Guest post by writer & TV personality Teresa Strasser - On BELLYITCH
When I use the word “exploitation,” I don’t mean in a white slavery, making Adidas in a Thailand factory kind of way. I mean it with the utmost admiration. As a new mother, I can tell you that my baby certainly exploits me, so the least he can do is to provide me with a fresh perspective and perhaps a slightly more marketable identity.
When I talk about celebrity baby exploiters, I do so with love, as these ladies are walking a trail blazed by such greats as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Irma Bombeck, Lucille Ball and Tori Spelling. In transforming motherhood from mundane, task-filled drudgery to career enhancer, these baby exploiters are getting just a little payback. As I like to say to my baby, “Kid, I made you a spleen and two eyebrows, now you can make me seem warm and relevant.”
The Top Baby Exploiters
Sarah Palin – Did she mention she was “just a hockey mom” from Wasilla? Oh, wait, that’s her WHOLE ACT. That’s why folks love her. Can you even imagine a childless Palin?
She exploded onto the mom scene from the remote wilderness of nearly Russia. With great persistence and verve, this Mama Grizzly has artfully used her kids to show the world her protectiveness, family values and homespun ways.
With four kids and even a grandchild to exploit, she trots them out with glee, even featuring them on her own reality show on TLC. She also “reflected” about her babies in the second of her two best-selling books. Brilliantly, she even converted her daughter’s turn on “Dancing With the Stars” into an opportunity to remind twenty million Americans of her fierce maternal loyalty, sitting in the front row, simultaneously beaming – and moving those books. Making this family a Russian doll of baby-using, daughter Bristol is already following in mom’s snowy tracks, hauling little Tripp out for dance rehearsals, or at least for the part where the camera could capture her interacting joyfully with her toddler, who most likely spent the rest of the day with his nanny. But I don’t say that to judge. I don’t judge, I marvel. I stand back in awe of Sarah and her ability to turn what could be an overwhelming, career-halting number of children – and an unexpected grandchild – into a multi-media empire.
Kourtney Kardashian – There used to be only Kim – and those other nameless, faceless Kardashian sisters no one cared about. Now, there is THE ONE WITH THE BABY. That’s right, step aside Kim, because MAMA Kardashian had a baby – and now she has a career. A reality show in Miami with sister Khloe and baby Mason? You bet. Life & Style covers? What time does the photographer arrive? The Kardashians exploit everything that can be exploited, and now they finally have an accessory to help Kourtney on her journey from the side of a milk carton to front and center with a milk bottle.
Sandra Bullock - She sort of unintentionally found that adopting a baby spun her sad tale of woe in a new direction. And she nailed it with an under-the-radar New Orleans adoption. Very PC, very not Jesse James.
Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett – What an incredible year for this former Hugh Hefner girlfriend and Playboy model. Before having little Hank Baskett, Jr., she gave herself a head start by marrying an NFL player (taking a page from Baby Exploiting Hall of Famer Elizabeth Hasselback). In 2010, she was on the cover of OK! Magazine more than Oprah was on the cover of O. Though I wasn’t exactly sure who she was, believe you me I couldn’t resist reading about her C-section, how she “got her body back,” how she “loves being a mom,” how she “balances work and motherhood” and anything else she does with that adorable little baby Hank. Why do I care about this woman, whose reality show “Kendra,” consists exclusively of baby exploiting? Because she was a hot chick and now she’s a mom and that’s pretty compelling. She’s even written a book, “Sliding into Home,” about her exploits. Can you name the other two Hefner girlfriends from “Girls Next Door”? Neither can anyone else, which is why Kendra makes this list, because she used not only the outside of her lady parts for fame, but also the inner ones. She made a baby, and made herself interesting to a whole new demographic of the magazine buying population. Honorable Mention
Carrie Fisher – And a special nomination to Carrie Fisher for working the having-been-the-exploited-child angle so expertly. Her book “Wishful Drinking,” which explores, among other things, being the child of superstars Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, was first adapted into a one-woman show before hitting Broadway and has just premiered as an HBO special. Exploiting her own exploitation has turned her into not just a successful humorist, but also a jolly, electro-shocked plump ball of WTF. God bless her.
The Exploiting Father of the Year
Michael Lohan – Let’s hear it for the dads. Where many saw Lindsay’s death spiral as shocking and sad, Michael saw opportunity. From tweets to interviews, he never shut up about Lindsay. Then, after he finally agreed to stop talking to the press about his own daughter, he gave his two cents on Miley Cyrus smoking a bong-load of Salvia. This guy is so skilled, he even has the power to exploit someone else’s kid.
Lifetime Achievement Award Cher – For her decades of exploitation, I must salute her. She made you love her every time her adorably awkward daughter Chastity toddled onto the stage of the “The Sonny and Cher Show,” thus making the duo seem more like affable, family-friendly goofballs and less like garish, freak-show hippies. Then Cher generated tons of media attention when cute, little Chastity became a dude named Chaz. “Cher the Mother” is a Cher we can understand and embrace, despite the extreme plastic surgery, the hooker outfits and her parade of peculiar boyfriend choices. We don’t truly know how she is as a mother but you sense that, no matter what role she plays on screen or in concert, she will always play a mom first, one who clearly and genuinely loves her children and accepts them for who they are, even if that “who” swaps out her bra and for a buzz cut. What all these women have taught us – or at least taught me – is there’s no better PR move on the planet than being a mom. And now that I know how spectacularly hard this job is, I think it’s only fair that our kids do their part by making us seem like slightly better people than we really are – and perhaps provide us with a bit of content. So, when I have no idea what to write about, I can look into the crib and say, “I got you, babe.”