Pregnant celebrity? Time to go nude

nude pregnant celebrity photoshoot: Photographer Annie Leibovitz in front her picture of pregnant Demi Moore
Photographer Annie Leibovitz's photo of pregnant Demi Moore was used as the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, setting off the nude pregnant celebrity photoshoot trend (Getty Images)

Perrie Edwards has shared behind the scenes footage and snaps from her pregnancy photoshoot last year, showing just how much goes into the nude baby bump images we see so often from celebrities.

The Little Mix pop star and footballer husband Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both 28, welcomed their baby son Axel, in August 2021, shortly after Edwards shared the photos from the shoot. These featured a variety of her nude, baby bump on show, dripping in gold, under diaphanous material, as well as ones wrapped in silk and wearing an elaborate robe.

The new unseen sections of the shoot, which she posted to her Instagram stories, have given fans an insight into the amount of work that goes into producing effortless-looking images like these. Her stories reveal the number of hands needed to help hold up props and materials, keep her in position (in this case balanced and floating in a swimming pool), give direction, do hair and make-up, blast a fan in her direction, and take the photographs.

So when did the nude pregnant celebrity photo shoot become such a big thing? And why do we love it so much? Turning back the clock slightly, these types of images started as magazine covers, rather than celebs having the power to post to social media of their own accord. And the one that kicked off the trend, was the Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover in August 1991.

The Hollywood actor, then 28, bared herself and bump, seven months pregnant with her second child Scout, to be shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Reportedly, Leibovitz was originally commissioned by Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown to get some shots of Moore pregnant to show the bump, but wearing a tight dress – already in contrast to pregnant celebs usually being shot from the chest upwards at the time. Leibovitz did the job she was sent to do, but also took a more personal one for the actor, this one being nude.

A visitor photographs Annie Leibovitz's portrait of a pregnant Demi Moore, during the press launch of her exhibition 'Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990-2005', at the National Portrait Gallery in central London.   (Photo by Yui Mok - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
A visitor photographs Annie Leibovitz's portrait of a pregnant Demi Moore, during her exhibition 'Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990-2005', at the National Portrait Gallery in London (Getty Images)

Brown told CNBC's The Brave Ones, "I had been looking for a cover that would sort of turn the mood from the ’80s right into the new ’90s feeling of a slightly fresher era." And when Leibovitz returned with the on-brief pictures, Brown recalled, "And she said, 'But there is this other picture that I took, but I really did it for just Demi and Bruce Willis [her then husband]."

Brown continued, "“And I said, ‘Well, show me it,’ and then I saw the picture of Demi, naked and pregnant, in all her glory, and I said, ‘Annie, we just have to have this for the cover. This is the cover.’” So with Moore's approval, it was.

Despite one hand across her chest and one below the bump, the image, at a time when empowered pregnancy images were uncommon, caused a mixed reaction. Some places refused to sell it while others covered it up in the wrappers used for porn. However, the magazine sold 1.2 million copies, a jump from its usual 800,000 copies, according to CNBC.

"I think we did something great for women with that cover. It’s one of my proudest things that we did for women, because it really liberated women from maternity clothes. And it also liberated women from a sense that pregnancy was something to be sort of covered up," Brown added.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Singer Ciara arrives at the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Pregnant Ciara at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party Beverly Hills, California, 2017 (FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Undoubtedly paving the way for many other women to bare and embrace their pregnancy publicly, other nude pregnant cover stars for magazines have since included Cindy Crawford for W magazine in 1999, Britney Spears for Harper's Bazaar in 2006, Kourtney Kardashian for Dujour in 2014, Ciara for Harper's Bazaar in 2017, and full circle to Serena Williams for Vanity Fair in 2017, also seven months pregnant, and also shot by Anne Leibovitz.

Williams also posted a shot from the shoot on her own Instagram.

Read more: Kourtney Kardashian praised for not airbrushing stretch marks in swimwear selfie

But with the rise of social media and celebrities no longer needing to be cover-stars to take part in the trend, Instagram has become another home for nude pregnant photos, reaching an audience who are not as shocked to see the images. Celebs still often do the 'arm across chest' pose, or do their own take covering themselves, with Instagram likely to block images of nipples.

In 2017, Beyonce got the most-liked Instagram photo of the year when announcing her twins pregnancy, wearing a veil and sitting in a bed of flowers. She captioned the photo, "We would like to share our love and happiness. We have been blessed two times over. We are incredibly grateful that our family will be growing by two, and we thank you for your well wishes. - The Carters."

Other celebrities have used the baby bump photo to announce they're expecting in a similar way, including Kylie Jenner, known as the Queen of Instagram, who took the trend a step further when she first shared videos for both her pregnancies, with the bump in some of the shots. She has also posted numerous pregnant photo shoots, with fans speculating over whether her most recent ones are to deter from rumours that she's had the baby. Supermodel Gigi Hadid has also taken part in the trend, including the 'throwback' pregnancy photo branch.

Read more: Kylie Jenner's daughter, aged two, appears on Vogue cover

The throwbacks have also been used by celebs to celebrate particular occasions. Salma Hayek celebrated her daughter's 13th birthday with one of her pregnancy with her, writing, "Tomorrow the tiny baby that formed inside my womb officially becomes a teen. They grow so fast..." to accompany the nude baby bump photo of her from the side.

Similarly, Gwyneth Paltrow used a throwback photo of of herself not long before the birth of her first child, Apple, this time to acknowledge Mother's Day. Her caption read, "Fourteen years ago on the verge of a life changing morning... To all of us, biological, adoptive, foster, spiritual, communal, all the den mothers and grand mothers and great grandmothers and great great grandmothers, all the way back, happy Mother’s Day."

It seems the purpose of the trend has also evolved more with other celebrities, with it being less about a bump in perfect lighting for some, and more about a bump being perfect the way it is. Body positive activist, model and television presenter Ashley Graham, is known for documenting many stages of her pregnancies.

Her most memorable recent photos, pregnant with her twin boys, born earlier this month, include a nude shot of Ashley embracing her stretch marks, with the caption, "Justin [her husband] says my stretch marks look like the tree of life", as well as a more artistic one with both hands on her chest, and two babies painted where her womb is.

Read more: Heavily pregnant Ashley Graham shares bump photo: Twins having 'extended stay

Chrissy Teigen shared a moving post after losing her third child due to complications, which showed another, honest side to the baby bump. She wrote, "This is me and my body, just yesterday. Even though I’m no longer pregnant, every glance in the mirror reminds me of what could have been. And I have no idea why i still have this bump, honestly. It’s frustrating. But I’m proud of where this entire journey took my body and mind in other ways."

Not all celebrities opt for the professional photoshoots either, with many more 'in the moment' shots like these posted instead, including Emily Ratajkowski sharing one taken just after getting out of the shower.

Whether it's 'goddess-ifying' pregnant celebrity women, celebrating what pregnancy looks like naturally, or acknowledging its harder side, it seems we won't stop having an appetite for the trend, but will inevitably see new forms of it evolve even further. Which has been your favourite one to date?

Watch: Ashley Graham has given birth to twins