June 6, 2012 at 12:22 PM ET
Jessica Simpson’s track record for sharing her major life milestones candidly with the public is among the most consistent in Hollywood. From taping her marriage to Nick Lachey for her first reality show “Newlyweds,” to announcing her pregnancy via Twitter and then striking a deal with Weight Watchers to chronicle her planned post-baby weight loss, Simpson has rarely invoked the “my private life is private” maxim.
So it came as no surprise that she would be among the celebs to agree to an exclusive photo arrangement after the birth of her baby. What might come as a surprise is that those photos, teased on the cover of People magazine’s June 11 issue, were of scant interest to magazine buyers. In fact, the issue was something of a bust considering the cost of the photos, under performing in comparison to an average sales week.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, People paid $850,000 for pictures of Simpson, her fiancée Eric Johnson, and their baby girl, Maxwell Drew, who was born May 1. The issue sold just 950,000 copies, according to THR, less than the magazine’s average of 1.3 million per week. People magazine makes it a policy not comment on deals it strikes with celebrities, or the resulting magazine sales, and did not comment in this case, either.
In contrast, consider the first photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s first biological child, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. People was rumored to have paid upwards of $4 million for those first photos; the June 19, 2006 issue that included those pics sold nearly 2.2 million copies, 45 percent above average, plus the cover price was increased. Thanks to all of that, Ad Age estimated that the magazine made $3 million more than usual — not a bad return on investment.
While the Jolie-Pitt photos might be tough to live up to, the message is still the same: Mom and baby Maxwell, cute as she may be, didn’t light up the newsstand. One major difference between the two might be that unlike Jolie’s pregnancy, we saw Simpson nearly every day of gestation. Between Twitpics, TV broadcasts and red carpet photos, there was barely a day that went by without a photo of Simpson and baby-to-be. News just travels too fast to more screens than it did in 2006 and the novelty wears off more quickly.
But it’s probably more than that: Simpson doesn’t just share, she overshares. “I just started calling myself ‘Swamp Ass,’” she told Jay Leno in March. “Like, I have swamp ass right now. I had major swamp ass because I was wearing these Spanx to hold in my gut … it’s like the bayou up in that (area).”
That wasn’t it: Simpson told Ryan Seacrest that her sex drive was definitely intact, pregnancy or not. “I'm kind of unstoppable right now. The Big O is, like, the biggest O ever!"
And then there was a friendly chat about her amniotic fluid with Jimmy Kimmel: “I feel like I have a bowling ball sitting on my hoohah. Apparently I have a lot of amniotic fluid, so whenever my water breaks, it will be like a fire hydrant!"
Oh Jess, T. M. I. There's honesty and then there's sharing more than we ever cared to know. Too many of Simpson's interviews veered into the latter territory.
It's unlikely that the frenzy over the first photos of famous offspring is dying. Odds are really good that when Reese Witherspoon (who hasn't even publicly confirmed her pregnancy!) gives birth, we'll be scrambling to ooh and ahh over the little one. The secret here is less is more. It's a very select group of people who really want to know about your amniotic fluid, Jess. What the public is curious about is the moment you felt a first kick, and how squishy Maxwell's little cheeks are. We can be spared the other details -- it makes the photos all the sweeter.