Washington - It was quite a year for 25-year-old rap star Cardi B. She released her No. 1 debut album to rave reviews. She nearly broke the internet by revealing her pregnancy during a performance on Saturday Night Live. She landed an opening slot on Bruno Mars' upcoming world tour.
Then in July, two weeks after she gave birth to a baby girl, Cardi B made an unexpected announcement: She was dropping out of the fall tour. With a newborn, it was too much.
"I thought that after giving birth to my daughter that 6 weeks would be enough time for me to recover mentally and physically," she wrote on Instagram. "I also thought that I'd be able to bring her with me on tour, but I think I underestimated this whole mommy thing."
Supportive comments streamed in from fans, as well as from Mars ("Most important thing is you and your family's health") and others who were pleasantly surprised to see a celebrity - especially one at the top of her game - acknowledge the physical toll of childbirth and the difficulty of being a new mom.
"Feel like @iamcardib (and @serenawilliams) have done more of late to dispel the myths and break down barriers/unmentionables around working mothers than 100,000 momblogs have done in the past 5 years," journalist Marissa Moss tweeted.
This recent candor from Hollywood stars is a marked difference from how many celebs talked about pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood in the past. Years ago, a pregnant starlet might drop out of the spotlight for a while - only to reemerge in a magazine looking well-rested and snuggling with an angelic infant.
See various People magazine covers: Jennifer Lopez in 2008, resplendent in a floor-length gown with an infant nestled in each arm, above the headline "TWIN BLISS!"; Angelina Jolie in 2006, gazing adoringly at Brad Pitt, as baby Shiloh snoozes away; Julia Roberts, looking dewy and fresh-faced in 2005 as she cradles her twins.
Now fans are starting to see a different side of postpartum celebrities: Model Chrissy Teigen shares an Instagram story that features her stretch marks and confesses that she's "super insecure" about her body; actress Olivia Wilde posts an Instagram photo of her messy bun with the caption, "I call this hairstyle, 'keep the kid alive' "; tennis legend Serena Williams tweets about balancing work and her daughter: "She took her first steps . . . I was training and missed it. I cried."
The common denominator in all those examples, naturally, is social media. The advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat made stars realize that they could connect with the public on a deeper level about personal subjects - and that fans appreciated honesty about the less-than-glamorous aspects of their #blessed lives.
"Social media has been such a game changer. . . . Celebrities are speaking directly to the fan base. Once they started doing that, things just got a lot more real," said Kate Coyne, executive editor of People magazine. "One evolution of that concept has been celebrities sharing the realities of pregnancy, infertility, child-rearing, infancy, toddlerhood. It goes hand in hand with what social media is all about."
Lately, celebrities have also been spilling details about serious medical issues surrounding childbirth. In January, Williams told Vogue that she had a potentially fatal complication during labour, including blood clots in her lungs.
At first, she said, the medical staff didn't listen to her concerns when she said something was off. The story struck a chord and sparked a wider dialogue about maternal mortality rates, particularly for women of colour.
"The impact that Serena Williams had in sharing her story not being trusted in her own body . . . I don't think we can underestimate the impact of that," said Renée Ann Cramer, the author of Pregnant With the Stars: Watching and Wanting the Celebrity Baby Bump.
Several months later, Beyoncé revealed in a Vogue cover story that she had to undergo an emergency Caesarean section after being diagnosed with preeclampsia while pregnant with her twins. Williams has continued to talk about the ups and downs of motherhood.
These aren't easy subjects for many people, but the topics become a little less taboo whenever they become part of the mainstream conversation.The Washington Post