Last week Catherine Zeta-Jones performed at the Oscars when she was eight months pregnant. What a surprise that behind her Hollywood glitz is a working mom who challenges workplace stereotypes.
Image is so important at the workplace, and the image of a pregnant woman does not scream workplace success. In fact, the image of a pregnant woman usually induces quiet musings about whether she'll ever work again after the baby comes.
Hollywood is the extreme of this problem, because in Hollywood, one's job is to look good. But Hollywood is also the crowd that sets the tone for what is socially acceptable, so it's a big deal that Catherine stood in front of the most important audience of her career and did her job: She sang a song.
Working through one's pregnancy is difficult enough, but Catherine's job is to look sexy and confident. Whether or not she did look sexy is up for discussion (the ranks were divided at the Oscar party I attended). But Catherine did make serious progress toward making people comfortable around working women who are pregnant. And her presence on stage should make the world a little more comfortable with pregnant women wielding power.
My own version of fat Hollywood happened one week before my baby was due. An editor called me to say the magazine (not Bankrate) needed a photo of me. They wanted to set up a photo shoot that week. I went ballistic. I said no way. I reminded the editor that I was forty-five pounds overweight. I vowed to never answer the phone again until the baby came.
But I did answer the phone again. And again. Because the editor called relentlessly. When I could feel myself starting to cry (it happened all the time during the pregnancy), I agreed to a photo session a week after my baby's due date.
The baby came, and in the biggest rip-off of my life, I lost only five pounds during delivery.
The day of the shoot was day three of no sleep, and day four of no shower. The stylist called to ask me to bring shirts in three different colors. I said, “I have one shirt that fits, and it's dirty, and I'll be wearing it.”
Ever since then, I have admonished myself for going to the photo shoot before I lost the pregnancy weight. But now I'm thinking maybe I wasn't so stupid — in the ideal world all women would feel comfortable being their fat, pregnant selves at work.
Take note, though: Catherine made a point of mentioning her hormonal imbalance during her acceptance speech. She mentioned hormones to make sure everyone knows she is not JUST fat, but fat because she's pregnant. Surely a publicist advised this tactic, and I think it's a good one. For better or worse, people perceive fat and pregnant as much more acceptable than just fat.
Recently, I told my editor I lost all my pregnancy weight, and I asked if we could take new photos.
He said; “I think you look like a babe in your photo.”
When he told me that I thought to myself, “He is full of crap.” But that was before the Oscars. I thought Catherine looked good. Fat. But confident. So maybe I exude confidence, too. If only I could write a caption below my photo that mentions something about hormones”