Mariah Carey has been dodging baby-on-board rumors for months, but these days the media has radically escalated its speculation. Blame it on the non-concealing outfits that Carey wore at her concert in Brazil this past weekend.
Some took the garb as an indicator that the music icon – who's been keeping a low profile – could be pregnant.
US Weekly went on record reporting Carey's pregnancy several months ago. After seeing the images from the concert, senior music editor Ian Drew believes "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that a baby's on board.
As celebrity watchers affix proof-of-pregnancy explanations to Carey's decisions – the "Precious" star reportedly dropped out of a new Tyler Perry movie project – husband Nick Cannon addressed the rumors with listeners of his radio show early this week. People.com reported Cannon's message: "I've said it before and I'll say it time and time again – when my wife feels like talking about whatever she wants to talk about, you will hear it directly from her."
News of high-profile celebrity pregnancies – remember Angelina Jolie and Katie Holmes? – tend to fuel media frenzies. Recently, expectant moms Alicia Keys and Miranda Kerr have garnered their own share of media ink.
Experts do notice, however, the seeming contradictory stances of many female celebrities. On the one hand, some starlets desire to be media darlings and the focal point when it comes to looks, fashion, romantic partners and what they've eaten for dinner. But on the other, they opt to be totally mum about confirming they're pregnant.
Why the duality?
It's simple, suggested Patricia A. Farrell, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and the author of "How to Be Your Own Therapist: A Step-by-Step Guide to Taking Back Your Life." Whether the celeb confirms or denies, she wins.
"When a female celeb denies her pregnancy, both the press and the fans gets played," said Farrell. "The pregnancy, whether confirmed or denied, is in the service of getting more ink and playing the p.r. game. This compunction to tease is even more useful when she's fallen a few rungs off the media ladder and wants the newly-generated interest in her medical condition to boost her standing."
The celeb, of course, seldom needs to encourage the media. As far as the paparazzi are concerned, either a baby bump or a dress that attempts to conceal a pregnancy – even when there is none – is "proof" of impending motherhood, said Farrell. No matter what tactic the celeb uses to conceal or reveal, the media will interpret clothing choices to their liking, and look for the best camera angle to highlight an excessive belly curve. The celebrity benefits from media attention no matter what. "She can't lose," said Farrell.
"Drama and attention sell movies, music and magazines," said Judith Sills, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Philadelphia and the author of "The Comfort Trap." "Keeping the 'is she or isn't she' momentum going is a lot more thrilling than saying, 'Yes, as a matter of fact, I am pregnant.'"
Some female celebrities, however, genuinely want to keep their pregnancies off the media radar for the first trimester, said Sills, given the emotional risk that comes with announcing the pregnancy early on. If there's a miscarriage, you're forced to share a loss publicly that you would have preferred to keep private, she said.
And, added Drew, from a public relations standpoint, questions about the miscarriage seem to pop up "like a very bad footnote" with great regularity at every interview following the tragedy.
"Privacy enhances your emotional well being," said Sills.
It's a chunk of wisdom that Mariah Carey seems to be putting to very good use.