Kerry Washington did something shocking a couple of weeks ago: She reached one of life’s major milestones—giving birth to her beautiful baby girl—but she didn’t publicize it.
She didn’t tweet, Instagram or Facebook it. She didn’t leak it to People magazine. And somehow, in our social media-saturated age, the Scandal star decided that she didn’t need to broadcast this information to millions of nosy people who don’t know her.
It shows she’s one of the classiest and most refreshing celebrities walking the planet today. Not only is she a terrific role model for little girls growing up in Generation Selfie—who are bombarded endlessly with the message that tweeting topless photos of themselves is preferable to not being mentioned on Twitter at all—but she’s also a great role model for other celebrities, some of whom I’m hoping will take cues from her.
Though I’m not holding my breath.
There was a time when celebrities left something to the imagination. To be clear, there was a time when celebrities had little choice in doing so. Studios not only helped stars hide major secrets but often required them to do so. Hollywood legend Rita Hayworth’s Latina identity was obscured in the studio’s quest to turn her into the all-American pinup. The child born out of wedlock to actress Loretta Young and matinee idol Clark Gable was hidden for decades, for fear that disclosure would demolish Young’s girl-next-door image. And countless A-list stars from Hollywood’s golden age had their names changed.
As the old-school Hollywood system crumbled, the wall between celebrities and their audiences did in many ways, too. But in the era before the Internet and social media, there was still some distance between stars and fans. Joan Rivers could tell People about her plastic surgery, but there wasn’t a medium yet available where she, or any other celebrity, could live-tweet a procedure. Thank goodness.
But we live in an age in which we act as if something didn’t happen if there’s no video proof. Hence the expressions “Video or it didn’t happen” and “Pics or it didn’t happen.”
Although those aspiring to fame are some of the worst offenders, leaking sex tapes in hopes of becoming infamous, if not famous, celebs trying to maintain their fame can be just as pathetic. Stars whose names regularly appear in the headlines sometimes still seem incapable of doing anything without documenting their every move, presumably in order to ensure that the world doesn’t forget about them in the two days they haven’t been featured on a magazine cover.
While it’s fair to say that the Kardashians are desperate fame-mongers who one day will most likely tweet photos of themselves clad in bikinis as senior citizens—and will likely have reality-TV cameras follow them into their nursing homes because they have no other talent propping up their fame—other celebrities who you would think shouldn’t have to resort to such measures do.
Beyoncé once seemed confident enough in the reach of her fame to go the Kerry Washington route—keeping details and photos of her own wedding private, and inspiring admiration from many of us for doing so—but it seems hard to imagine that the Beyoncé of today would choose to do the same.