“It’s disgusting.”

“It’s obvious she’s not dealing with a full deck.”

“I thought she had more morals than that.”

These were some of the reactions that greeted Demi Moore when she elected to appear naked and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in 1991. Though Kourtney Kardashian is the latest in a wave of celebrity moms-to-be to appear in the buff on newsstands, Moore paved the way, baby-bumping aside centuries of American culture’s prudishness about the fecund among us.

Moore didn’t understand the hubbub.

“I did feel glamorous, beautiful and more free about my body,” she said in 1992, calling the photo a “feminist statement.” “I don’t know how much more family-oriented I could possibly have gotten.”


The mists of time cloak the pregnancy-allergic culture that Moore — with assists from photographer Annie Leibovitz and daughter-to-be Scout LaRue Willis — photobombed. Sometime in the 20th century, doctors medicalized pregnancy, taking it out of the hands of midwives and into hospitals. When Lucille Ball got pregnant in 1952, she couldn’t even say the word “pregnant” on television. Watch Desi Arnaz figure out his wife’s expecting — while singing a medley — in the cleverly titled episode “Lucy is Enceinte”:


Such black-and-white mores went out with the sexual revolution. But a naked, pregnant woman on a magazine cover? That was something new.

People got angry — people who, 20 years later, seem crazy. As one woman said of Moore’s cover: “Women are most beautiful when they are pregnant, but from the face up!”


Moore’s defenders, in retrospect, won the day.

“Damn the expected primal screams of those constipated critics, cranky subscribers, and fidgety newsstand buyers, who the editors and publishers surely knew would regard a pregnant female body as ‘grotesque and obscene,'” art director George Lois wrote in 2011“It was a brave image on the cover of a great magazine — a stunning work of art that conveyed a potent message that challenged a repressed society.”

Before long, everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. Five years before Moore’s cover, Phylicia Rashad’s pregnancy was dodged on “The Cosby Show.” Less than a year after Moore’s cover, “Murphy Brown” championed unwed moms on air — despite a challenge from Vice President Dan Quayle. And, in 1998, Phoebe Buffay gave birth to surrogate triplets on “Friends” after Lisa Kudrow got pregnant.

Then came the copycats. Cindy Crawford in 1999:

Britney Spears in 2006:

Christina Aguilera in 2008:

Kardashian issued a pro-pregnancy caption with her cover image. It was positive. It was eloquent. Though some might disagree, it could even be called feminist.


But, in the year 2014 A.D. — “after Demi” — it was uncontroversial.

“To me, nudity is not something to be ashamed of,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’m at my best when I’m pregnant.”

Of course.