One week ago, Beyoncé announced that she was pregnant with twins in the most Beyoncé fashion: with an Instagram post teasing a forthcoming avant-garde, highly referential photo essay on her website.
Today, Amal Clooney — high-powered international human rights attorney and wife to George — announced that she was pregnant with twins in the most Amal Clooney fashion: by tipping off Julie Chen, host of The Talk, in an announcement that had absolutely no photos of the pregnant mother-to-be.
It’s an odd little confluence of events that feels a bit like a social experiment, specifically designed to illustrate how two brilliant, famous women at the top of their game perform celebrity.
Beyoncé rigidly controls her image, rarely granting interviews or posing for magazine photo shoots, opting instead to put whatever she wants on social media when she feels like talking to her fans. But she also uses her public persona as a subject for her art: Part of what made Lemonade so compelling was the search for “Becky with the good hair,” the mystery of what exactly Jay Z did to make Beyoncé so angry and how he reacted when he saw Lemonade for the first time. Beyoncé doesn’t talk about her personal life with the press, but she does bring elements of it to her art.
So when she told the world she was pregnant, she did so under her own terms, on platforms entirely under her own control. And she did it as an artistic statement, turning a standard celebrity birth announcement into an invocation of a rich visual history of motherhood and femininity.
Clooney, in contrast, keeps her image mediated. She doesn’t invite the kind of artfully framed intimacy in which Beyoncé revels; she has no public social media or web presence. Clooney gives occasional interviews, mostly about the cases she’s working on or politics. She attends red-carpet ceremonies in fabulous gowns with her movie star husband, but she rarely discusses her high-profile marriage.
Clooney has made her personal life a subliminal part of her performance of celebrity, and in return, she has ceded control of her narrative to the press. So when she wanted to announce her pregnancy, she took herself out of the picture entirely. She had a TV host tell the world the news, while she herself remained invisible. There are no pictures on the internet of a pregnant Amal Clooney, and there likely never will be. If there were, it’s unlikely they would be the kind of art photos Beyoncé released, because that’s simply not the way Clooney does celebrity.
Which is not to say that Clooney should be splashier in her performance of celebrity, or that Beyoncé should be more restrained in hers. They’ve each found a way to make their fame work for their individual public personas, and the fact that their strategies are so different speaks to how specifically both Clooney and Beyoncé have tailored their celebrity to their own preference and purpose.
And despite the difference in approach, both women’s announcements had the intended effect: Their fans are very, very excited.
Amal Clooney’s twins and Beyonce’s twins will sit on the thrones of Narnia— John Jannuzzi (@johnjannuzzi) February 9, 2017