The French tabloid that published photos of George and Amal Clooney‘s month-and-a-half-year-old twins that, according to George, were taken illegally, said in its defense that the pictures were simply “a response to a public demand.”
Hey, leave us out of this.
It’s doubtful that any real fans of the Clooneys would have approved of a plan to scale a fence, climb a tree and snap Alexander and Ella within the family’s Lake Como home, as George said these paparazzi did. “Make no mistake—the photographers, the agency and the magazine will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Clooney, easily the most famous face of the tony Italian enclave, promised in a statement obtained by E! News Friday. “The safety of our children demands it.”
The new parents, who otherwise are said to be happier than ever devoting themselves to their son and daughter right now, were surely aware that the first picture of their babies was going to be a hot commodity. But the realization that photographers had actually managed to get the goods in such a manner (the magazine denied that the Clooney family was in any danger from the publishing of their photos) must have still come as an unpleasant jolt.
The babies were born June 6 in London, not exactly off the grid but still far away from the beating heart of the paparazzi zone, in Los Angeles. And Lake Como—where George has been a part-time resident for over a decade—would have seemed like an even more promising place to avoid exactly this sort of thing.
But then again, while L.A. has its moments, paparazzi across the pond are notoriously invasive, and they apparently haven’t given up going to greater lengths than just waiting and following to get scoops. Because even if people find scaling a tree and climbing a fence distasteful under any circumstances, that isn’t to say they wouldn’t also pick up a copy of Voici and look at the pictures.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Tyra Banks was telling Seth Meyers on Late Night Thursday that she had only posted a full-face photo of her son York on Instagram recently because she had spied paparazzi snapping them leaving a restaurant on Father’s Day and she wanted to drain the value of those pictures.
As it turned out, she had done a perfectly good job hiding him in the first place.
“I’m like, ‘I’ve got to put this picture out before the paparazzi. I don’t want them to make money off our child and have the first picture.’ So, I posted the damn picture,” Banks recalled. “The next day, there ain’t no paparazzi pictures, ’cause mama knew how to hide that camera. She’s a supermodel for a reason! And so now his picture is out there and I didn’t need it to be!”
“But you have a beautiful baby,” offered Meyers, whose son Ashe makes frequent appearances on his own Instagram.
And these are just three of the different approaches celebs have taken to sharing photos of their kids with a larger audience.
Meyers said he had no intention of posting any pics of Ashe on social media and didn’t do so for more than a year. But then he tried it and…he liked it. “It was just like, ‘The world needs to see this little angel,'” he joked to Banks.
Tyra, meanwhile, kept the very fact that she was expecting via surrogate a complete secret until York was born in January 2016, and the first pic she shared of him that Valentine’s Day was taken from the side, so his full face wasn’t visible. Zoe Saldana went that route with her twins, regularly posting pics but at first only of their adorable little hands, the backs of their heads, etc. She has more recently ventured into side views, but has yet to go with a full-on, looking-into-the-camera pic.
Meanwhile, the Clooneys don’t do social media and…well, they’re the Clooneys. It’s either going to be a glossy magazine cover with all proceeds donated to charity or nothing.
They may have had some sort of idea about how they might introduce their little ones to the world down the road, but in the meantime they obviously just wanted to be left alone.
Meanwhile, though we’re not yet operating in a media landscape where to share or not to share is left up entirely to the discretion of the parents, there is no such thing as reasonable “public demand” for baby pictures taken by whatever means necessary.
Not that there isn’t any demand, though. The public does love to know more—and look at pictures. And so like a lot of social policy that seems so obvious now but wasn’t always that way, the evolution toward a more respectful zone with regard to how celebrities are photographed when they’re out with their children has been a process.
After years of regularly utilizing the supply provided by the ever-swarming shutterbugs, a few years back a number of outlets (including this one) stopped publishing photos taken of kids that aren’t sanctioned by their parents, taken in a setting where professional photographers are known to be chronicling the happenings, like at a red carpet premiere or a sporting event, or posted on the parents’ (or trusted friends’ or family members’) social media accounts.
Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry were among the famous parents who went to bat to help decrease the supply, calling for harsher repercussions for intrusive paparazzi in California after having too many photographers get in their kids’ faces. And in 2014 Kristen Bell and Dax Shepardput their foot down in what turned out to be a successful attempt at altering the demand.
“I’m telling you right now, we don’t want our daughter’s face anywhere ever until she decides, because I have the utmost respect for her,” Bell explained to Access Hollywood.
And while plenty of outlets disregarded Bell’s wishes and continued to run paparazzi pics of her with her daughters, the actress has stuck to her own promise. Last year the mother of two offered up a knowing photo of her younger child, Delta—a far-away shot of a small silhouette in the ocean that’s mostly Shepard.
Bell explained that, while she and Shephard have chosen (or at least accepted) a public life because they’re actors, daughters Lincoln and Delta have not. That’s a common refrain among the famous parents who’ve also opted not to do the baby-album thing on Instagram.
“I continue to kindly ask, Please don’t post/publish photos of our kids,” Ashton Kutcher tweeted July 17. “They haven’t chosen life in the public eye.” He added, “Yes we took them to a public place (we like sharing life with our kids) no that doesn’t mean we are ok with their photos being published.”
He and Mila Kunishave gone the no-shares route when it comes to their daughter Wyatt and son Dimitri, and Kunis herself doesn’t even do social media. By way of appeasing the curious when Wyatt, who’s now almost 3, was born, Kutcher posted a batch of eight baby photos on his blog and said one of them was Wyatt.
“Here’s your baby photo. Well, one of them is. Now can the helicopter please stop hovering over our house, there is a baby sleeping inside! And she’s super cute,” he promised.
Kutcher’s plea for more privacy comes in the wake of a number of paparazzi pictures of Wyatt having been published over the years anyway because, as he said, he and Kunis like to share life with their kids and go outside from time to time as a family. And since there are still buyers for paparazzi pics of the whole family, photographers have continued to take them.
Even Kate Middleton and Prince William have their critics who say they haven’t made Prince George and Princess Charlotte as visible as the people of the U.K. would prefer. However, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge know that endless photo opportunities are part of the job for them, they’re still trying to give their toddlers as normal a life as is humanly possible until the whole third-and-fourth-in-line-to-the-throne thing trumps normality.
Social media has helped celebrities manage the media coverage of their children, making it more difficult for paparazzi to be able to sell photos of their kids by basically handing out free pictures. Beyoncé, for instance, stopped the Internet in its tracks a couple weeks ago when she posted the first photo of twins Rumi and Sir Carter on Instagram, and Blue Ivy has been the real star of Mom’s various platforms for years.
And for those who don’t use social media, plenty of magazines are happy to be the place for proud famous parents to debut their babies.
Many, many A-list celebs have gone that route, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and Sandra Bullock—who, after introducing son Louis on the cover of People in 2010, opted to only show the back of daughter Laila‘s head when she made her debut in 2015.
And this isn’t to say that every paparazzi photo of a child that isn’t posed (some are posed, you know) was taken maliciously or that every celebrity despises the paparazzi all the time—some celebs don’t mind them so long as everyone behaves themselves.
But the famous do not owe their public (no matter how much fans might have shipped Mila and Ashton on That ’70s Show or how much they admire George and Amal) anything when it comes to sharing photos of their children.
Actors, artists, athletes, royals, etc. know that to ply their trade and be good at it usually involves more photographs and interest in their private lives than they might prefer if they could map out the perfect life (i.e. money, privilege, access and…that’s all, thank you). But that’s just them.
There is no such thing as being so famous that your babies turn into fair game.