Stars to Paparazzi: Leave Us Alone

SJP and Salma Hayek draw a line in the sandbox when it comes to paparazzi.


May 30, 2008— -- Without a single film credit, Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt are about as famous as their superstar parents, their faces adorning the pages of many glossy celebrity magazines.

Celebrity baby photos are now huge business. Jennifer Lopez reportedly banked a cool $5 million for the first shots of her twins in People magazine. And some say the first look at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's impending twins could fetch as much as $10 million.

"I would say people are pretty obsessively interested in celebrity babies," said Janice Min, the editor-in-chief of Us Weekly magazine. "In some ways, childhood and pregnancy is sort of the last boundary that's been blown open."

But for celebrity parents who want clear boundaries, the paparazzi make their life nearly unbearable.

"I was hounded when I was pregnant," Salma Hayek told ABC News' Deborah Roberts. "And even more since I've had the baby. They are parked outside of your house, and they will not move for months. I didn't leave my house for three months."

Hayek finally decided to release her own photo of baby Valentina free of charge, in part to reduce the frenzy over the first photo.

"I knew the public was curious about her," she said. "And I wanted to introduce it to my child very proudly."

Sarah Jessica Parker, another favorite target of the paparazzi, made a similar call after the 2002 birth of son James Wilkie.

"Photographers moved into apartments next door to us, and we really found ourselves kind of living like a spy movie," she told Roberts. "We really tried to think about what was going to be best for us leaving the hospital and also what didn't involve money."

Parker's husband, Matthew Broderick, came up with a plan to tip off the press before they left the hospital.

"It was really a shining moment for him," she said. "He put his finger to his lips. And he said, 'Shhh.' You could hear a pin drop. All you could hear was [the snap of the cameras]. He brought the press to some kind of civility at that moment."

But those moments of civility are rare these days. Since anyone with a digital camera can cash in on the big bucks at stake, the paparazzi are fiercer than ever.

"I've gotten hit with the camera before," Hayek said. "Actually, I had a problem in France, where I, I was trying to get away from them and I fell when I was pregnant. This is very serious business."

Hayek is one of the few celebrities willing to speak out against the bruising tactics of some paparazzi who target tots. An incident with her baby last February really ignited her outrage.

"First I see them, with the camera and the flashes, now she starts screaming, the baby, then they push the nanny. And she was going to the floor," Hayek recalled. "It was so, so disturbing. I don't know that they wanted to get the picture or they wanted to push the baby and get me crazy. I'm not sure because it was almost, it was really deliberate."

Hayek said that after she secured Valentina she became very angry.

"Can't you see where you're going?" she recalled saying to the photographer. "I just went after him screaming at him and saying, can't you see what you're doing? You almost created a horrible accident."

Those dangerous scenarios have led magazines like Us Weekly to set some basic standards for they types of pictures they'll use.

"We don't show children photographed at schools," said Min. "If a celebrity seems like he or she is under duress when the photo is being taken, we won't run it."

But how will the magazine's editors know whether or not the person was being harassed or hassled?

"If a judgment call has to be made, that's when we go to the representatives for the celebrity," Min said. "And for celebrities who have contacted us and asked us not to run their kids, we don't run the photos."

But Us Weekly recently featured a photo of actress Reese Witherspoon on vacation with her children, and actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Witherspoon and her children appear to be shielding their faces.

"Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal have a relationship that our readers are really interested in. The fact that they went away on a family vacation all together is definitely of interest to the audience," Min said. "My feeling on that is, there are many photographs of Reese Witherspoon and her children we do not run. I mean that one, I would definitely say is right on the line."

The constant presence of cameras is enough to infuriate even easygoing celebrities like Parker.

"I was walking my son to school and [kids are] just so chatty in the morning," she recalled. "And I love that time with my son. And when we are followed by photographers, which we are on a daily basis, they're just, I feel like they think they have to be there. Like they punch in or something. They're getting too close and I'm trying to block him and keep my head down. And these guys just, they're enjoying it. They're enjoying it. And I just, I just screamed.I just said, 'Leave me alone.'"

Parker said the photographers were "stunned" and walked away.

Confronting the photographers is something Hayek has tried as well, like during a stroll through New York's Central Park with her daughter and fiancé, captured on video by the paparazzi. "I saw these two French guys, and I was so angry and I said, listen, take your picture and get out and just leave us alone," she said. "And they said, 'OK.' And they left."

"See, if they were like that, I wouldn't have a problem. But that was because they had been following us for two hours and they already had hundreds of pictures."

Over the years, this kind of attention can take a toll on children, as Parker has seen with her son.

"It makes him not particularly inclined to take family photos because he has a relationship with the camera that's antagonistic," she said. "He hides. His class pictures for two years have been this [Parker covers her face]. And I think it's a shame for him."

But for all of those who hate the attention, Janice Min said there are plenty of stars who invite it.

"Children have played a great part in enhancing the connection between celebrities and their fans," said Min. "I think any parent who's entered into celebrity would have to consider that when they have children these days, that paparazzi will be part of your life, will be part of your children's lives."

"I don't think it's right that these people make money out of your private life," Hayek countered. "Who is deciding what's the price of fame? The baby did not choose to be a celebrity. And the parents were never participating in this decision."

"The paparazzi are the interlopers. We're not. We're not going anywhere," Parker said.

"You know I can cope with it," Hayek said. "Just don't mess with my children."

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