed to gain the weight. We want to have a healthy baby and that’s what we have to do. We want to show you that it’s OK.’”
Gwyneth Paltrow remained clothed for her 2004 W magazine cover, but her Apple of a bump was the center of attention. Famed London portraitist Lucian Freud painted a growing-with-child Kate Moss in 2002, and sold it last year for more than $7 million. Cindy Crawford stripped to show off her mother-to-be figure for a 1999 W spread.
But the trend really goes back to Demi Moore, who famously posed with a seven-month bump for the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. Spears’ Harper’s Bazaar bare-all was derided by some as a cheap imitation of the Moore spread.
Artists, moreover, seem eager to get in the game. Jolie reportedly sat in the nude for California painter Don Bachardy during each trimester of her pregnancy. And earlier this year, Connecticut-based artist Daniel Edwards unveiled a controversial life-size sculpture of Spears giving birth, which he said was inspired, in part, by Moore's Vanity Fair cover.
Although the pop princess did not cooperate with Edwards on the work, "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston," she did comment on it.
In a June interview with British Glamour, Spears says she was “dumbfounded” by the sculpture, which shows her giving birth to her first child on all fours in the middle of a bearskin rug.
“I think it’s the most hysterical thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” she told the magazine. “They can display it somewhere, but not in my beautiful home.”
Someone liked the work enough to purchase it and have it cast in bronze, Edwards said. It will go on view in Los Angeles in November.
“It’s unconventional beauty,” said Edwards, 41, who crafted his Spears sculpture using photographs. His other works include a death mask of baseball great Ted Williams.
“Pregnancy is kind of the thing that for many years women and men have kind of overlooked as a beautiful time in a woman’s life,” Edwards said. “I think people have come to realize the beauty of it.”
Capturing pregnancy in art is a relatively new phenomenon, says Penny Jolly, an art history professor at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
“That’s sort of a level of realism that doesn’t get emphasized,” she said, noting that once upon a time, a portrait's cost made portraits a once-in-a-lifetime affair.
That started to change in the 20th century, Jolly said. German artist Paula Modersohn-Becker painted herself pregnant to get over her own fear of having children; ironically, she died in childbirth. In 1971, Alice Neel made a painting of her pregnant daughter-in-law, realistic down to the linea nigra, the dark line that appears from the belly button to the pubic bone on some pregnant women.
While everyday women stash photographs of their growing bumps in dresser drawers, celebrities have the cash to immortalize themselves in paint or professional photographs.
Like other aspects of their careers, celebrities can control how they’ll be depicted, choosing an artist who can add luster to a blemished face or pizzazz to a stretch-marked tummy.
And there may be no better way for a celebrity to show off her social status — and make non-famous women feel good about their own pregnancies — than to let it all hang out on the cover of a glossy magazine.
“Celebrities want to show women that not only can they feel sexy, they can feel beautiful [during pregnancy]” Dixon said. “They should be proud of their bodies. They’re going through a change that brings about new life, and why shouldn’t you feel beautiful through that experience?”