Over the weekend, in what was meant to appear as a grand gesture of love for her husband, Kylie Jenner rented out a massive billboard in Los Angeles's West Hollywood neighborhood to wish Travis Scott a happy birthday.
The billboard featured a gigantic black and white image of the couple's 14-month-old daughter, Stormi, alongside another photo of Jenner seductively posing with the child. "Happy birthday daddy," the billboard read. While Scott's birthday wasn't until Tuesday, Jenner continued to celebrate her husband's big day through the weekend. An Avengers party was thrown in his honor, and Jenner made sure to post a cute photo of the cake, which had little figurines of the family customized to look like superheroes. Then, following the premiere of Endgame last Friday, the family dressed up in bright costumes, with Stormi getting her own standalone Instagram post as a miniature Thor.
It's all but impossible to escape the media frenzy that surrounds celebrity babies. Beyoncé broke the internet when she announced that she was pregnant with twins in 2017 with an over-the-top pregnancy photo on Instagram that became the app's most liked photo of 2017. In what was almost definitely an ad for the Clearblue pregnancy kit, Nickelodeon star Daniella Monet announced she was pregnant in a photo with husband Andrew Gardner holding up a test that read a positive result. Kelly Rowland posted a picture of tiny Air Jordans next to Big Air Jordans, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum posted a "cryptic" photo of three pink ballerina tutu's on Instagram, and let's not forget Kim Kardashian announcing her pregnancy with both North and Chicago West on her scripted "reality" tv show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Meanwhile, DJ Khaled's exploitation of his son Ashad continues to make headlines. From curating an Instagram account for the toddler (which currently has 1.9 million followers), to putting him on the cover of Paper Magazine and bringing him in front of the camera at almost every available opportunity, Khaled's capitalization on his son has led to a running line of hilarious memes, whose overlying narrative is Ashad's annoyance and borderline hatred of his father. Khaled's new album is also set to be called Father of Ashad, and he lists his son as an "executive producer." Kylie Jenner, meanwhile, took a more "subtle" approach for her announcement, and waited until Stormi had been born before dropping a long, highly-edited and melodramatic "dedication video."
Pop culture's obsession with the children of celebrities has been a phenomenon for years, but more often than not leads to grave consequences for the famous children themselves. For example, Michael Jackson's eldest daughter recently entered rehab to get a grip on her "emotional and physical wellbeing." On the other side of the spectrum, children who become famous in their own right at young age suffer in the spotlight equally as much, if not more. Justin Bieber and Amanda Bynes suffered mental breakdowns, the former recently taking a hiatus from music to "[focus] on some of his deep-rooted issues." When celebrities promote their pregnancies and children for publicity, it calls into question whether the child's wellbeing is the priority. Time and again the public pities and shakes their head at the number of child stars and children of stars that end up spinning off, yet it's nearly impossible for a child to develop their own identity when that identity is tied into public perception of who they should be.
Even so, there are still plenty of amazing parents who acknowledge the risk of raising a child in the public eye and raise their children with that in mind. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard both agreed early on to keep their children out of the scrutinous eye of the media, and have since made sure they never share photos, or engage with paparazzi or fans when with their children. "We're not saying that we can't be newsworthy. We're saying that our child is not newsworthy," Bell said in an interview. "We chose to be the entertainers, so we never post...we've posted nothing...and we don't plan to." Cardi B and Offset also rarely share updates on their child. "I want to go to the beach with baby, I want to take a stroll down the street, and I can't because I don't know who's next to me and who has certain intentions," Cardi B said. Halle Berry famously has never shared any updates on her children, although paparazzi often sneak a photo or two. "It's my belief, and I'm not criticizing others who have different beliefs, that it's my job as their mother to protect their privacy as best I can."
As social media and reality TV continues to give the public closer looks into the lives of celebrities, maybe it's time for those celebrities to put their kids well being above their brands.
Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area. Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.