NEW YORK – More than ever, it pays to be pregnant in Hollywood. Jennifer Lopez, about to give birth to twins, is reportedly the latest A-lister to strike a deal worth millions for exclusive photos of her children.
And the incentive might not be purely financial: Such pacts can also protect celebs' privacy by thwarting the paparazzi.
Those involved in negotiations for Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony, confirmed that U.S. and Latin American rights were sold to People magazine and other international rights to OK! magazine.
Advertising Age reported on its Web site Monday that Lopez and Anthony were negotiating with People to be paid as much as $6 million. Representatives for both People and OK! declined to comment on the payments.
The trend toward featuring celeb babies on the covers of glossy magazines kicked into high gear in 2006 when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt allowed People to photograph their daughter Shiloh in exchange for a donation to charity. The magazine reportedly paid $4 million for the U.S. rights and London-based Hello! magazine obtained the British rights.
Celeb baby covers are big business for magazines' newsstand sales, those who broker the deals and the stars themselves.
Photos of a pregnant Halle Berry tottering in high heels or tabloid toddlers such as Suri Cruise, daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and Violet Affleck, daughter of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, are eye candy for consumers.
"Part of the reason that the demand is so huge — and everyone is so excited about it — is because it's such a nice antidote to all the other celebrity news that's going on at the moment," said Sarah Ivens, editor in chief of OK!
"There's nothing not to love about watching these woman blossom and their bodies change and then having babies. It's all just such fun, lovely, positive stuff, isn't it?" she said.
Danielle Friedland, who runs Celebrity Baby Blog, said the craving for celebrity news is fueled by the tabloid media.
"Celebrities always have children ... it's just that we're paying so much more attention to them right now," Friedland said. "The more that we see of them, the more we want."
Christina Aguilera debuted her newborn son, Max, on the cover of People last week for a reported $1.5 million.
Larry Birkhead, father of the late Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, landed an OK! cover with Dannielynn. Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn, also appeared on the cover of OK! when she announced her pregnancy.
OK! doesn't disclose the terms of its deals with celebs, but Web site TMZ.com reported that Jamie Lynn would be paid $1 million after her baby is born.
Pacts with magazines can be a way for celebs to protect their privacy.
Cruise and Holmes kept Suri out of the spotlight for nearly five months after her birth in April 2006. The shroud of mystery was so intense, people wondered if she existed.
In September, Vanity Fair flaunted the first shots of baby Cruise, warmly photographed by Annie Leibovitz. The couple weren't paid for the photos.
"When you hit the level of Tom and Katie and Suri, you can't shut it down," said Los Angeles-based publicist Howard Bragman. "It's pure economics. If you put those out in the world, those pictures, which they did, and they controlled which images were out there, then suddenly the monetary incentive for the paparazzi is taken away from them."
Sheryl Crow agreed to a photo shoot with her infant son last year after OK! offered to make a donation to the World Food Program, a United Nations organization that works to fight child hunger.
Julia Roberts showed a photo of her youngest son, Henry, during a recent appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Confirmation of a pregnancy can also be frustrating for celeb watchers. Lopez's lips were sealed even as she performed during her concert tour sporting chic maternity wear to disguise an obvious baby bump. She eventually confirmed it during a concert in November. Aguilera spilled the beans to the U.K. edition of Glamour magazine.
Recently, the blogosphere has been abuzz about Angelina Jolie, who arrived at last month's Screen Actors Guild Awards in a suspiciously roomy vintage gown. Tabloids quickly reported she was expecting twins with partner Brad Pitt, and a recent issue of Life and Style magazine pounced with the headline: "Angelina's Dangerous Pregnancy."
Jolie has refused to comment.
"A lot of normal people don't discuss their children or their pregnancy until they're a certain amount of months into it beyond the first trimester; they worry about miscarrying, they worry about telling people, jinxing (it)," Bragman said. "Maybe they're not sure they're going to keep the baby, whatever."
Friedland said tabloids can be too quick to declare someone pregnant.
"What happens with all these rumors is that suddenly everyone's a pregnancy expert nowadays, so they see that somebody has a little bit of a belly and automatically assume that that person is pregnant," she said. "Most women don't start to show, unless they're super super skinny, for at least four or five months. People are always saying, `Oh yeah, she's pregnant,' but maybe she just had a hamburger for lunch."
Francois Navarre, founder of paparazzi agency X17 said examining photo after photo for signs of a baby bump isn't necessarily mistake-free.
"Jennifer Garner was a false alarm," Navarre said. "She had too much (to eat) or something and we said she was pregnant with her second child and that was not true."
To prevent a possible lawsuit, Friedland said, editors should consider other possible pregnancy clues.
"With Angelina, it was like, `Here she is drinking water, she's wearing a flowy dress,'" said Friedland, recalling Jolie's appearance at the SAG Awards. "That in itself didn't scream `pregnant' to me. To me what screamed `pregnant' was (she was) very buxom — more buxom than usual."
Ivens said pregnancy makes celebrities like Jolie seem more accessible to the public. Bragman said having a child can even improve a tarnished celeb's image, as in the case of new mom Nicole Richie.
Young people often want to copy what the stars are doing.
"There's a lot of young people having kids now ... and they want to know what's going on," Bragman said. "The same way they did with their weddings, celebrities set the trends for what is your baby's room gonna look like and what stroller are you going to use and how quickly do you want to lose weight and what are the hot pregnancy clothes?"