I very much appreciate what this cover is doing. Chrissy Teigen wrote something extremely personal for the magazine about post-partum depression, and rather than tease that story over a shot of her grinning and hunching over with one leg up and leaking cleavage out of a bra top, they styled this to keep the focus on her feelings. The cover line does feel a bit like it was written for a jollier photo, although I get why they would want to clarify from the jump that she’s gotten to a better place now. And yes, her eyes don’t seem entirely focused on the camera, almost like she backed out of herself for a second. But oddly, that actually plays well with the overall aura of the cover. It’s serious. It’s bare-bones. It’s nervous but resolute; tough but vulnerable. And in a way that so many people (even Chrissy herself sometimes) pretend not to understand, it’s way sexier than the usual let-it-all-out hijinks. It almost feels more naked than actual nakedness. I feel like I’m being treated to a new and bracing side of Chrissy Teigen, so even with the air of melancholy, I’m way more apt to buy this. And I say that having already read the article. Which you should, too:
Before this, I had never, ever—in my whole entire life—had one person say to me: “I have postpartum depression.” Growing up in the nineties, I associated postpartum depression with Susan Smith [a woman now serving life in prison for killing her two sons; her lawyer argued that she suffered from a long history of depression], with people who didn’t like their babies or felt like they had to harm their children. I didn’t have anything remotely close to those feelings. I looked at Luna every day, amazed by her. So I didn’t think I had it. I also just didn’t think it could happen to me. I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny. But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling. Sometimes I still do.
It’s easy to assume that just because a person’s life is lived in public, it should be easy for them to go public. But the hotter the spotlight, the hotter the scrutiny. I’ve dealt with nasty comments here and there because I did IVF — one man memorably informed me that by trying fertility treatments, I was violating natural selection, because biology clearly did not want me to procreate — and I’m nobody. Imagine the scale on which Chrissy dealt with it when she went public on her talk show. But she talked about it anyway — she and Tyra Banks both did, and actually seemed in real-time to be finding comfort in each other — because it really is true that the more voices we hear that are raised in support of our common struggles, the less isolated or even demonized we tend to feel.
So while it may seem logical to be like, “Oh, whatever, just talk about it, Famous Person,” her notoriety or platform or comfort in the public eye don’t necessarily make any scab easier to pick. Reading Chrissy’s essay about PPD, I feel like it strikes a real balance between wanting to be open, and trying to address the mean tweets before anyone writes them. She can joke or be self-effacing, but she is opening a vein here, and whenever you do that somebody is going to hurl salt at it. The question is whether you can minimize the sting. And the thing is, with fertility and mental health and any one of a number of other conditions: We don’t get to decide. We can’t will ourselves into different body or brain chemistry. So the judgment sometimes associated with them, as if any of them are failures of effort or intent or will, is sad. And the stigma is equally problematic. We don’t judge people with heart problems or cancer or brittle bones, so why do we so often feel the need to cower or apologize or justify when other things don’t break our way? We’re not malfunctions; we’re humans. And the more voices that join in that human experience, the better and braver for us all. Thanks, Chrissy, for using yours.