Sasha and Malia: In the Eye of the Paparazzi

  • Share
  • Read Later
Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty

First Daughters Malia, left, and Sasha en route to an Inauguration event

In tabloid math, the only thing better than a picture of a celebrity is a picture of a celebrity with his or her cute kid — or in some cases, just the kid (see Suri Cruise). There's no bigger celebrity at the moment than President Barack Obama, who has already been on the cover of such august political organs as TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. As luck would have it, Barack and Michelle Obama have two of the cutest — and therefore potentially lucrative — offspring on the planet. Beanie Babies maker Ty has already released Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia dolls. So the appetite for stories and photos of the First Daughters is going to be somewhere between huge and crazed. (And no, is not immune. See pictures of Sasha and Malia at the Inauguration.)

Gary Morgan, CEO of Splash, a photo and video agency that specializes in paparazzi shots, says he's already sent more photographers to Washington. "There's going to be a lot of interest, all around the world, in the Obama family," he says. In December, Splash distributed photos of the Obamas holidaying in Hawaii, including some long-lens shots of the President-elect shirtless. Morgan says he had no trouble selling them. (Read about Obama trying to avoid the spotlight in Hawaii.)

"My dream would be a picture of them decorating their bedrooms or having a pajama party," says OK! Magazine editor in chief Susan Toepfer, who adds that she'll settle for photos of Christmas and Easter celebrations. "The Obamas have made it clear they want to be open with the public. They're going to become the national family." (See pictures of U.S. Presidents and their children.)

Of course, OK! prefers to keep the celebrities it's covering happy. And even more aggressive magazines like Us Weekly have a written policy of not buying pictures of kids taken at or near their schools. But other tabloids are not going to be so picky, particularly the online outlets. If someone has a picture of Malia or Sasha having a bad hair day back in Illinois, Morgan says Splash would buy it. Likewise, if there's a story of alleged social climbing at a Sidwell Friends birthday party, it's a safe bet that gossip site Gawker and its ilk would run the story.

Given the market for such pictures, could the paparazzi become a problem for the First Family? Alan Nierob, a publicist whose flashbulb-bait clients include Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe, says he can't imagine one. "There aren't going to be any long-lens shots into the White House," says Nierob. "Hello! There's a Secret Service. It's not like the girls are going to be sitting in traffic while photographers snap away."

While Morgan says no one is going to be foolish enough to "chase down the President of the United States" for a shot, he thinks it won't be necessary, because the Obamas seem to know how to utilize the popular press to their advantage. They have set up photo ops in the past and have allowed for others. "If they're out and we can get a shot, it's because they don't mind us being there," he says. "The Secret Service guys are cool as long as you don't do anything dangerous."

Morgan wonders, however, if this unspoken agreement between the First Family and the popular press will last. "We'll see how it goes after a few months. It's not like we don't know where he lives," he says. "You can't keep people cooped up there forever."

See pictures of Obama's family tree.

Read "Telling Obama's American Story."