Have you seen the new cover of Vanity Fair? Angelina Jolie, already commonly regarded as one of -- if not the -- most gorgeous women on earth, has hit a new level of other-worldliness. Huge, ocean-like eyes staring right at you. Impossibly pillowy red lips. Luminous skin. Absolutely heaving, twins-induced bosom.
Can she truly look this good? Is this the pregnancy glow I can hope to have (OK, maybe 1/80th of it) when I am with child?
Christina Aguilera seemed to have many of the same qualities when she posed nude and preggers for Marie Claire last November. Which was nothing new considering Britney Spears pulled a similar stunt in June of 2006 and that seemed pretty tame once Demi Moore broke the barrier back in 1991.
These, my friends, are the qualities imparted by a skilled Photoshop artist. It is not typical of a nine-months-pregnant body. They are no more real than Heidi Montag's wedding veil on the cover of this week's Us Weekly.
I don't have a problem with women posing while pregnant, or documenting their changing body in whatever way they choose (photos, belly casts, etc). This is a time for celebration, after all! But what's up with the obvious (and insane amount of) airbrushing that appears to have taken place? Angelina looks like a veritable blow-up doll on that VF cover -- all you need to do is fashion her mouth into a wide open "O."
As for Christina Aguilera... first of all, why so orange? Was she eating too many carrots? Methinks Mr. Photoshop got a bit overzealous with the color feature. Also, how on earth could her entire body be that ridiculously smooth and creamy, with nary a stray vein, stretch mark, wrinkle or even a beauty mark? Doesn't this present an unrealistic portrayal that could make everyday pregnant women feel badly about their own bods?
The whole sexualization-of-pregnancy thing has gone a wee bit too far. I mean, in this pic, Christina is sporting bangles and mile-high, fuschia-soled high heels (ironic considering she told the magazine [of performing], "There are so many things that could go wrong -- somebody could slip, somebody could fall, I could fall. There was no way... I was going to jeopardize my baby for my show.")
As my friend and fellow HuffPo blogger Charlotte put it:
"Please please explain to me why magazines insist on overtly sexualizing pregnant women lately. Do they think we don't know how babies are made and must be reminded? Are they just proponents of the having-sex-will-induce-labor theory? And more importantly, have they ever been a nine-months pregnant woman trying to have sex?? Trapeze artists go through less tricks, I tell you."
On being pregnant, Jolie says in the current VF issue:
"I love it. It makes me feel like a woman. It makes me feel that all the things about my body are suddenly there for a reason. It makes you feel round and supple, and to have a little life inside you is amazing. Also, I'm fortunate. I think some women have a different experience depending on their partner. I think that affects it. I happen to be with somebody who finds pregnancy very sexy. So that makes me feel very sexy."
I've never been pregnant myself but I've interviewed enough moms and seen enough friends struggle with their baby body image to believe her (and countless others) when she notes the incredible impact a spouse's attitude can have on the way you feel about your changing pre-delivery physique. And I'm fairly confident that if I'm one day rockin' Angie's genetic-lottery-of-a-bod, my husband will be attacking me 24-7 throughout the ninth months.
But the fact is, pregnancy doesn't always look like mannequin image on VF's cover, or like Christina Aguilera lying askew, thin all over save for her belly. (When writing my book, Locker Room Diaries, I wore an empathy belly (see pic here) for the pregnancy chapter to get a feel for being pregnant and how it affects your body image. Of course, this was a strap-on, so the image is very much the "basketball on two sticks" look. But as Alyssa, a reader at the Weighting Game blog, mentioned, real women often have much different looks when they're pregnant or have just delivered. We are inundated with pictures of celebrities donning skinny jeans on their way out of the maternity ward. But in real life, pregnancy looks more like this.
Here is a woman 25-weeks pregnant with twins -- just like Angie was a while back! -- but I can guarantee you we will not see any such pictures of her or her pregnant star counterparts in such state... and if we did, they'd be accompanied by mean-spirited, snaky comments.
Ask a mom -- ask your mom -- the tummy doesn't always snap back. Stretch marks happen. Loose skin happens. C-Section scars happen. And check out this woman's miraculous journey, photo-documented on www.thesahapeofamother.com
Of course, these images have a beauty of their own, but it is not one generally heralded by the media, which in turn makes real women feel like crap because they're still wearing maternity jeans five months after delivering.
In an October 2007 issue of Us Weekly, Trista Rehn, then a new-mom, said she was on a mission to lose the last of the 30 pounds she gained during pregnancy. "I'm definitely not pleased when I look in the mirror," the 5-foot-2 reality TV star, who at that point was sporting size 4 pants, weighed 116 pounds and had a three-month-old baby boy said.
Or, in real-world measurements, "when I have a waist with a circumference of a honeydew melon."
Which is exactly what the Angies/Halles/Nicoles of the celebrosphere - whether they mean to or not - make seem not only possible but rather easy.
Liv Tyler, when she was pregnant, said, "I've been working out since I was 14, and (being pregnant) was the first time in my life that I wasn't on a diet and didn't have that kind of pressure. I had time to not be obsess about myself and what I was eating, and enjoy my family." Nice. And honest.
Charlize Theron, who is not pregnant, said, "Getting pregnant doesn't excite me...I don't really want to look like a whale, you know?" Nice. And honest.