Another April Fools’ Day, another batch of stars opting to psych out fans with fake pregnancy announcements.
Model Heidi Klum, 49, reposted a photo on April 1 shared by her “America’s Got Talent” co-judges Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara that depicted Vergara pretending to kiss Klum’s belly. “I’m going to be an aunt,” Vergara captioned the image, while Mandel congratulated Klum.
But hours later, Klum shared another photo, this time of herself feigning kissing Mandel’s belly as he showed off a prosthetic baby bump.
Similarly, Disney Channel alum Sabrina Carpenter opted to fake out an audience while on tour in Salt Lake City. Carpenter, 23, inserts an improvised line at the end of each performance of her song “Nonsense.” On Saturday, she sang: “I’m pregnant / Happy April Fools’ Day.”
Both stars have since faced backlash online from fans who feel the jokes are insensitive to those dealing with infertility or pregnancy loss. They have not publicly responded to critics; USA TODAY has reached out to their representatives for comment.
“People think it’s funny when you’ve gotten pregnant so easily,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Loree Johnson. “There’s a sense of ease that you can decide when you want to have a kid … I think that becomes fodder for comedic material and people are like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s hilarious,’ when it really might not be to people who are struggling. It just becomes material to make light of a situation they know nothing about.”
Justin Bieber, more stars have previously faced backlash for pregnancy pranks
Klum and Carpenter aren’t the first stars to be criticized for fake pregnancy announcements.
Singer Justin Bieber apologized in 2019 after an April Fools’ Day post of a fake ultrasound photo followed by images of his wife, Hailey Bieber, touching her stomach while surrounded by gloved medical professionals. “If U thought it was April fools,” Justin Bieber captioned the post, before admitting it in fact was an April Fool’s prank in a third post
The next day, he apologized after facing backlash: “There’s always gonna be people offended, there’s also people who don’t take jokes very well, I am a prankster and it was APRIL FOOLS. I didn’t at all mean to be insensitive to people who can’t have children,” he wrote. “A lot of people I know, their first go to prank on April Fools is telling their parents they are pregnant to get a big reaction. But I will apologize anyway and take responsibility and say sorry to people who were offended. … Some might have laughed but some were offended. I think with pranks (you) sometimes have to roll that dice.”
Why it’s ill advised to fake pregnancy announcements
Experts in fertility and pregnancy issues want those who make these kinds of jokes to know that they have the ability to hurt those around them.
“It’s not like we expect everybody to cater to everyone’s needs,” Johnson says. But given how prevalent pregnancy loss is – 1 in 6 people are affected by infertility worldwide, per a new study from the World Health Organization – she says it “just seems very insensitive to joke about something that is incredibly traumatic for some people.”
“I think the message that it sends is that there’s this insensitivity to the infertility experience and insensitivity to this loss experience,” she adds. “People in that community feel incredibly invisible already and so it really exacerbates that isolation and misunderstanding.”
Johnson stresses educating others about infertility and pregnancy loss is the key to rectifying situations like these. “We tend to dismiss what we don’t know,” she says. And to those who have experienced pregnancy difficulties, she highlights the importance of finding a supportive community – and taking social media breaks when they feel bombarded with parenting and pregnancy posts.
“I think the important part for people that just don’t understand this is that even if they think they don’t know somebody who’s experienced a loss…they (do),” Johnson says. “It’s easy to talk about things when you feel removed from the situation or the community, but most people aren’t. … I hope they can take that messaging and learn and grow from it. I’m sure that they wouldn’t want to be hurting people that they’re in community with and that they love.”
More on celebrities and infertility
I’m single at 35 and want a family. This decision brought an immense amount of relief.
‘It was really hard’:Jennifer Aniston reveals journey with IVF, trying to get pregnant