Blake Lively has lived in the public eye for pretty much her entire adult life, and given that her marriage to Ryan Reynolds has also made her a part of one of Hollywood's most beloved celebrity couples, it seems pretty safe to assume that, by now, she's used to the intrusion of paparazzi cameras. But as much as she and Reynolds may accept it as an inevitable part of their own careers, guarding their children's privacy is a whole other story. After learning that a photographer had taken photos of her daughter at an Easter party without her permission or knowledge, according to Page Six, Blake Lively personally reached out to fans on Instagram and asked them to delete the images. And while the move was hugely effective — Lively was able to get both fan accounts and news outlets to remove the photo — the fact that she had to ask in the first place is incredibly problematic. Famous or not, no parent should have to worry about people sharing photos of their children on the internet without their consent. (Lively's rep did not immediately return Romper's request for comment.)
On Sunday, Lively and her 3-year-old daughter, James, attended an Easter party thrown by Martha Stewart at her Bedford, New York, home, according to Page Six, and photos of the actress and her daughter arriving at the event were soon picked up by multiple outlets. The stories seemed to mostly be gushing over the cuteness of the mother-daughter duo, and Page Six noted that some of the outlets chose to either pixelate James' face, or to crop her out entirely to respect her privacy. But when the image began circulating on the accounts of regular Instagram users, Lively decided to take matters into her own hands.
Although it's completely understandable that Lively wouldn't want photos of her 3-year-old daughter circulating around the internet in general, the problem with the Easter photos specifically, Lively noted, was that she didn't even know there were cameras present. In a comment on a now-deleted fan account photo, Lively wrote, according to Page Six,
Thank you for your support, but please remove this photo right away. It was taken without my knowledge or consent by a man hiding.
It's no secret of course that paparazzi photographers often go to great lengths to capture photos of celebrities, and that they are often criticized for major privacy violations. But even by regular paparazzi standards, this seems pretty awful. I mean, the photo in question was allegedly taken by "a man hiding" with his camera at a private event filled with children, according to Lively. No wonder Lively was upset.
While I can only imagine what it must have felt like to realize that she and her daughter had been photographed without their knowledge — and while it probably took an incredible amount of self-control to keep her cool as she started leaving Instagram comments — Lively's strategy was pretty brilliant. She's certainly not the first celebrity parent to ask for privacy on behalf of her children, and sadly, she probably won't be the last. But while it might be easy for some people to ignore her rep's formal requests in the name of likes and shares, it's different when Lively herself is specifically asking you personally to remove the photo. Star power aside, it's a sobering reminder that Lively is still just a human being who wants to protect her daughter. And that, while it may often seem otherwise, neither of them are public property.
As open as Lively and Reynolds may be about their own lives (or, at least, the parts of their lives they feel comfortable sharing), the pair has always been protective of their girls, and have tried as hard as they can to leave their family life private. Reynolds often makes jokes about fatherhood on social media, and Lively has shared stories about her experience as a mother, but neither of them post pictures that show their children's faces. They've also only ever made one public appearance together as a family, and it was a very calculated decision.
In December 2016, Lively and Reynolds brought their daughters to see Reynolds get his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, according to People, marking the first time the public had seen them out as a family of four (James was 2 years old at the time, while her younger sister, Ines, was only three months old — and the couple hadn't yet even shared her name).
The couple posed for photos with their children, and it was a pretty big departure for two people who value their privacy so much. But Reynolds explained to Extra that they made the exception for one very important reason, and said, "This is one of the rare occasions when we thought we got to bring the whole clan. I’d regret it in 20 years if I didn’t."
The fascination into celebrity children honestly makes sense: stars like Lively and Reynolds seem to live picture-perfect, glamorous lives, and that often means that fans want to know as much as possible about them, including what they're like in private, and with their kids. Plus, while most of us may have little in common normally with people like Lively, motherhood is one experience that is often hugely relatable — even celebs get spit up on, after all, and know what it's like to be breastfeeding an infant at 2 a.m. when you're also half asleep.
The danger of that fascination though, is that it ignores the fact that there are real people behind celebrities' public personas, and they want to protect their children. Just as much as we'd likely be totally horrified if a photo of our kids were to show up on social media when we didn't give permission, celeb parents can feel violated, too. So while photos of the stars themselves might be fair game, hopefully we can all agree that hiding in the bushes to snap photos of their kids is crossing a major line.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.