EVEN STAR POWER CAN’T WARD OFF THE UNEXPECTED perils of motherhood. Just four months after giving birth to Tallulah, her and hubbie Bruce Willis‘s third daughter, Demi Moore was pressing her buffed body against a reluctant Michael Douglas in 1994’s tale of corporate intrigue Disclosure. But while shooting a hot and heavy seduction scene, Moore realized something was amiss—her blouse had suddenly grown damp. Without having a chance to breast-feed Tallulah, says a colleague on the film, the new mother had, well, sprung a leak.
All in a day’s work for Hollywood’s hardest-working sex-symbol mom. More than anyone, Moore, now 34 and mother to Rumer, 8, Scout, 5, and Tallulah, 3, has paved the way for pinups who want to be parents—without losing an ounce of vavoom. It wasn’t so long ago that Hollywood studios discouraged actresses from becoming pregnant because it interfered with production schedules and dimmed starlets’ sex appeal. But Moore shunned conventional (read ‘outdated’) wisdom in 1991, posing au naturel, her belly magnificently swollen with Scout, on the cover of Vanity Fair. Last year’s Striptease was, if not an artistic high point for Moore, a chance for her to prove, as she once boasted, that she would get better with every baby.
That’s an attitude now shared by the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Madonna, Pamela Lee, Melanie Griffith and Courtney Love. Far from stunting careers, say many in the industry today, the glow of pregnancy and motherhood may even add luster to a movie or TV star. “Come on,” says Lesli Linka Glatter, director of 1995’s Now and Then, starring Moore and Griffith, “Demi Moore is an extremely sexy woman. Melanie Griffith, Annette Bening, these are all brave women. They’ve all managed to have kids and still be sexy. If anything, being a mom makes them even sexier.”
Motherhood can also soften the in-your-face image of such ambitious performers as Madonna, whose daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon arrived to a media feeding frenzy in October. When a star commits herself to a family, “people think, ‘She’s not so selfish and narcissistic after all,’ ” says former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown. Adds psychologist and syndicated columnist Joyce Brothers: “Madonna has reawakened her career—not by Evita, but by Mamita.”
Such triumphs are not easily won. More than mere mortals, female celebrities are expected to regain their sultry aura shortly after giving birth, return to work quickly enough to maintain their box office momentum and find time to raise perfect children in the glare of the spotlight. How do they do it? Step by step—the first one being to grapple with the idea of putting on the pounds. “It’s time to be a mother and not to be a hero,” says Radu, a New York City trainer who often works with celebrity clients and frowns on moms who want to minimize weight gain.
Supermodel Niki Taylor certainly understands that. She piled on a whopping 70 pounds while eating for three—herself and twins Hunter and Jake—two years ago. “I craved meat. I ate meat and potatoes every night,” says Taylor, 22, laughing. “If someone had leftovers on their plate, it was like, ‘Give it to Nick!’ ” Despite running one or two miles a day into her seventh month, Taylor—now divorced from the twins’ father, former football coach Matt Martinez—ballooned from a size 6 to a 20, ultimately carrying nearly 200 pounds on her 6′ frame. No wonder. At birth, the twins tipped the scales at 7 pounds apiece.
As a model, Taylor was able to take time off work without sacrificing her career. Debbe Dunning, the Tool Time girl on ABC’s Home Improvement since 1993, thought her pregnancy might cost her the job. But series star Tim Allen came to the rescue, asking that it be written into the script. “Tim was totally supportive,” says Dunning, 30, who rose 50 pounds above her normal weight of 113 (she’s 5’7″) before the December birth of 8-lb. 5-oz. Spencer Schae Timmons. When husband Steve Timmons (she and the former Olympic volleyball player wed on May 11) squeezed her thigh, she recalls, “I had so much water, the impression of his hand just stayed there for minutes.”
