A Times Square billboard featuring Molly Baz's pregnant body was taken down. Now the chef is the 1st pregnant woman on a cereal box.

A pregnant Molly Baz tends to her potted herbs.
Molly Baz talks about her billboard kerfuffle and being the face of pregnant women for Special K. (Getty Images)

When cookbook author and food influencer Molly Baz teamed up with breastfeeding start-up Swehl to create a recipe for lactation cookies, she didn’t expect to face major backlash over her body. That’s what occurred when a Times Square billboard featuring Baz holding lactation cookies over her breasts — with her pregnant belly exposed — was flagged for review and ultimately replaced with a different photo for Swehl’s campaign.

The outrage from Baz and her followers online was swift — after all, lingerie ads from Skims, Aerie and Michael Kors were prominent in Times Square. Why did a pregnant body on display create such discomfort? That was what Baz questioned in an Instagram post, writing, “Bring on the lingerie so long as it satiates the male gaze” — a statement many of her 787,000 Instagram followers agreed with. So did probiotic company Seed, who ultimately used their ad space to give Baz’s photo its platform back, adding the message, “Dear Molly, thankfully, we’re not (lactose) intolerant.”

“I’ve felt so much energy from my community,” Baz tells Yahoo Life. “There were so many men and women and people who reached out and said, ‘This doesn’t sit right with us either. We want to celebrate pregnant women the way they are — there’s nothing to hide there.’”

Molly Baz, belly exposed and eating cereal, poses for Special K.
Molly Baz for Special K cereal. (Special K)

While Baz says she learned there was “more good in the world” than bad, the experience made her realize “our society has a lot of work to do in terms of representation for pregnant women and not shaming a woman's body when it's doing the very thing that it is set out to do.”

Now, however, Baz says she feels “empowered” by the controversy. “I couldn't have predicted it going this way,” she says. “But I'm almost glad it did, because it gave me a lot of clarity about where I'm going from here.”

Thanks to her new partnership with Special K cereal, Baz is now the first pregnant woman to appear on a cereal box. This partnership is the first “Special Edition” for its campaign, “Special for a Reason,” which spotlights inspiring individuals.

It’s the perfect fit for Baz, who, despite being able to cook up a slew of recipes on a moment’s notice, has found herself obsessed with cereal during her pregnancy. “The cravings haven’t been weird and specific, but I’ve felt very particular about what I want to eat and what I don’t want to eat,” Baz says. “I’ve defaulted to cereal more times than not. This just feels very cosmic and timely for me, because cereal got me through my pregnancy.” She’s also now creating a homemade cereal recipe for her recipe program, the Club.

If she’s a spokesperson for parenthood, Baz says, she wants to be one who shows the “realness of it all” and the “messiness” of motherhood. After all, there was also a time when the former Bon Appetit editor wasn’t sure if motherhood was for her.

“If you had asked me 10 years ago when I thought I would be a mother, I probably would have said around age 30,” Baz says. However, when 30 came around, she was at the height of building her career — and didn’t want to slow down.

After six years of building her career, Baz says she’s now comfortable with her identity as a mom being “woven into what I do and who I am.”

She adds: “There was a lot of fear around being seen only in one light or only as one thing and no longer taken seriously for the other many attributes that are me. I'm really excited to have gotten to a place through a lot of self-work and love, where I am so excited about this next chapter.”