As if the Octomom hadn’t already spent way too much time occupying center stage in the national discourse, now we have a new entry in the self-absorption sweepstakes: the mom-of-14, posing on the cover of Star magazine, showing off her bikini-clad, post-multiple-babies bod. Now, one could spend a good deal of time parsing how, in a year’s time, a woman can get from here:
… without some serious surgical intervention. The Octomom—aka Nadya Suleman—swears that her body bounced back with just diet and exercise: "I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it on my own, naturally,” she told Star. “My friends call me Rubber Band because I always snapped back so quickly after my other kids!" Suffice it to say that she strains credulity with her claims.
But never mind Suleman’s apparent obfuscation about the manner in which she obtained her miraculously toned and taut physique. There’s something else going on here. Call it the Celeb Baby Bump Narrative. First, you’ve got celeb mags breathlessly speculating about the contents of celebrity uteri. Celebrities who don’t breed on cue—like Jennifer Aniston or Beyoncé—are put in stock and whipped in the blogosphere. Bossip, which appears to be on a peculiar mission to get Bey Bey knocked up, posted this little missive recently: “Beyoncé Lets A Crowd of Men Grab All Over Her Body… Admits To Not Wanting To Be A Mom Anytime Soon.” The accompanying photo? A picture of Beyoncé, caught unawares in a car, her skirt hiked up, the camera homing in on her crotch. Bad Beyoncé!
Once a celebrity has acquired the baby bump, the narrative shifts. There is the obligatory picture of the newly spawned—either acquired by paparazzi or via “exclusives” to People, Vanity or Us Weekly. And then, within days, the chatter begins over when—and how—the new mom is going to get rid of the evidence of having ever had a bump. And if it’s been a couple of weeks since delivery and those pesky signs of pregnancy are still on display, no worries! Photoshop to the rescue! Kourtney Kardashian, she of the overhyped sisterly trio, found herself and her newborn plastered on the cover of OK! with the headlines, “Kourtney’s Body After Baby: Exclusive.” Too bad it was a fake. “They doctored and Photoshopped my body to make it look like I have already lost all the weight, which I have not,” Kardashian, who maintains that she never spoke with OK!, told Women’s Wear Daily. (Not that Kardashian is shy about altering her physique in more permanent ways. She’s admitted to having had breast augmentation. Prompting the Plastic Surgery Channel to pose the question: “Will she remove her implants when it’s time for breast feeding?”)
These days, it’s all about beauty by any means necessary. We’ve become a nation of cyborgs, having taken the can-do spirit of American self-reinvention to ridiculous heights, with millions upon millions of us augmenting and injecting and slicing and dicing until we look like reconstructed freaks. (An antidote for the body dysmorphically obsessed contemplating a complete overhaul: This picture of Jocelyn “The Catwoman” Wildenstein.”) These days, possessing one’s original body parts is so 20th century. And if you happen to collect a paycheck from Hollywood, heaven help those, like Meryl Streep, who have the temerity to face the world au natural. Then you get to have Sharon Stone (who swears she’s untouched by the scalpel) use colorful metaphors to describe your face as “an unmade bed.”
Or, you could go the route of 23-year-old Heidi Montag, who, as a calculated career move, goes public with her 10 plastic surgeries, declaring, “My main message is that beauty comes from within.” Within what? Within her DDD cup implants? Montag wants to spread the inner beauty gospel: This week, she announced on Nightline that she’s giving her mother plastic surgery for Mother’s Day. Aw, how sweet. It’s a safe bet that when Montag gives birth, she’ll be back at it; she’ll be doing yet another People cover, boasting how she got that post-baby bod.
Teresa Wiltz is The Root’s senior culture writer. Follow her on Twitter.