Photo of Mendes November 1: Flix Geva/AKM-GSI
Six weeks after giving birth, Eva Mendes reported to work at a photo shoot in Los Angeles. Why is this news? It was the first time the 40-year-old was photographed since welcoming her daughter, Esmeralda, with boyfriend Ryan Gosling – and Mendes was, of course, “lookin’ good,” “trimmer than ever” and basically just “amazing” for shedding her baby weight so fast.
“This is a branch of entertainment,” pop culture and media expert Bob Thompson tells Yahoo Parenting about the seemingly insatiable public appetite for photos of celebrities’ post-baby slimdowns. “The media follows the changing bodies of women as though it were an ongoing drama. It’s messed up in a lot of ways but many people find the soap opera fascinating.”
The post-natal bounce-back, says Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Pop Culture at Syracuse University, is an extension of coverage of celebrities’ changing looks on TV, in magazines and online. “Some people follow stars because they like to see what they’re wearing, or what hairstyle they have,” he says. “While others become gripped with the narrative of their lives and like to follow that story.”
Related: When Did Looking ‘Like a Mom’ Become an Insult?
Who’s dating who, the wedding stories and baby photo reveals in the news today mirror “the major points in a lot of humans lives,” he explains. “So it can be compelling to see ‘our’ story on a larger scale played out by famous people.”
Los Angeles image consultant Lori Ann Robinson has another take. She considers the difference between people “Just like Us,” and A-listers to be the thing that really pulls people in to post-baby body stories. “So many women struggle with getting the baby weight off,” she says. “So to see someone in the public eye get thin again in such a short amount of time and look fabulous, that’s something to strive for and will always be fascinating to us because it’s so out of the norm.”
Robinson – who says she once worked with an actress who was on the treadmill two days post baby to prep for her return to TV – acknowledges that the speedy slimdowns put a lot of pressure on new moms. But she says people have to remember that for stars, it’s their job to shrink. “They have personal trainers and a team in place to make sure she gets the weight off quickly because it’s essential to their career.”
Stylist Laurie Graham, another image consultant in L.A., blames social media for all the attention on these enviable “after” images. “We compare ourselves to each other so much online that it’s impossible to get away from stories like these,” she says. “The average Jane puts her best foot forward,” Graham notes of typical self-promotion on Instagram, Facebook and the like. “So when it comes to stars, whose job it is to look perfect, they feed the machine with an unattainable level of perfection.”
The truth, meanwhile, of how famous women slim with meal delivery diets, grueling workouts and stress, becomes a side story secondary to those eye-catching photos of the results.
It’s all a vicious cycle, says Thompson. You have the people interested in seeing these post-baby body pictures, the photographers who take the shots, the magazines who print them and the individuals who buy them all feeding into the cycle, he says: “There are a lot of fingerprints on the scene of this crime.”