On the cover of this magazine is a woman holding her daughter. The woman, Katherine Heigl, is a white, blond, 32-year-old, all-American actress who was raised Mormon, and her two-year-old daughter, Naleigh, is Korean. The fact that this image is not remarkable is in itself remarkable—in 2010 the concept of family has shifted organically away from the (seemingly) ideal quartet of a man, a woman, and two biological children. The nuclear four has, thankfully, exploded into an endless array of familial combinations. In nearly every neighborhood there are gay parents, single parents, blended families, and children from all over the world. The old-fashioned nuclear paradigm still exists, of course, but it’s just part of the fabric. That there is currently no particular societally approved model for family is a wonderful, radical evolution that defies political affiliations (e.g., Dick Cheney’s very Republican gay daughter and her girlfriend have two children). Heigl and Naleigh are the new normal—just another mother and daughter.
That was the idea behind this issue of W—to document the family in all its variety. The moment seemed perfect: Acceptance, in the context of family (if not everywhere else), has permeated the culture. In July The Kids Are All Right, a comedy about a lesbian couple, their two teenage children, and the man who, via sperm donation, is their biological father, was a hit in theaters. That the film seemed conventional is one of its virtues—the director and cowriter, Lisa Cholodenko, effortlessly depicted a typical family that just happens to have two moms. When the bio-dad interrupts the almost sitcom-regular rhythms of the household, the film begs the question, What is family? The answer does not boil down to a simple equation.
Similarly, on the actual sitcom Modern Family, the Pritchett clan has evolved into three households: The patriarch, in his 60s, has a hot, young Colombian wife with an 11-year-old oddball son from a previous relationship; another son is gay and lives with his boyfriend and their baby; and then there’s the daughter who has a conventional family of five. In an ironic twist, the family of five is often the most complicated of the three branches of this particular family tree. At the Emmys in August, Modern Family won best comedy, beating Glee (which, at its heart, is also a show about family). When mainstream television, which since Ozzie and Harriet has embraced the classic structure of the family, changes course, it is almost revolutionary. Network TV, more than any other medium, takes its cues from the audience. Shows are tested and judged week after week, and if they’re not popular, they’re canceled. The success of Modern Family, with its range of ethnicity, sexuality, and paternity, is wonderfully surprising and proves that family values suddenly have no set ideal.
In putting together this portfolio, we attempted to depict a similar range of family life. Consider Heigl: She grew up in Connecticut with Meg, her sister, who happens to be Korean, and her two brothers. You may notice I didn’t say Meg, her adopted sister. In the age of the new family, I think “adopted” should be abandoned as a qualifying prefix. The implication is that an adopted child is less desirable or loved than a biological one. While it is true that Heigl, along with her husband, Josh Kelley, adopted Naleigh at nine months, their connection should not, in any way, be diminished or undercut by the nature of the baby’s arrival. She’s their child, they’re a family, and the bond should not be accompanied by a metaphoric asterisk.
Although we were drawn to nontraditional families, the primary motivation for this portfolio was to capture the unique bonds of every type of family. There is a connection that all families feel, even when they fight. “Nothing changes your life like family,” Lee Daniels, the Academy Award–nominated director of Precious, once told me. “That’s where your truth is.” That truth can be a jumble of siblings (like the Hennessy family), a single dad (like Usher), or a gay father who’s raising his brother’s children (like Daniels). More than anything else, families are a powerful point of origin. If a child starts life with a more open perspective, a different view of race and gender, the culture, as a whole, will shift. What was once unusual is now ordinary. And that’s worth celebrating.
The Family Issue
“For me, family is life,” says model Miranda Kerr, 27. “The decision to start one wasn’t complex at all.” Kerr, whose stealth wedding to actor Orlando Bloom this past July caught even the paparazzi off guard, was in Paris shooting a Jil Sander campaign when she found out she was pregnant. “I was wondering why I’d been so sick.” Kerr and Bloom have opted not to be told their child’s sex. “We’re keeping it a surprise,” she says. Though her modeling stock has risen (she’s currently fronting campaigns for Jil Sander, Prada, and Victoria’s Secret), Kerr has no issues with putting her professional ambitions on hold. “My career has been wonderful, but it’s not my life. I don’t feel pressure to get back to work.” As for the long-term future, the Aussie native has conceived a rustic plan for domestic bliss: “My goal involves a hammock, a vegetable patch, and a solar-powered house. And I hope to eventually get there.”
