Why do we care so much about celebs’ private lives?

Fantasia Burrino recently announced she was pregnant with her second child. “For a while I walked around figuring out, ‘what will they say’ and ‘what will they think about me?’” she said. “But now I tell you, I don’t live my life for folk. God has given me this child. And I don’t have to hide it from none of y’all.”

The “news” wasn’t new to anyone who saw pics of Fanny and her boyfriend, Antwan Cook, chillaxing on a boat in Barbados a couple months back. (And yes, he is the man whose wife sued Fanny for breaking up her marriage, an event so catastrophic that Fanny swallowed a whole bottle of pills in an attempt to allegedly commit suicide.) Fantasia rapidly put on weight, and was in a swimsuit, it was impossible to disguise her baby bump. Very few bought the explanation that her additional pounds were due to her lead role in an upcoming Mahalia Jackson biopic.

Predictably, blog comments condemned Fantasia, just like they’ve done recently for unwed moms like Lauryn Hill, who recently delivered her sixth child, and Nia Long, who is pregnant with her second.

“Thank you, Fantasia, you’re always helping to perpetuate the negative image of the Black woman and destruction of the Black family!” wrote one user, summing up the common reaction to unwed celebrity Black moms. “I hope your children truly follow in your footsteps so you can understand what a mess you have created for them and what sort of role model you really look like! Ugh! Chicken head!”

Wow. That’s a lot of venom for a person most of us have never met, and will never get to know. So where is all this backlash coming from?

“Superstars within the African-American community are saddled with the responsibility to serve as role models for the entire race,” says Alduan Tartt, Ph.D., an Atlanta-based psychologist and author of The Ring Formula. “And fans with children who idolize superstars, fear that these artists will have a negative influence on their offspring’s expectation of marriage before having children. ‘If [insert celebrity] did it and is a star, then it’s not so bad if I do it’, is the feared response.”
Still, I wonder if we’re putting too many expectations on our celebrities. They’re still human, no? “Our celebs, like many African-Americans, struggle with finding and maintaining healthy relationships,” adds Tartt. “Blaming these ladies, or any superstar for that matter, for their relationship mishaps is unwise and unfair.”
If blaming and judging is what you choose to do, I’m going to insist that the vitriol is distributed evenly. It’s not like these women impregnated themselves. There was a willing male involved and he should be held equally accountable for the child he created before putting a ring on it. “I’m sure none of these talented ladies plotted being a single mom as a PR move,” says Tartt. “Men, step up, strap up or how about just abstain?“
My, what a novel idea.

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. She has recently been nominated for an African American Literary Award. Vote for her now on literaryawardshow.com.