Model Jennifer Flavin had more than moral support on her trip up the scales. While she gained 47 pounds during her pregnancy last year, fiancé Sylvester Stallone was packing on 40 to play a paunchy sheriff in this summer’s Cop Land. “We were perfect together,” laughs Flavin, 28. “He’d bring giant pancakes the size of plates home, and we’d sit and eat all night.”
Ten weeks after her August 1996 birth, little Sophia Rose Stallone underwent a successful operation to correct a heart abnormality, so it was no surprise that motherhood, not weight loss, was Flavin’s first priority. “I didn’t even step into the gym until after the holidays,” she says. The 5’9″ Flavin was back down to her prepregnancy weight of 130 by the end of January, but has decided to suspend her modeling career in favor of promoting her own line of skin-care products. Besides, she admits to having lost her fanatical devotion to exercise. “I’d rather be a great mom than a sexy model,” she says.
But to keep their careers on track, most stars want it both ways. For them, one of the true challenges of motherhood is the race back to prepregnancy shape. Pamela Lee, who gave birth to 7-lb. 7-oz. baby Brandon last June, faced the daunting task of returning to her Baywatch swimsuit. With a personal trainer, Lee pumped iron and kept to a cardiovascular regimen that included treadmill and step workouts. By August, she was back on the set, having dropped 20 of the 25 pounds she gained (she quit the show in December). Marvels executive producer Greg Bonann: “I never would have known she had been pregnant.” Whitney Houston, meanwhile, found that the hard work of touring was enough to shed the 60 pounds she added in 1993 with baby Bobbi Kristina. “I got onstage for an hour and 25 minutes, four nights a week,” she told Good Housekeeping, “and the weight just kind of poured off me.”
Taylor slimmed down in time to work the Paris runways only three months after giving birth. “I started running again,” says Taylor, who took her boys along in a two-seat jogger, “and I worked with a trainer, watched what I ate, and the weight just dropped off.” There was one hitch—stretch marks. “I did the whole oil and lotion thing to try to keep them off, but I just got too big,” she says. Laser treatment made them worse. Finally, “I just left them alone, and all but one of them are gone now,” she says. One change, though, was permanent. “I have hips now,” she says. “But it makes me more sexy.”
After wrapping Evita when she was four months pregnant, Madonna was back in a tight-fitting dress in time for the premiere two months after giving birth. “For a month or so, she just enjoyed her baby,” says Ray Kybartas, her trainer. Then it was back to her regular schedule—biking, stretching, sit-ups, dancing and yoga. Experts note that some new mothers can go too far too fast in losing the weight. “People like Madonna, who have been exercising for two decades, can be more aggressive in their [postpregnancy] workouts,” says Kybartas.
But the truth is that some stars are not as resilient as they seem. Kathy Kaehler, an L.A. trainer who has worked with such moms as Michelle Pfeiffer, says that photos of taut post-pregnancy figures are often doctored. “I’ve seen their bodies [after giving birth],” she says. “They are not perfect. If these women all really looked like this, half of us would want to commit suicide.”
Perfect or not, every Hollywood mom finds that the toughest task of all is fitting the role of nurturing mother into a helter-skelter life of auditions, 14-hour shoots, long absences on far-flung locations and, when possible, a night on the town for old times’ sake. Some set hard-and-fast rules: During the school year, Susan Sarandon, 50, rarely travels outside the New York area, where she and longtime love Tim Robbins are raising their children Jack Henry, 8, and Miles, 5, and Eva, 12, Sarandon’s daughter with Italian director Franco Amurri. Pfeiffer, 39, has declined any part—including the lead in Evita—that might separate her for more than three weeks from adopted daughter Claudia Rose, 4, and John Henry, 2, her son with TV producer husband David E. Kelley.
But there’s no doubt the stars get more help than workaday moms. On the set of last year’s One Fine Day, Pfeiffer’s children joined the film’s two child stars and other crew members’ kids in a play area stocked with toys—a “traveling day-care show,” says producer Lynda Obst. As part of Pfeiffer’s contract, the studio paid for a nanny, a deal Obst says became the norm only a few years ago. Again the pioneer was Moore, who has made it clear that she and her kids come as a package. Of course, not every movie mogul is happy with that line of thought. “Some people make extraordinary demands,” grumbles one producer.
