Was the Fix In on People's Sexiest Man Choice?

People magazine exclusively broke the news that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lopez might be an item in September, after reporting that the pair had a romantic dinner at Per Se in New York.

The magazine fanned the relationship flames in October by publishing exclusive photographs of the stars on a Saturday afternoon jaunt.

Wednesday, they named Bradley Cooper their Sexiest Man Alive.

In April, they named Jennifer Lopez the most beautiful woman in the world.

Their two sexiest stars of 2011 in a relationship that People just happens to always have the inside track on?

Is something fishy going on?

“JLo and Bradley are obvious choices for most sexiest, but the added bonus of coupledom will not be lost on the editors and publicists of People magazine,” Sarah Ivens, the former Editor in Chief of OK! Magazine said about the thought process magazine editors use when deciding who to put on their covers, and what stories to run. “I always planned covers with the equation that one A-lister plus another A-lister makes three times the sales. The combo is more intriguing for the reader and this would have totally played a part in them both being named winners.”

Reps for Cooper, Lopez did not return calls for comment. A rep for People magazine called the claims that they might be playing matchmaker to boost sales “ridiculous,” and pointed out that they just ran a story about Lopez also dating her back-up dancer, Casper Smart.

But insiders say having both stars named as icons of sexiness the same year a magazine pins them together is par for the course in Hollywood. They say many decisions in a celebrity’s life are dictated by what adds the most value to their brands. Should X adopt a baby from Africa or Asia? Which market buys more movie tickets/music downloads? Should Y create a celebrity fragrance? Should X cheat on Y with Z?

"Celebrity hinges on the public's fascination with particular individuals. Publicists, agents, and tabloid journalists all economically benefit from the upholding of celebrity status - they all have a dog in the fight when it comes to generating and perpetuating celebrity,” explains Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, author of “Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity.” “The dynamic of propping up particular stars, even formally constructing the narrative by which the public invests in these stars, has been going on since the Hollywood studio system.”

Currid-Halkett said the teams behind Cooper and Lopez could be following the business model first laid down by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of teasing the public with a potential relationship before charging full steam ahead to become a tabloid and branding power house.

“When they became Brangelina it almost multiplied their celebrity status and branding potential by power laws. When A-list stars become couples, their star power is intoxicating to their fans,” Currid-Halkett said. “Thus, while the jury may still be out on whether Cooper and Lopez are involved, if the rumor became reality it would be a fantastic boon for entire celebrity industry and its ongoing efforts to translate stars into commodified brands.”

Jo Piazza is the author of Celebrity, Inc.