“Three or four days before I traveled to Atlanta to shoot Life as We Know It, I became Naleigh’s mother,” Katherine Heigl says. “I was about to play a woman who inherits a baby, and I was experiencing the same things as my character. I didn’t really want to let Naleigh out of my sight, but it’s not terribly realistic to have a baby in a trailer 12 to 14 hours a day.” Naleigh, who was born in Korea with a congenital heart problem that was corrected through open-heart surgery before Heigl and her husband, Josh Kelley, adopted her, joins a particularly close family. Heigl’s mother, Nancy, has been her manager since she began acting as a child (who can forget Heigl as the teenage sex-bomb alien on Roswell?) and now coproduces her films. “My sister, Meg, is Korean,” the actress says. “I hope, one day, she and Naleigh will be able to talk about what it’s like to be adopted.” In the meantime Naleigh has to adjust to her siblings—Heigl’s six dogs. “I knew there was no way in hell I was going to get rid of any of my dogs to make room for a baby,” Heigl explains. “Naleigh loves them. Sometimes it reminds me of The Jungle Book. I’m like, Oh, my God—she’s being raised by animals.”
“When you’re born into a family that has a family business, family and business are one thing,” says Silvia Venturini Fendi (center, standing), the sole Fendi still working in the Roman house founded by her maternal grandparents in 1925. As a young girl, Silvia grew up in the atelier, apprenticing to her mother, Anna (third from left), the firm’s designer, who preferred to dress her children in black. “Everybody would ask if we were orphans, and my nanny would say, ‘Her mother is in fashion!’” Silvia recalls. As coproducer of Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love, 2010’s art-house hit about a wealthy Italian textile clan, Silvia drew on her memories of the formal Fendi household. “In this kind of family, the important decisions were made at home around the table,” she says, “not at the office.” Silvia, a single parent, has since dispensed with such conventions. “I have two different fathers for my children [from left: Guilio Cesare, 26; Leonetta, 14; and Delfina, 23, with her daughter, Emma, three], so when we have family dinners, there are always the new wife, the new girlfriends. It’s a much more open family today.”
“I really don’t think I need to say, ‘Mommy was a porn star,’” Jenna Jameson says of explaining her former profession to Jesse and Journey, her twin boys with Ultimate Fighting Championship star Tito Ortiz. “I feel like they’re going to know me and think, Mommy loved us so much that she quit everything and made us her job. And that’s what I did. The moment I decided to have children, I quit. I won’t even do a Maxim cover,” says the 37-year-old, who was surprised to find herself a natural at breast-feeding, despite four implant operations—the last to have them removed. (“I thought: I’m getting rid of these things. I don’t need them anymore.”) Raised in Las Vegas, the daughter of a showgirl and a cop, Jameson sold her $30 million porn empire to Playboy in 2006 and now lives with Ortiz in Huntington Beach, California. “It’s a really beautiful family community. And here I’m not ‘Jenna Jameson’; I’m just one of the moms who walk a double stroller every day,” she says, noting that, after a career spent standing out, she wants nothing more than to blend in. “I’m a normal girl with all the same worries and insecurities. I just happen to have done porn.”
“Because Peter’s life is that company, when he’s home we orbit him,” says Darci Kistler of their downtime in Irvington, New York, 20 miles from Lincoln Center, where Martins helms New York City Ballet. “I don’t even ask him to take the trash out. He’s never done a dish in his life.” Martins was 32 when he met the then 16-year-old Kistler, a ballet wunderkind who was George Balanchine’s last protégé; Balanchine famously put their hands together to encourage a romance. The two got together for good 10 years later, eloping in 1991; in 1996 their daughter, Talicia, known as Cia, was born. Admired for her daredevilry onstage, Kistler admits, “I’d never been afraid until I had a child.” Raising a family with her director has had its challenges, not least of which was the bar they set for Cia, now 14, who decided early on to take another route to the stage. “She wants to be an actress,” says Kistler, who retired this past June after a 30-year career. “She was daunted by my dancing, but more by her father—living up to his expectations.” Their extended family includes Martins’s son, Nilas, 43, a former partner of Kistler’s at City Ballet. “Peter never had a father, so I think being a parent isn’t the easiest thing for him,” she allows, adding, “You can’t have long marriages that are just perfect. They need tending—just like a dancer does.”
