Janice Min was recently humiliated when—at four months postpartum—her manicurist thought she was still pregnant. Min was so riled up that she penned a piece for the New York Times about how unrealistic, unfair, and unkind our attitudes about new mothers have become, expecting women to get back to their pre-baby bodies weeks, if not immediately, after giving birth. She's totally right, of course. But it's real rich coming from the woman who literally created and profited from the very "celebrity climate" she's lamenting. Ah, how the tables have turned.
Min just wants "still-pudgy moms struggling to find their way back" to their former physiques to get a break from these tabloid-fueled post-baby body standards that have not only institutionalized the notion of "boomerang bodies," but have also fostered a "trickle-down mean-girls effect." (She cites the internet bullying of new moms Bryce Dallas Howard, Aishwarya Rai, and Jessica Simpson as examples.)
And Min—who started at Us in 2002, and served as editor-in-chief 2003 to 2009—does acknowledge her accountability in this. But only to an extent:
I am partly to blame…As the editor of Us Weekly, covering the Suris and Shilohs of Hollywood for six years, I delivered what the young female audience wanted: cute moms and babies.
Min was always very upfront about how advantageous celebrity motherhood was for magazine sales. And her intuition paid off. With Min at the helm, Us Weekly's circulation went from 800,000 to 1.9 million. Ad revenue "soared," and Min earned a reported $2 million a year, including "incentives." With the success of Us, she helped establish the template that is today's Celebrity Tabloid.
But Min isn't just "partly to blame." She created this narrative. The birth of "baby bump" as a pop-culture idiom can be traced back to the 2002 catalog of Us Weekly, the year that Min began working for the magazine. She made it her business plan. But Min claims that back then, there was a disconnect between "real life" and "celebrities." She says:
[T]he Olympian efforts that star moms from Gwyneth Paltrow to Gisele Bündchen employed to get thin again seemed just Hollywood spectacle; their sideshow, not ours. Weight loss was female entertainment.
I am calling bullshit on that. Min's Us made it its business, week after week, to show readers that celebrities live real lives too, that their "sideshow" was no different than our own lives. The magazine is known for devoting an entire section to something called "Stars: They're just like us!" which is meant to humanize its famous subjects, who are pictured doing normal, everyday tasks. It's supposed to break down that barrier that separates their glamorous lives from our humdrum ones; we're meant to relate to them. But if they're "just like us," then also "we're just like them." If they go grocery shopping and take their kids to the zoo and pump gas and rent shitty movies — just like us! — then surely our girlish figures should bounce back from giving birth.
Back in 2009, Min, herself, even recognized this phenomenon.
The whole relationship dynamic between the general population and celebrity has morphed into a belief that there's very little separating you from being like them.
And she facilitated that! So while Min's point about laying off of new moms and their bodies is valid, it's also so fucking hypocritical. And I don't want to hear it. It's like an arsonist setting your house on fire, and then complaining about the smoke. She created this shitty environment. She doesn't get to whine about how it's now affecting her. We bought the magazines and ate it up, yes, but she decided what we were getting served. Min is not the one to tackle this subject, and if she must, anything less than a complete mea culpa is, frankly, unacceptable.
Oh, but maybe she's seen the error of her ways, and maybe she is really sorry and this article is how she's trying to work toward some kind of resolution of this complicated cycle of our obsession with celebrities that's like a snake eating its own tail, you say.
Um, no. She's releasing a fucking diet book. For new moms. Based on the methods of celebrity moms. How to Look Hot in a Minivan: A Real Woman's Guide to Losing Weight, Looking Great, and Dressing Chic in the Age of the Celebrity Mom.
In bookstores this September. I shit you not.
For Min, it sucks that someone mistook her FUPA as a "baby bump." For us, it's the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude.
Can a Mom Get a Break? [NYT]