This week we saw the first pictures of Oscar winner Charlize Theron with her son, Jackson, since she adopted him back in March. The images of the blond actress with a black baby are already reigniting a conversation about transracial adoption, what really motivates it and its impact on kids. All debates aside, we know one thing for sure: When it comes to celebrities, this phenomenon is anything but rare. For these Hollywood types and other public figures, the desire for children transcended color as well as any concerns about public scrutiny.
Charlize Theron is from South Africa — which, years after the end of apartheid, is still not exactly known for being a hotspot of racial harmony — but you wouldn't know that to hear her talk about adopted African-American son Jackson. In a May interview with British Vogue, the actress called her "incredible" little boy "the coolest kid ever."
If making $10,000 a night as a DJ is any measure of success, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's adopted son, Connor, seems to be pretty well-adjusted despite whatever challenges may be associated with being the only black one in a celebrity family with divorced parents and a controversial religion.
Madonna's adopted children, Mercy James and David Banda, are both from Malawi, where the singer has done a great deal of philanthropic work. But Mercy's biological family doesn't see her new superstar mom as a savior — they reportedly say that they never intended to give up their child permanently.
If white celebrities adopting black kids is, in fact, a trend, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw might have been partly responsible for getting it started way back in the 1980s. Their African-American son, Theo, is now in his 20s. One of seven kids in the family, he graduated from Yale University in 2010. His little sister, Mikaela George, has looked right at home when hitting the red carpet with her dad in recent years.
The Weeds star adopted her daughter, Caroline "Ash" Aberash, from Ethiopia back in 2007. "I can't adopt 500 children, but I did adopt this one beautiful little girl, and it was an amazing thing," the actress said in an interview with the New Yorker. Most black parents probably would have refrained from nicknaming their child something so close to "ashy," but the privileges that come with having a celebrity mom probably make up for any teasing.
After her split with Jesse James, this actress bounced back into the public eye with a great attitude and a very cute adopted baby, Louis, who happened to be black. In retrospect, did she drop a hint while accepting her Oscar for The Blind Side, when she said that the movie, for her, was about "moms that take care of the babies and the children, no matter where they come from"?
After the Law & Order: SVU actress and her husband, Peter Hermann, adopted daughter Amaya Josephine, she told People magazine, "We talked a lot about mixed-race adoptions, and we are very excited that we are now a multiracial family. We’re just so happy she’s here."
The comedian, who began fostering children in the early 1990s, is now a mother to Toshia, Allison and Thomas E. She struggled to uphold her responsibility as a parent at one time, but the difficulties had nothing do with racial differences, and everything to do with a serious drinking problem, which she has since discussed publicly.
The poster family for interracial and international adoption, this diverse brood includes Maddox Chivan (born in Cambodia), 10; Pax Thien, 7 (born in Vietnam); and Zahara Marley Jolie-Pitt, 6 (born in Ethiopia). And there just might be a lot of other kids out there whose new families are the result of their example. "I think you could draw a straight line from Angelina Jolie's adoption to the increase in Ethiopian adoptions," one expert told ABC News.
1920s star Josephine Baker made a conscious effort to combat racism by adopting 12 children of various ethnic backgrounds from around the world. While the New York Times referred to her as a "Negro wench," she called the kids her "rainbow tribe" and took them with her around the country to prove that "children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers."
Her character on Sex and the City adopted an Asian child — in real life, Kristin Davis is mother to a black baby girl. “I was nervous about whether it would work out,” she told the Post Chronicle. "Then, when Gemma came to my house, she was so tiny and precious that I was nervous I would hurt her. It is an amazing thing to be responsible for a tiny baby, and I just wanted her to have the best care and all the love possible."
The actress told People magazine that she changed her mind about adopting a baby from Africa during a visit there. "I felt the people I met wanted me to help them sustain their lives in their own country," she said. Back in the States, she adopted daughter Olivia Luna and says it doesn't make a difference to her that her child is black. "I had no preference; I felt we belonged together," she said.
This Academy Award-winning actor, who has had plenty of romantic relationships with black women, adopted Diahnne Abbott's daughter Drena De Niro after he married her mom. He also has several of his own biological children.
Forget the whole "colorblind" thing — Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness say their adoption of son Oscar Maximillian in 2000 and daughter Ava Eliot was a "deliberate" decision to adopt mixed-race children. Jackman says that when they heard that these kids were hard to place, it was a "no-brainer."
The actress didn't make a big deal about it to the media, so she's not the first transracially adopting celeb to come to mind for most people — but in 1993 she and her husband, TV producer and screenwriter David E. Kelley, brought home African-American baby girl Claudia Rose.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware never specifically said that his adopted daughter, Marley, was white, but the appearance of such an unusual arrangement — based on the baby's photos — got a lot of people talking when he and his wife, Taniqua, brought her home in 2008 after three failed pregnancies.