Pop stars now show off baby bumps

Singers who have been open about their pregnancy include (clockwise from top) Cardi B, Beyonce and Diana Ross.
Singers who have been open about their pregnancy include Cardi B.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Singers who have been open about their pregnancy include (clockwise from top) Cardi B, Beyonce and Diana Ross.
Singers who have been open about their pregnancy include Diana Ross.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Singers who have been open about their pregnancy include (clockwise from top) Cardi B, Beyonce and Diana Ross.
Singers who have been open about their pregnancy include Beyonce.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Singers in the past did not flaunt their pregnancies for fear that a baby would ruin their career

NEW YORK • Diana Ross is not the only artist singing about Baby Love, her hit in 1964.

When rapper Cardi B gave birth to daughter Kulture last month, she gushed online: "I'm in love and I feel like I'm melting."

But she did wilt from parenting duties, saying later she had "underestimated the whole mummy thing" and cancelling tour dates she had planned for six weeks post-partum.

It was refreshing to see a music superstar documenting her experience of motherhood so publicly.

Indeed, a more positive, accepting attitude has been brewing for a while. In 2011, Beyonce famously announced her pregnancy at the MTV Video Music awards.

Last year, a floral, veiled image of her kneeling while pregnant with twins received the highest number of Instagram "likes" of the year.

But celebrations of pregnancy in pop in the 20th century were scant.

In the 1970s and 1980s, most pop stars were male, though there were a couple of visible examples.

In 1972, Diana Ross was photographed pregnant with her daughter and, in 1976, performed Baby Love while heavily pregnant.

In 1988, Neneh Cherry sang in the Top Of The Pops show while eight months' pregnant.

Bumps started to appear more regularly in popular culture in the 1990s. Demi Moore's cover for Vanity Fair in 1991 - naked and heavily pregnant - was the starting gun.

Many were incensed - some newsstands refused to stock the magazine - which suggests that, at the time, the image of the female pregnant body was still taboo.

Regardless of complaints, high-profile models and actors posed pregnant for magazine covers in the ensuing decades.

Apart from a few outliers, it took longer for pregnancy to appear in pop. Even in the early 2000s, there was a sense that pop still required a confinement period for its pregnant denizens.

"When we did the Music video, it was a weird time. (Madonna) was pregnant and we didn't want her to look pregnant - so we had to work around that," said the video's director, Jonas Akerlund, years later.

By the mid-2000s, tabloid interest in the pregnant body of singer Britney Spears was comprehensive.

Why did pop keep pregnancy hidden? In a sexually expressive industry, historically run by men, pregnancy did not quite work.

"Back then, women had to be fit, they had to be sexy," said Emma-Lee Moss, a musician who performs under the name Emmy The Great.

Perhaps fans do not want to think of the artists they admire "shopping for diapers", said Rebekka Karijord, whose 2017 album Mother Tongue tracked her first pregnancy and the premature arrival of her daughter.

"Artists, and especially young female ones in pop music, are often supposed to be a blank canvas for their fans' projections, longings and dreams. Available and untaken."

Another reason for pop stars keeping pregnancies hidden in the 1990s and 2000s was the worry that a baby could ruin a career.

"Attitudes were really bad back then," said Emmy The Great, mentioning a lyric in To Zion (1998) by Lauryn Hill, in which she writes about the advice given to her on finding out she was pregnant. "Look at your career they said/ Lauryn, baby, use your head."

The shift in the past few years is part of a wider change in interpersonal attitudes. Pop stars use social media to talk directly to fans about their lives, encouraged and emboldened by fourth-wave feminism and the #MeToo movement.

Karijord believes that, while women have permission to be more multifaceted in popular culture these days, "we still have a long way to go", and raises the absence of stories about male parenting in pop.

"I believe this gap has its roots in patriarchy and it's a shame because pregnancy and parenthood is a huge, existential part of life for many of us," she noted.

"And genuine, interesting art has to be allowed to reflect our life - for men and women. Just like falling in love. Which there are a million songs about."

GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2018, with the headline 'Pop stars now show off baby bumps'. Print Edition | Subscribe