Octomom exploits celebrity status

Last Updated 26 January 2010, 16:54 IST

“My new bikini body! How I did it!” exclaims the headline in this week’s issue of Star Magazine. In the photo, the 34-year-old smiles and poses with a thumb crooked into her red bathing suit bottoms.

A year after giving birth, the single, unemployed woman seems to have learned that one way to raise her 14 children is to exploit the celebrity media for attention and money that can be used to bring up her brood.
“Her narrative, her epic seems to be being told almost exclusively by the medium of tabloid print,” said Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert Thompson.
Photo spreads, online videos and interviews in gossip sheets lean more toward promoting Suleman’s image. The reports provide little insight into how she manages to raise her huge family and still find time to get buff and stay in the limelight.
She breezes past the details, telling Star she only sleeps two hours a day, has three live-in nannies to help and has friends who sometimes take a child for several days to ease her load.

Curiosity quickly turned to criticism when details of her life surfaced: She was divorced and had six other children living in her mother’s house, which was in foreclosure. She was living off college loans, her children’s disability payments and workers’ compensation from on-the-job injuries at a state mental hospital.
Scrutiny intensified when it was revealed that all her children were conceived through in-vitro fertilisation. The doctor who performed the procedures now faces censure from the state medical board.

She once claimed she would support her family by returning to school to become a counsellor, but those plans wilted. Suleman now says media deals will pay for her children’s upbringing. The Associated Press estimates it will cost $1.3 million to $2.7 million to support her children through age 17 — not including medical costs, based on US Department of Agriculture figures.
A magazine cover story could earn between $50,000 and $75,000 for non-celebrities. Smaller items could give Suleman between $5,000 and $10,000 a pop, said media consultant Richard Laermer.

A transition to television could prove more lucrative, but even an American audience obsessed with revolting behaviour — from “Jersey Shore” to “Jerry Springer” — seems to lack the sort of appetite that could propel Suleman to C-list stardom. The most likely networks to air Suleman clan reality show, TLC (home to “Jon & Kate Plus 8”) and A&E (tagline: “Real Life. Drama”), have said they have no plans to do so.

(Published 26 January 2010, 16:50 IST)

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