“When you put the passion between a man and a woman up against having children, it doesn’t hold a candle. I’ve never known passion like what my children have helped me feel,” says divorced dad Usher Raymond IV, who shares custody of sons Usher V and Naviyd with ex-wife Tameka Foster. Of course, there are more practical considerations. “Mine was a little more of a rock star’s world before. When you have to childproof your house, everything changes—your furniture selection, your car selection,” he explains. “You become a lot more conscious, or at least I did.” Today the No. 1 hit in the House of Usher is the theme song to Thomas the Tank Engine. As for his own music, the R&B singer insists that the title of his most recent album, Raymond v. Raymond, refers not to his divorce but to his competing personas: the rock star and the family man. Both were partying hard on his 32nd birthday in October. “I’m here sitting by the pool with my kids just enjoying the simple moments of life,” he told me from Los Angeles, where his kids had flown from their home in Atlanta to see him. “And then later on tonight I’ll have a party, the kids will go to bed, and the other Raymond will come out.”
“We have rules,” the Material Mom insisted when asked earlier this year about parenting her daughter Lourdes, 14 (known as Lola). “She can wear makeup when she goes to parties and special events. And ya know, there’s always a little bit of a discussion about how short the skirt is…or is there some cleavage showing. And I always say to her, ‘Do you want everybody to be staring at your breasts, or do you want people to talk to you?’” Mama, don’t preach? In September the duo stepped out on the pink carpet to promote their Material Girl juniors clothing line for Macy’s—Lola’s take on Eighties-era Madonna. “The ’80s are another huge obsession of mine,” Lola blogged on the Material Girl website, “which is totally amazingly awesome because Material Girl…HELLO! It’s like ’80s themed, which pretty much rocks, so yeah.” In their rare press outing together at Macy’s, the pair talked about raiding Mom’s closet, their thing for black, and how simpatico they often are on the subject of style: “I think we complement each other, disagree on a few things,” said Madonna. “There’s definitely clashes,” Lola interjected, “but it all works out.” Naturally, Madge had the last word. “I wouldn’t have worn this flannel shirt thing,” she added, pointing to the offending garment, “but she looks good in it.”
“I didn’t experience great works of art when I was younger,” says onetime enfant terrible Jeff Koons, recalling that his primer in aesthetics came from his father, who owned a furniture shop in York, Pennsylvania. The artist’s own kids, however, live in a mini Metropolitan Museum: The walls of their Upper East Side town house are chockablock with works by Courbet, Poussin, and Picasso, among others. “Hey, Blakey!” Koons called out to his four-year-old on a recent morning. “Who’s your favorite artist?” “Massys,” came the hesitant reply. “He really does love Massys,” a Flemish Old Master, explains Koons, “but sometimes the kids get shy. They don’t know whether to say their dad, or whatever.” The brood also includes the artist’s daughter Shannon, 35, whom he didn’t meet until 1995 (she was put up for adoption by her mother, a college student at the time), and his son Ludwig, 18, with whom Koons reunited in 2009 following a five-year break imposed by his ex-wife, Italian porn star and politician Ilona Staller. Chez Koons, the “Art Game” is a favorite bedtime ritual. “My dad will say, ‘Find the Picasso or Dalí,’” says Sean, nine, “and the person who finds them all first gets to stay up five minutes later.”
“The scent of cognac and the smell of the barrel is what I was raised with, so they are very comforting to me,” fragrance-maker Kilian Hennessy, 38, says of his Proustian associations with the Hennessy family seat, Château de Saint Brice, in Cognac, France, where he spent his first seven years—and to which he returns each school break with his own children, Dorian, eight, and Savannah, six. Named after his grandfather, who helped create LVMH and transformed the fortunes of the family cognac business, the younger Hennessy grew up in Paris’s 16th arrondissement, a block from where he’s raising his kids as a newly divorced dad. “When my mother had dinner parties, I had no access to the guests,” he recalls. “Whereas I include my kids in everything. When I have friends over for dinner, I want them to be very at ease with adults and conversation. My rule is that they can do whatever they want as long as their [grades] are good. I tell them, ‘Bring me good marks and I give you the red carpet.’”
