This week, Gucci announced that Jennifer Lopez and her children, Max and Emme, were going to be the faces of the brand’s new kids’ line. While it’s nothing new for celebrities to include their kids in magazine spreads or other photoshoots, it’s interesting that this announcement came on the heels of Nicole Richie’s plea to the media to stop taking paparazzi photos of her children. While Lopez and Richie are two different people with their own approaches to childrearing, I think this brings up some interesting questions about celebrity kids and their media presence.
Richie is more famous now for being a parent than for being on TV or writing books. She even has a kids’ clothing line now (it’s called Winter Kate, which are her daughter’s two middle names), further cementing her status as “famous mom.” Even though she’s not outright pasting her kids’ pictures on her sweaters, she is leveraging the fact that she and her famous boyfriend have children to sell and promote her clothing line. It’s indirect, but it’s why she has a line and continues to earn money. While Richie makes a fuss about paparazzi taking pictures of her kids, when those pictures run in magazines it helps raise Richie’s profile and reminds consumers that she’s a mom and her kids wear cute clothes that they can buy for their own children. Is it any better or worse than what Lopez is doing, which is outright using her children to bolster her own career, bring in income, and get more famous? Now that celebrity “bump watches” are a whole industry in their own right, celebrities who might have once slid into irrelevancy can turn their children into another source of fame and income. Just take Billy Ray Cyrus as a case study. After his one big hit fizzled, he lounged around in semi-obscurity doing TV shows on the Pax network until he was able to reach a new generation of fans thanks to his daughter Miley’s success. Thanks to the increasing number of celebrity glossies, tabloids, and websites that pay for first-look pictures of celebrities’ kids or birthday parties, having a baby isn’t just a way to grow a family – it’s a way to profit.
For many celebrities, having kids is as much a business decision as a personal one. I don’t doubt that many of these celebrities love their children, but in the meantime, it couldn’t hurt to have your kid make a music video, ‘design’ a line of sunglasses, or write kids’ books and start earning their keep around the house. As much as Richie’s plea for paparazzi not to take pictures of her children is well-intentioned, it can only seem dubious when her kids’ existence is what keeps her relevant. I agree with her that young kids shouldn’t be exploited by photographers who are out to make a buck – but is it okay when they’re exploited by Mom and Dad in order to bring in cash and help keep the family famous?