Beyonce's 'Pregnancy:' How Baby Rumors Are Born


Photo by Instagram/Beyonce

By now, you’ve read that Beyonce maybe, isn’t, probably, might be, and definitely is pregnant. Rumors circulated on Sunday after the 33-year-old singer posted an Instagram photo showing herself buried in the sand with what appears to be a super-round stomach.

Photo aside, Beyonce has always made it clear that she plans to expand her family with husband Jay Z. During a 2013 interview with Good Morning America, she said, “I would like more children. I think my daughter needs some company.” And that same year she told GQ magazine"Giving birth made me realize the power of being a woman. I have so much more substance in my life." Further fueling Beyonce baby rumors are “sources” who keep fans updated through the tabloids. In November, an “insider” told OK magazine, “If all goes well, they’ll start trying for a baby before Christmas. She wants to be pregnant by spring.” And in December, another source confirmed Beyonce’s pregnancy to In Touch magazine: “She’s pregnant again! She’s been trying for so long, so she’s thrilled. And she’s dying for a boy this time!” (For whatever it’s worth, former “Destiny’s Child” member Michelle Williams went on “The View” on Monday and denied the rumors.)

Likewise, pregnancy rumors have always plagued Kate Middleton, even snowballing since she and husband Prince William confirmed their second pregnancy in September. Hello! magazine speculated that the royal couple was “expecting twins.” And in December, Hollywood Life claimed that Amal Clooney got pregnant on her honeymoon (because marrying George Clooney wasn’t exciting enough). Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Garner, and Rihanna have also received similar treatment.

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So how are baby rumors born? Usually with a photo, says Richard Ayoub, editor-in-chief of the celebrity website Rumor Fix. “There’s a tactic called ‘photo assumption,’ in which a story is spun from a single image,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. Examples: Celebs are photographed from angles that make their stomachs appear rounder, wearing loose clothing, or attending a party without an alcoholic drink in hand. Sometimes stars speak up (in February, Eva Mendes told Ellen DeGeneres that she avoided an airport security scan because of “creepy” radiation, not because she was pregnant) in order to squash rumors or buy time until they issue a baby announcement. Other times, a star’s silence generates more press. “With someone like Jessica Biel, who hasn’t confirmed or denied her pregnancy, the paparazzi chases her even more in the hopes of getting that exclusive shot,” explains Ayoub.


Photo by Corbis. Kate Middleton (definitely expecting twins)

But baby rumors can’t thrive on photos alone. Tabloids need to sell a storyline, much like a soap opera, to maintain public interest. Does anyone really believe that, 10 years after her divorce, Jennifer Aniston is pining to carry the baby of Angelina Jolie’s husband Brad Pitt? Maybe. It’s hard to resist a scandalous narrative that involves three of the most beautiful people on Earth. “And let’s not forget that some tabloid stories are true,” Ayoub notes. Last week, the National Enquirer broke the story of “60 Minutes” host Steve Kroft’s extramarital affair, prompting his confession; the magazine’s 2007 story that former presidential candidate John Edwards had fathered a child with pal Rielle Hunter was legit, too.

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Stories are also substantiated by “sources,” who are often paid to divulge information. “These people are usually not friends with the celebrity — maybe they attended the same party or are related to someone in the entourage — who have nothing to lose by talking,” says Ayoub, unlike those granted access to celebrities (housekeepers, makeup artists) who sign confidentiality agreements. Tabloids also protect themselves by administering lie detector tests to sources and vetting articles through experts adept at navigating legal loopholes, adds Ayoub. So when a tabloid cover screams, “Jennifer Aniston: Pregnant With Brad Pitt’s baby!” it could conceivably be true because someone overheard her saying it (or believed they did, at least).

And celebrities aren’t off the hook, either, since they depend on press to earn a living. In 2013, Kim Kardashian’s ex-boyfriend Nick Lachey told Details magazine that the reality star called reporters while the couple was on a date. “Let’s just say this: We went to a movie. No one followed us there. Somehow, mysteriously, when we left, there were 30 photographers waiting outside,” he said.

There’s also a deeply personal component to celebrity baby news. If Hollywood is a reflection of how we measure beauty, desirability, and success, it makes sense that we care about Halle Berry’s age-defying uterus, Kate Middleton’s post-baby body, and Blake Lively’s maternity style. If our favorite celeb makes a baby announcement, it could be a barometer by which we measure our own life milestones.

Who knows whether Beyonce is pregnant or is just teasing her fans. But one thing is clear: We’ll definitely hear all about it.