Most top actresses hire at least one full-time nanny, though that can leave some mothers conflicted. Melanie Griffith—mom to Alexander, 11 (with ex Steven Bauer), Dakota, 7 (with two-time ex-Don Johnson) and Stella del Carmen, born in September (with current husband Antonio Banderas)—complained to INSTYLE about a recent visit with her nanny to Dakota’s piano coach. “The teacher started making arrangements with the nanny,” Griffith, 39, recalled. “And I said, ‘Hello! Excuse me, I’m the mother here.’ It’s easy to assume that because you’re an actress you don’t do those things. But I do.”
One time-honored solution: call in Grandma and Grandpa. Pamela Lee’s mother and father, Carol and Barry Anderson, relocated from Vancouver, B.C., to lend a hand on the Baywatch set. Carol, says Greg Bonann, “was there every hour Pam was there.” Vanessa Williams, 34, and manager husband Ramon Hervey (now divorced) moved their three children—Melanie, 9, Jillian, 7, and Devin, 4—from Los Angeles to Chappaqua, N.Y., in 1992 to live near her parents, Milton and Helen. Williams says she couldn’t keep up her career without their support. “They take them to concerts and shows, or they will take Melanie to her riding lesson,” she told The New York Times,
For some former party animals, motherhood has triggered no less than a moral makeover. Former wild child Griffith has become a regular Miss Manners, says her close friend, author Heidi von Beltz. “Those children,” she declares, “have been taught that when you sit down at the table, you say your prayers, you wait for other people to start eating, you don’t get up without excusing yourself.”
Perhaps the most astounding reformation has been that of Courtney Love. Once the most riotous of rock’s “riot grrrls,” Love—who admitted to drug use prior to her pregnancy with Frances Bean Cobain, now 4—has transformed herself into a sophisticated starlet, garnering critical praise for her movie debut in The People vs. Larry Flynt and even gracing the pages of a Vogue fashion spread. Especially since husband Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide, “her focus is on being a mother, a musician and actress, and on just taking care of herself,” says a pal.
Even Madonna, who moved a month before Lourdes’s birth from her Hollywood Hills mansion to a more baby-friendly one-story spread in a quieter neighborhood, is becoming downright straitlaced. “TV’s poison,” she told Redbook, saying that she would forbid Lourdes to watch it. “To be plopped in front of a television instead of being read to or talked to or encouraged to interact with other human beings is a huge mistake.”
Quite a change for women whose extramaternal activities—from Moore’s Striptease to Madonna‘s erotic coffee-table tome, Sex—would leave June Cleaver speechless. Indeed, the ultimate challenge for marquee moms may be to keep delivering the sizzle. The best way to be sexy, of course, is to feel sexy—and, to some, motherhood has made them more sure of their allure. “I feel better about my body,” says Flavin, “because I can’t believe what it can do. It can bring a life into this world.” Judianna Makovsky, Griffith’s costume designer in the recently wrapped Lolita, adds that having a baby gives an actress “eternal youth.” What could be higher on a sex symbol’s wish list? Maybe only freedom from would-be Dr. Spocks. When it comes to motherhood, “everyone’s a know-it-all,” Madonna sighed to USA Weekend. “I assume everyone gets that, but I get it on a global scale.” So is she using washable diapers to save the environment? Groaned the Maternal Girl: “Oh, please.”
LORENZO BENET, KAREN BRAILSFORD, TODD GOLD, JEANNE GORDON, SUSAN CHRISTIAN GOULDING, JULIE JORDAN, DANELLE MORTON and ANNE-MARIE OTEY in Los Angeles, CINDY DAMPIER in Miami, and MARIA SPEIDEL and ANNE LONGLEY in New York City