Although it’s been a little over a year, Lea Michele’s wedding feels so fresh, doesn’t it? It’s like it was yesterday, perhaps because we get to keep living it over and over and over. And over. And over again.
PEOPLE has the scoop on a new development – Lea Michele is pregnant. Very interesting that this is how the announcement was made because it’s quite traditional. Most celebrities will turn to their own platform with this kind of news - even Beyoncé dropped a photoshoot to tell us about the twins. But at the time of writing, Lea has not confirmed the news on her social media. Is this a privacy issue? Likely not, as PEOPLE probably wouldn’t have run the story without an implicit OK from her team. Also, she doesn’t have to worry about getting papped since she’s seemingly self-isolating so there would be no rush. The other option is that this ties into the past (PEOPLE ran her wedding photos) or a future family photo shoot. It could be both, a long-term package deal. And again, it feels very old school.
By “old school” I of course mean the first decade of the 2000s, when everyone from Julia Roberts to Brad and Angelina to Jennifer Lopez to Nicole Richie and Joel Madden to Matthew McConaughey pulled in big money baby photos deals, usually in PEOPLE. But you didn’t have to be an A-lister to get baby’s first paycheque: Jamie Lynn Spears allegedly got a mill out of OK! It seems wild now, especially with the state print publishing is in, but this was a big enough phenomenon to earn a NYT thinkpiece. And remember how exciting it was when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes bucked the trend and went to Vanity Fair with Suri’s first pictures? Total power move. (Side note: it’s wild that there’s a whole generation of celebrity kids who were introduced to the world this way. When they inevitably cross paths, will Levi McConaughey and Harlow Madden laugh about their respective baby photo shoots?)
This new way of doing business created a shift in the celebrity ecosystem and motherhood became a tenet of female celebrity, which tied into the first waves of lifestyle brands (perfume, clothing lines, cookbooks). There came a time when playgrounds were as heavily papped as Hyde Lounge and with that, motherhood became part of the larger strategy in careers.
That trend continues today, but the terms have changed. Here’s an example of that: Chrissy Teigen can do a social media campaign for diapers with her kids, and we see it, we recognize it, we accept the machinations behind it. It doesn’t seem desperate or grubby and it’s really not even a point of analysis. On the other hand, if a celebrity gets a bout of bad press (like a DUI, which were also very prominent in celebrity culture in the early 2000s) and that celebrity posted some pristine family photos on Instagram, they would get called out on the contrived attempt at perfection. We are savvier but we are also more accepting of a lifestyle play. We accept the “family business” side of things.
Through this evolution, pay-for-play covers have fallen off. Today, it’s more likely that lower-tier tabloids will have a Teen Mom “exclusive” and coveted spots, like the ones Vogue has done with Serena Williams, Greta Gerwig and Cardi B., or Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn and baby Rani Rose on the cover of PEOPLE’s Most Beautiful issue, are prestige and not paid.
Where will Lea Michele fit on this spectrum? It might seem tacky to talk motherhood and money, but if we look at the early aughts to now, it’s undeniable that a baby can affect a celebrity’s marketability in the lifestyle sector, if they choose that route. (There are plenty, like Jessica Chastain and Kerry Washington, who don’t.)
Like most conversations around celebrities, this isn’t just about Lea Michele, but rather the specific set of circumstances for 30-something actresses with name recognition and some good TV under their belt. What happens if they turn away from such a competitive business, which they’ve likely devoted their entire adult life to, and focus on their personal life, but still have to make money on a consistent basis? It’s a question Busy Philipps really gets into in This Will Only Hurt A Little; the need to provide while managing new parenthood, specifically the impossible position of needing childcare to work but not being able to afford the kind of care that is required to start auditioning to get the work.
Busy tapped into new revenue as an Instagram trailblazer, particularly the sponsored ads and partnerships. But now, with everything going on, that too is shaky business. And some people are probably wondering if that goes away forever, what’s next? There could be another evolution in this part of the ecosystem coming, another way these women (who are sometimes moms and sometimes not) adapt to the demands of the market.
I’m curious to see how Lea sets this up, if only because her announcement is slightly different than the social media norm of right now. One thing I do know is that there will be baby showers for days, with spa dates and tea parties and a babymoon and pictures, so many pictures! I mean, who wouldn’t want to (safely) have a million parties in the next nine months? People are going to be desperate to celebrate and Lea Michele will be ready for us. Arbour Day? She’s ready. National Poetry Day? She’s ready. Babe Ruth Day? She’s ready. National Richter Scale Day? She’s ready! You know that group text you are on, the one with former coworkers that you don’t really keep up with, but you feel weird leaving because you don’t want to look rude? Lea Michele just became the most vocally pregnant person in that chat. She’s ready.