Bringing home a baby is often a highly public and celebratory occasion. Bringing home a baby from another country and of another race raises the level of public interest and attention. This especially true among celebrity transnational transracial adoptions. In the 1930s writer Pearl S. Buck adopted several mixed-race children from abroad, eventually establishing her own adoption agency – Welcome House in 1949, the first interracial and international adoption agency.
In 1955, Harry and Bertha Holt, a farming couple from Oregon, were thrust into the national spotlight with their adoption of eight children from Korea. Though not celebrities themselves, their very public adoptions gave them celebrity status and raised the national awareness of adoption from Korea. A year later the Holt Adoption Program was formally incorporated, laying the foundation for the Holt Adoption Agency and serving as a gateway for thousands of Korean children to be adopted to the U.S.
More contemporarily, celebrity adoptions such as those by Mia Farrow or Julie Andrews, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, or Jillian Michaels, to name a few, continue to garner public interest in and awareness about transnational transracial adoptions. Celebrity adoptions raise questions about the legality and ethics of transnational adoption, the best interest of children in orphanages, and the best method to help orphaned children and their birth countries. Additionally, these highly publicized adoptions raise the question of if celebrity adoptions turn transnational adoptions into simply fashionable trends to follow.
As a scholar who is interested in the role of popular culture on attitudes and identity, I wonder how such highly publicized adoptions impact people’s decisions to adopt, how we as a society think about adoption, and how adoptees themselves think about themselves.