Why we view two celebrity moms two entirely different ways.
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They are both famous celebrities. They are both new moms. They are both constantly covered by magazines and newspapers. Yet the recent media treatment of Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton—their pregnancies and transitions into motherhood—couldn’t be more different. And what it says about our views of race and class is more complicated than a reality-show episode or tabloid would ever lead us to believe.
The disparity begins where every pop-culture discussion about a new mom starts: with her figure. Kim is “being tortured by her body,” while Kate is “royally radiant!” Kate’s hardly doing anything to get that “stunningly slim post-baby body” back. But Kim finally had to get her doctor’s permission to “resume twice-daily workouts.”
Even while Kim was pregnant, highly stylized baby-bump shoots were postponed, according to In Touch, that totally trustworthy source of celebrity gossip, because Kim was “freaking out about her body.” The magazine quoted a source: “During a recent fashion shoot she burst into tears, saying she looked gross.” These days, however, Kate is even praised for her “post-baby bump.”
This chasm between Kate and Kim comes down to race and class, as much as Americans don’t like to acknowledge that we have class or race issues. Kate is the “good” girl, who has never put a wrong foot forward. She has never flaunted her bodily assets. Kate’s topless sunbathing resulted in a scandal—she’s practically a virginal princess, after all—but Kim gets treated as a bad girl because she uses her sexuality to make money and stay famous. Kate has the lean figure of a high-end couture model, but with warm, approachable girl-next-door good looks. She comes from good stock and married a friggin’ Prince. If she’s never been seen walking around looking frumpy or out of sorts, it’s because she has the advantage of hiding behind the Royal Industrial Complex. Every appearance is carefully orchestrated and planned, like grocery shopping or grabbing Starbucks on the run. No wonder she always looks perfect.
Kim, on the other hand, will never look “perfect.” As a woman with an ethnic background that gives her darker skin and thick curves, she has a body type that has been branded lustful by generations of Americans who have long sought the WASP ideal embodied by Kate. (Curvy women are almost always pigeonholed this way. Just look at Christina Hendricks, Sophia Vergara, and even supermodel Kate Upton, whose figures are constantly commented upon and who embody the bombshell stereotype.) Because of her curves, Kim can never look demure and elegant—she is walking sex.
But it’s not only body talk that varies between the two new moms. Sure, Kim’s hospital room at Cedar’s Sinai—which had a full-size bathtub, flat-screen TV, and living-room area—cost $3,000 a day. But Kate caught no guff for having even more luxurious accommodations. According to E! Online: “A hotel services team will cater to Kate’s dietary needs, and there’s a wine list in case any of her visitors fancy a drink (or they need to quickly procure champagne for a post-birth toast).” According to the mag, her suite cost $8,600 to start with plus another $1,560 a night.
In a highly scientific poll, Harris Interactive asked “Which Baby Will Be More Spoiled, Kim’s or Kate’s?” Unsurprisingly, the market research reported that more than half Americans say Kim’s baby will be more spoiled, compared to the 10 percent who single-out Kate’s son.
It’s particularly interesting when you think about the net worth of each couple. Combined, Kim and Kanye are worth a reported $130 million, and according to E! Online, baby Prince George is already a billionaire—in British pounds. Kanye and Kim might have posh houses in Los Angeles and jet set around the world with Birkin diaper bags, but Kate and her brood live in a palace. That joke about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth—for Prince George, it’s not far from the truth. So why do we consider Kim’s expenditures over-the-top, while Kate’s are expected and accepted? It comes down to class, not money.
Judgment has been part of our relationship with Kim from the beginning of her fame, since she entered the pop-culture lexicon because of a leaked sex tape. But whatever you want to say about them, the Kardashians, are self-made, an admirable element of their phenomenon that is often overlooked. Kim’s now-deceased father, Robert, was a well-known defense attorney, who grew up in Los Angeles and was educated entirely in Southern California. An Armenian-American, he was best known for being one of O.J. Simpson’s defense attorneys. The bulk of the Kardashian empire was built on Kim’s back. Literally. After her sex tape made her infamous, the family made lemonade out of lemons and monetized themselves as a brand.
As self-made millionaires, the Kardashians (and Kanye) commit crimes of excess often seen with new money. And they don’t benefit from an institution that’s thousands of years old to protect them from prying eyes, and keep them coddled and well fed. They don’t live in a cocoon. Though, we’d guess that if they did, they would still do a daily paparazzi perp walk to get attention.
But there’s one part of Kim and Kate’s story where press coverage is more equal: A Star magazine cover blared that the two new moms were “Alone With Their Babies,” having been abandoned by their men. The tabloids give both of them our sympathies, when they’re left behind to attend to mothering duties. Heartwarming.
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