Nov. 24, 2008 — -- With the birth of their new baby, Bronx Mowgli, Ashlee Simpson and her husband, Pete Wentz, can expect a nice chunk of pocket change, just in time for the holidays.
That is, if they're willing to cough up a few nice photos of their firstborn. After all, celebrity baby pictures are big business these days.
"I see Ashlee and Pete coming in at the low seven figures mark," said celebrity publicist Howard Bragman, author of the upcoming "Where's My 15 Minutes?" Of course, this is only if they decide to shop the baby pictures, which is not yet known. "Two million seems like a good, solid figure for Ashlee and Pete. It's a two-celeb couple, so that's a boost for them."
Bragman notes celebs aren't just profiting financially when it comes to cozy family photo opps. "Keep in mind, last year, Ashlee was the girl who sang along to the tape recorder," said Bragman, referring to her lip-synching appearance on "Saturday Night Live." "It was a PR nightmare. Now, she's a newlywed and a new mom, so she's a lot more relatable."
Bragman also suggests that Simpson and other celebs take notes on Angelina Jolie's baby-branding strategy. "Nobody does this better than Angelina," he said. "She and Brad Pitt have been very careful to make it clear that the money they've been getting has been part of their charity outreach work. The big bucks are a nice perk, but for them, the publicity is priceless. "
So why do magazines shell out such big bucks? "Human beings are conditioned to love babies," said Bragman. "And when you take two celebs and they have a baby, it's alchemy. It piques our curiosity -- what will it look like? But it also humanizes the celebrity. It makes them relatable."
Despite the boost in magazine sales, Bragman admits celebrity baby pics might not make financial sense. "It's unlikely that a magazine will recoup $14 million purely in investment terms," said Bragman. "But it's a power play. It's about the bragging rights -- yes, we're the magazine that will bring you the biggest names. In magazine land, the only thing worse than shelling out $14 million to get the photos is not getting them at all."
While the pictures are gravy for magazines, some ethicists and child psychologists are disturbed by the practice, which treads the nexus of money, parenthood and fame.
"If your own parents are literally selling you out, where can one feel safe?" asked Bruce Weinstein, a syndicated ethics columnist. "What's especially troubling is that the person who's the subject of these photos isn't able to give informed consent. I could imagine that person being really troubled by it."
Weinstein isn't swayed by the rationale offered by celebrities, that it's a way for them to control the inevitable media maelstrom. "If you look at what happened with Britney Spears or Angelina Jolie, [selling the photos] didn't quell the feeding frenzy. Whether People or OK! gets first dibs, people still want to take photos of the child."
And he isn't impressed by the fact that some stars have contributed some or all of the baby bonanza to charity, such as Jolie and Pitt, who gave $2 million of a reported $4 million windfall to Global Action for Children and Doctors Without Borders.
Weinstein cited a quote from St. Paul's letter to the Romans -- "We are not to do evil that good may come from it" -- to explain his argument.
"If you're already starting from extreme wealth, that argument doesn't hold much water," he said. "They're already in a position to give money to charity."
But for better or for worse, the practice persists. Here, we run down some of the celebs who sold pictures of their newborn .