In 1991, Demi Moore shattered perceptions of modern femininity, beauty, and empowerment. The cover was a raw and honest depiction of Moore that the public was not used to seeing – in one of the most groundbreaking Vanity Fair images of all time, Moore’s body dominates the composition as she holds her chest and pregnant stomach while standing in the nude. In this image, even though Moore’s entire body is on display, she manages not to look exposed or embarrassed; instead, she is proud of her body, which is quite literally glowing. By taking this photograph, Annie Leibovitz challenged the idea that the pregnant female body is “grotesque and obscene,” instead associating it with radiance and pride.
Since then, women have been embracing pregnancy in ways that were once unheard of. From Blake Lively flaunting her stomach on the red carpet while still looking fabulous to Kim Kardashian posting pregnant selfies on her Instagram, women are taking ownership of their bodies and the role they have in the circle of life.
First they said I'm too skinny so I have to be faking it…Now they say I'm too big so I have to be faking it…SMH! Some days I'm photographed before I eat & look smaller, some days I've just eaten & I look bigger. It's all a part of the process. I think you all know me well enough to know I would document the process if I got a surrogate. Everyone's body is different, every pregnancy is very different! I've learned to love my body at every stage! I'm going to get even bigger & that's beautiful too! I'm blessed to even be pregnant & even luckier to not have preeclampsia as far as I know, so I don't have the swelling issue this time! They also say your body carries a boy different than a girl! Whatever the case may be I'm grateful to God for this miracle & no matter what rumors or comments you throw my way this time they truly don't affect me! #NoFilter #NoPhotoShop #GoodLighting 😜
Even 26 years later, Moore’s iconic photo still has an impact. In the 2017 Hollywood Portfolio of Vanity Fair, Annie Leibovitz boldly channeled her previous work in her photo shoot with Natalie Portman, which was styled by Jessica Diehl. In this updated black-and-white image, Portland holds a sheet over her body, leaving only her stomach exposed. This comments on femininity and female sexuality in a new way, as this image is not created with the male gaze in mind. Instead of showcasing the female body parts that are typically featured in media, the V.F. team decided to focus on the natural beauty of pregnancy. In addition, Portman’s shot differs from Moore’s because while the latter looked off into the distance, Portman stares directly at the camera with an unapologetic gaze. Her stark eye contact brings a sense of accountability to anyone who views the shot and challenges the viewer to respond to what he or she is looking at.
While commenting on the photo, Vanity Fair’s fashion and style director explained, “It was about capturing Natalie at her most radiant.”
All of the images are available on vanityfair.com