“For the most part, it’s great having my kids view the world so differently than I did,” says Precious director Lee Daniels of his twins, Clara and Liam, 14, who were born to his brother and his girlfriend and adopted by Daniels and his then partner, casting director Billy Hopkins, when they were three days old. “I tell them, ‘I know it’s all “Kumbaya” with your friends, but when you get in that workforce, you’re going to see what it’s like as a black person.’” The son of a policeman, Daniels grew up in a tough West Philadelphia neighborhood, where he helped raise his siblings after their father was shot to death when Lee was 13. “I didn’t want to have kids,” says Daniels, whose children divide their time between Hopkins’s home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Daniels’s midtown apartment. “I was just beginning to make money and have fun with my life, and I didn’t want to grow up, but then the universe said ‘Time!’ I was forced to get my shit together because I wanted them to look up to me.” He has long solicited his children’s advice, editing his films at home in the living room. “They’ll say to me, ‘That’s not real, Dad,’ even with the most graphic subject matter—pedophilia, incest, abuse.” But these days, he admits, his kids’ hopeful outlook is nudging him toward lighter fare. “Now I want to do things for them. And they want X-Men, Spider-Man— action movies.”
“We moved around a lot when I was a child,” says fashion designer Bella Freud—great-granddaughter of Sigmund and daughter of artist Lucian—whose free-spirited mother transplanted Bella and her sister Esther to Morocco for a time when they were young. There she learned Arabic, so “I could understand what people were saying about us,” she explains. Her parents split up when she was two, “so I virtually have no memory of them being together,” Freud says. “I often think [my son] Jimmy’s so lucky to have a mother and a father because it’s so relaxing not to have to provide everything yourself.” Though she didn’t see much of her dad as a kid, the two forged a lasting bond the day he bought Bella her first vodka and lime at London’s Colony Room—when she was 14. “I thought, God, this is incredible—suddenly I could join in his world.” She quickly became a frequent model of his, soaking up her father’s stories while he painted. “It was as if everything stopped when I went through that door, because it was cozy and special and nothing else mattered.” Though Sigmund rarely comes up in conversation, says Freud, 10-year-old Jimmy takes his famous relatives in stride. So much so that during the past four years, as his father, James Fox (author of White Mischief), helped family friend Keith Richards pen his memoirs, “Jimmy kept asking us, ‘Is Keith my uncle?’”
“I had just come back to L.A. from New York,” says Cholodenko, the director and cowriter of The Kids Are All Right. “And I wanted to have a kid. I fell in love with Wendy, and we knew we were both pushing 40 and the clock was ticking. We debated about whether to use a sperm bank or hit up a friend. In the end, my mom said, ‘It’s better to use a sperm donor.’” That dilemma helped inspire The Kids Are All Right, which is about a lesbian couple, their two teenage children, and what happens when the sperm donor becomes a part of their lives. Both Cholodenko and her partner, musician Wendy Melvoin, tried to get pregnant at the same time. “I got pregnant first, and Wendy decided that one kid was the way to go,” Cholodenko explains, “although she did bring home a baby bulldog when our son, Calder, was born. We almost divorced over the bulldog.”
Styled by David Vandewal. Hair by David Babaii; makeup by Pati Dubroff; manicure by Lisa Jachno. Produced by Stardust Visions. Fashion: Katherine Heigl: Dolce & Gabbana’s silk lace and chiffon gown. Repossi’s blackened gold and black diamond rings. Naleigh: Tia Mazza’s nylon tulle veil. Beauty: Estée Lauder Nutritious Vita-Mineral Makeup in Intensity 1.0; Signature Silky Powder Blush in Pink Kiss; Pure Color EyeShadow in Nude Fresco; Sumptuous Bold Volume Lifting Mascara in Black; Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lipstick in Stay Honey.