LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The birth of George and Amal Clooney's twins sent media into a frenzy on Tuesday with paparazzi lined up outside a London hospital clamoring for the first pictures and celebrity websites outdoing each other for clicky headlines like "10 Reasons George Clooney Will Make a Great Dad."
Yet for all the fuss that greeted babies Ella and Alexander Clooney, they may end up the warm-up act to this summer's blockbuster.
Beyonce also is expected to give birth to twins any day now, turning motherhood into the biggest celebrity story of the year despite the striking contrast in styles of the two women who have become the focus of a baby-obsessed public.
Music superstar Beyonce, 35, has delighted in displaying her belly in Instagram photos and stage performances, whereas Amal Clooney, 39, made it clear during her pregnancy that she would like fans to focus more on her work than her baby bump.
It is a marked change from Beyonce's first pregnancy, with now 5-year-old Blue Ivy, when the singer was so rarely photographed that it spawned unfounded conspiracy theories that the "Single Ladies" star had faked her condition.
This time, Beyonce announced she was expecting twins a year after her "Lemonade" album chronicled her response to widespread reports of infidelity by husband Jay Z.
"What better sign to show to the world that you and your husband are a unit than to say, 'Hey I'm pregnant. We're back on track again.' And twins is even better," said Berkeley Kaite, professor of English at McGill University in Montreal.
Clooney, however, a top-flight humanitarian lawyer based in London, shunned the limelight that comes from being the spouse of the dashing "Ocean's Eleven" actor, who in the past had declared he did not want kids.
"Clooney having children is exciting to many people because he's perceived as a guy who took a while to settle down, and with an amazing woman who is very interesting," said JD Heyman, deputy editor of People magazine.
Aside from the usual fascination with the private lives of public figures, the attention given to the double sets of twins reflects conflicting attitudes to modern motherhood.
Celebrity pregnancies became big business after actress Demi Moore's nude, seven-month pregnant photo shoot for Vanity Fair in 1991.
The photo of Moore proudly caressing her belly was included in Time magazine's 2016 "100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time," where it was hailed as showing that maternity could be both empowering and sexy and for changing what had been a relatively private affair into a public event.
More than 25 years on, motherhood remains a double-edged sword with assumptions about what women should or should not do, said Ann C. Hall, co-editor of the 2009 book "Mommy Angst."
"Women have a lot of baggage... Everyone is happy, but on the other hand there is a whole host of expectations, and a lot of judgment," said Hall, who is also chair of comparative humanities at the University of Louisville, Kentucky.
"Some of us want to figure out what they are going to do with these babies. How are they going to negotiate their careers and their maternity? There aren't really any hard and fast rules for negotiating that any more, which is great and liberating but also anxiety producing," Hall said.
Beyonce and Clooney also highlight the trend towards older mothers, which comes with worries over infertility and the growth of the estimated $3 billion to $4 billion U.S. fertility market as women delay having children.
According to the 2017 National Vital Statistics report, birth rates for women ages 30 to 44 in the U.S. were the highest in 2015 since the early 1960s.
Childless celebrities undergo equal scrutiny, as highlighted by Jennifer Aniston in a 2016 open letter objecting to the endless media speculation over whether she is, is not, or will ever be pregnant.
"We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child ... we don't need to be married, or mothers to compete. We get to determine our own 'happily ever after' for ourselves," Aniston wrote.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bill Trott