Gwen & Jessica: Phone Moms
Do you let your kid play with your phone? I do, and it’s become so bad that last night he hid my iPhone in his toy box. He’s sent texts, has called people and erased apps, and gotten it so wet it had to be replaced. All my fault, I know. We are starting to institute a no electronics rule in the house after dinner, but seeing as we both, like, work in the real world, it’s a little difficult. Which is why phone companies market to moms, hard. I’ve read stats on moms and their phones and it’s bananas -- we are worse than 14-year-old kids.
So of course it was only a matter of time before celebrity moms started endorsing phones: Jessica Alba and Gwen Stefani for Windows Phone 8, two moms with two very, very different styles.
Gwen is on some swank tour bus writing lyrics, pulling up LAMB sketches and talking about life on the road. Then her phone rings, a picture of a panda and “HOME” pop up. She answers with a, “I miss you guys.” The message is clear: Gwen is a cool rock-star mom. The rock-star comes first.
Jessica Alba is sitting at a kitchen island, surrounded by sippy cups and a newspaper (I have an easier time believing Sarah Palin reads the newspaper). Her home is shabby chic (stylish, but not intimidating) and lived-in but not dirty. She uses her phone to make pancakes with berry compote (I hate compote!), keep up with her kids’ schedules with her “producing partner” Cash, and has a Kids’ Corner for them so they can play on her phone without deleting anything (sh-t do I need this). As The Honest Company logo pops us she tells how “working mom” is the hardest, most important job she’s ever had. This message is clear as well: Jessica is a mom and the mom part of her title comes first.
Is there anything wrong with being a mom first? No. A woman should be whatever she wants in motherhood and in life. It’s when “mom first” becomes a reactionary defense against having a career that it becomes divisive.
And now “mom first” is Jessica’s brand. She is literally using her uterus to sell phones, while petting your head and telling you it’s all an extension of her perfectly authentic life. This is why Jessica Alba doesn’t have the fanbase that could have sustained her movie career – she is contradictory and always has been, telling you that she’s a real actress who doesn’t need a script (her main acting gigs are now B-movies), that she’s not hot (remember this GQ piece) and that she’s forsaken a career to spend time with her kids, when she’s actually created a second career out of motherhood.
In 10 years, I have no doubt (pardon the pun) that Gwen will still be a rock star– she’s earned a status that won’t be overshadowed by her family (unless she wanted it to be).
As for Alba, what happens in 10 years when the cute toddlers are pimply, awkward pre-teens who aren’t so precious and camera-ready? There will always be celebrities who use their babies as fodder for attention, and in 10 years there will be another crop of mediocre actresses getting papped outside the juice bar. The public loves BABIES, but even the most hardcore kid-lover would find it hard to gush over a photo of a 12-year-old.
And if you think Jessica doesn’t care about any of it, trust me, she cares. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t be doing mommy/daughter photo shoots for Parenting magazine (the celebrity equivalent of putting your kids’ photos up on Facebook) or saying the most “terrifying” moment of parenthood was when she found Honor eating beads from her diaper. Oh but guess what, Jessica used that terror as an inspiration for The Honest Company, isn’t she just a supermom?
It’s easy to get moms to pay attention to you when your photo is in a magazine or on a website because it’s passive and requires nothing of them; convincing women to go on your website and subscribe to a monthly delivery of eco-friendly products is a hell of a lot harder.
If this eco-mom warrior persona doesn’t translate into success for The Honest Company, she’ll have spent her prime career years working on a brand that didn’t connect her to anything. Years from now, Jessica won’t be able to talk about diapers or late-night feedings, she’ll just have to be Jessica. That must scare her a bit.