If a picture says a thousand words, try to imagine how many words a picture of a celeb's possible "baby bump" generates — it's enough to drive newsstand sales of a half-dozen weekly tabloid mags and drive the star crazy at the same time.
No wonder Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera kept mum, so to speak, for so long: Why bother to announce a pregnancy when their bodies (and friends like Roberto Cavalli and Paris Hilton) can do it for them? So when Lopez finally acknowledged, at a concert in Miami on Wednesday, what her fans have long suspected, and Aguilera did so in the new issue of Glamour UK, out Thursday, it raised a few questions — not the least of which was "Why now?"
"We didn't say, 'Christina, are you pregnant?' " Glamour UK editor Jo Elvin said. "The question that was posed, near the end of the interview, was, 'What's your New Year's resolution?' She ... whispered, 'That'll be about the time I enter into mommyhood.' That was her way of giving it up. We weren't expecting that quote from her."
Perhaps the singer finally felt comfortable, after all the speculation, to come clean. But usually when celebrities announce their pregnancies, they're not quite so far along that confirmation isn't really necessary anymore. Halle Berry announced hers when she was at three months. Nicole Richie announced hers when she was at the four-month mark. Gwen Stefani confirmed hers when she was also at four months. And the most public of them all, Katie Holmes wasn't even out of her first trimester when she and Tom Cruise announced they were expecting. With that level of disclosure, have we come to expect the expecting to tell us as soon as there's a bump at all?
"Is it their responsibility to tell people? I don't think so," said TMZ supervising producer Gillian Sheldon. "It's a question that people debate — if to tell, when to tell, how to tell — especially if it's a first-time pregnancy, and then people are a little more protective. Who knows what could go wrong? So you don't make grand announcements, because it's almost bad luck. But the alternative is to be holed up in your house for nine months."
"They have the right to do whatever the hell they want," said publicist Ken Sunshine, who's worked with Justin Timberlake, Leonardo DiCaprio, John Mayer and others. "If they want to share what is obviously something personal with the world, it's their business. And if they don't, that's their business too."
Especially because it might impact their business. In the new issue of Vanity Fair, Julia Roberts describes disclosing her pregnancy while shooting the upcoming film "Charlie Wilson's War." "I was like, 'Here I am, finally going to put on a bathing suit in a movie, and I'm almost four months pregnant,' " she told the magazine. "And people didn't know. I thought, 'I'm really going to be screwed here.' I wasn't showing that much. I just looked like I had a five-pound paunch, but you don't want to be in a movie in a bikini looking like that." So the day before they shot the scene, Roberts told director Mike Nichols she was pregnant, and then asked, "So, that bikini scene tomorrow. Can we not do that?"
Luckily, the filmmakers were able to work with Roberts — and her stomach cooperated with her by being the flattest it had been in three months, she said. But when pregnant stars are trying to get the role in the first place, or trying to stage a concert tour, the timing of a pregnancy announcement could affect casting and ticket sales — or so they worry.
"People would say, 'J. Lo's not going to deliver as much of a show,' because she's a dancer, she's a physical artist," Sheldon said. "But I saw her in L.A., and the girl was working it. She was terrific, pregnant or no. But putting her on the cover and saying she's pregnant, her career could be harmed."
"It could affect ticket sales," said In Touch senior news editor Ashley Dillahunty. "But I would think, if anything, it could help it. If someone's performing that you love like Jennifer Lopez, you're going to want to see her in person anyway, and if you know she's pregnant, that would be amazing, to see her glow like that."
In Touch broke the news of Lopez's pregnancy in September, before the singer kicked off her concert tour with husband Marc Anthony, but it wasn't until the first picture backed it up that "there was proof," Dillahunty said. "She's dressed all in blue onstage in concert, and her blouse flew up. We don't base everything on the picture, because not every celebrity is automatically pregnant. It could just be the shirt they're wearing or they had a big lunch. But there was lots of speculation about her being pregnant, probably more than any other celebrity, and inside sources backed it up."
And then there was Roberto Cavalli, who designed the loose-fitting outfits for Lopez's tour, and who confirmed the pregnancy to People magazine shortly afterward. "She requests something very special because she is waiting for the baby," he told the magazine. "It is so complicated because every week she is getting bigger."
"There are those like Jennifer Lopez who don't confirm the things in their lives, marriages, pregnancies, and are really private," said People special correspondent Julie Jordan. "Roberto Cavalli was comfortable enough to come to the magazine and share J. Lo's good news, and do for her what she wouldn't do for herself."
Like Escada announcing the news for Naomi Watts in February, or Paris Hilton for Christina Aguilera in September when she told her, in front of a crowd of VMA pre-partyers, "Congratulations to the most beautiful pregnant woman in the world. You're gorgeous."
"They're just well-wishing, but sometimes, the celebrity doesn't want them to," Dillahunty said. "Most of them do want to control when they announce it, because they're basically letting the whole world know, just like they want to have control over who has the first pictures of the baby. Because from the moment they announce it, there's a ton of other questions: 'How far along is it?' 'Is it a boy or girl?' 'Is it twins?' 'What's the nursery like?' And the list goes on."
What if the perceived bump isn't a baby bump at all? "It's the ultimate faux pas to ask someone, 'Omigosh, when are you due?!' and have them turn out not to be pregnant," Sheldon noted. And beyond being just plain rude, it can be damaging. Reese Witherspoon sued Star magazine last year for libel when the tab put her on the cover and said she was expecting her third child, claiming that she had been wearing empire-waist dresses and baggy clothing to hide it. "If someone's up for a movie role, and she's got to be in a bathing suit, they're going to think that they can't cast her," Sunshine pointed out.
Sometimes, the "proof" in the photos is just a bad angle or unflattering lighting, and sometimes, the rumors are just plain wrong. As Pink joked, "I've been pregnant for three years. I've had the longest pregnancy in the history of mankind."
"And what about guys, when they gain weight?" Sunshine said. "I was at a lunch with Ben Affleck, and we ate like there was no tomorrow, and no one was looking at Ben's and my 'bumps' afterwards."
Yes, men escape some of the scrutiny that comes with the baby-bump watch — which could just be normal (or embarrassing) weight gain. But the watch continues nonetheless, because "weddings, pregnancies and babies are big sellers," Jordan said. Part of the media's incentive is that pregnancy is a predictable news cycle. And the more predictable the celebs — especially those celebs dating other celebs, which lends themselves to cute monikers such as TomKat, Bennifer and Brangelina — the easier it is to follow the narrative.
"It's the world's longest-running, most engaging soap opera," Elvin said. "It's like a souped-up 'Days of Our Lives,' and this kind of gossip fills a void, in an artificial way, as we become more disconnected with each other. We don't even know our own neighbors, and the victims are the celebrities. The more famous people are, the more it's a sport for the public and media."