In the aftermath of the horrific Orlando shooting, social media lit up in different shades of support and solidarity—some people changed their profile pictures, many posted images of rainbows and hearts, some shared heartfelt words and messages, and some people posted. . . topless pictures to Instagram? That’s right. Behati Prinsloo, a Victoria’s Secret model and wife of Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine, decided a naked picture of herself was just the thing to help those suffering from grief and trauma.
Prinsloo took to Instagram last week to share a black-and-white shot of her shirtless self, her hands covering her breasts, her pregnant belly protruding from her unzipped jeans. She added the caption #chooseLOVE along with a teensy tiny picture of a rainbow. This, apparently, was her way of showing support for the victims of the Orlando shooting and their friends and families.
Now, for a nearly naked photo, it’s about as appealing as they come. It’s the kind of photo many mothers-to-be take to capture their changing shapes and celebrate the babies they will soon welcome into their families. And yet, while Prinsloo’s photo and caption would make a perfect poster for an adoption agency or as part of a pro-life campaign, it’s an utterly befuddling choice to share post-massacre.
Perhaps in her mind, there was some logic to sharing an image of the growing new life inside of her as a sort of balm to mass death. But even if that was her motivation, there’s something incredibly hubristic in presuming one’s naked body will somehow bring consolation to grieving strangers. Did she really think a broken-hearted mother or friend was going to get on the internet, see a naked image of Prinsloo and suddenly feel better? Maybe Prinsloo thought her bare flesh somehow revealed empathy or compassion, but to the victims, her look-at-me snapshot probably showed nothing more than vanity and exploitative self-promotion.
Indeed, her topless picture, as topless pictures have a tendency to do, had the effect of taking attention and focus off of the victims and rerouting it to herself. Very quickly headlines like “Adam Levine is Awed by Wife Behati Prinsloo’s Topless Maternity Portrait” and “Adam Levine’s Wife Behahti Prinsloo Posts Pregnant Selfie in Solidartiy with Orlando Victims” started taking the oxygen out of actual stories about the victims. Celebrities leave a big media footprint, and when they step into current events, they leave a mark that can blot out more worthy stories.
In the wake of tragedy and terrorism, most people on social media actually go out of their way to take attention off of themselves—after the Paris attacks, for example, thousands of people changed their profile pictures from smiling headshots of themselves to the French flag or photos of the Eiffel Tower. The same thing happened last week, when Facebook and Instagram were almost instantly lit up with the rainbow that symbolizes gay pride.
People do this not only to show support or solidarity, but also to demonstrate a form of humility by acknowledging something that is bigger than themselves. This is why Prinsloo’s narcissism and nudity feels so entirely out-of-place and out-of-touch.
Also, Prinsloo sends a questionable message to women everywhere, namely, that the way we show support to those in pain is through mass distribution of naked images of ourselves. That’s not spreading the love—it’s just perpetuating a Kim Kardashian approach to the world, where naked bodies serve as a kind of currency for self-promotion.
In all likelihood, Prinsloo had good intentions when she posted pictures of herself online. But good intentions don’t make a good deed. You can have all the good intentions (and filters, angles, and carefully staged photos) in the world, but at the end of the day, a naked picture is still a naked picture—something people seeking sympathy and support in a time of grief neither need nor want. What the world needs now is love, not topless pictures and celebrity vanity.