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L.A.'s 8 Tiny Celebrities; Nadya Suleman, Who Gave Birth To Octuplets, Hires Publicists To Handle Media Deluge

Los Angeles Times, February 03, 2009

By Jessica Garrison and Andrew Blankstein

Move over, Brangelina and your $14-million twins. There are some new babies in town.

Whittier mother Nadya Suleman and her eight week-old babies are entertaining offers from media outlets around the world as they decide who will land the first interview and snap the first pictures.

Suleman -- a 33-year-old unmarried mother who already has six children between the ages of 2 and 7, including a set of twins -- remained hospitalized Monday along with the octuplets, who continue to improve. Doctors at Kaiser Permanente's Bellflower Medical Center said the babies are growing stronger each day and are breathing unassisted and feeding on donated breast milk.

Suleman retained Los Angeles publicists Michael Furtney and Joann Killeen on Friday and since then, the agents said they had fielded dozens of interview requests and offers for book, film and television deals. Some media reports have speculated that Suleman might be paid as much as $2 million for an interview, but Furtney said, "The money itself is not the object."

"She has her view of her life with her kids as they go down life's highway," he said. "She wants to be sure they are well cared for."

The birth of the babies sparked worldwide interest last week, interest that grew as more details about Suleman emerged, including news that she is not married, lives with her parents and already had six children. She was married in 1996 and separated from her husband in 2000 before any of her children were born. Their divorce was not finalized until January 2008, according to court records.

Even though many people have inundated blogs and Internet message boards with messages criticizing Suleman, Furtney said the public will be persuaded that "she is a very good person and someone they should support" after they learn more about her.

He described her as "very bright" with a "great sense of humor."

"She has a great attitude about all of this, which is remarkable," Furtney said.

He declined to answer questions about the sperm donor or where she sought fertility treatment.

Her 15 minutes of fame might be fleeting. Diaper makers might donate products in exchange for a positive press mention, but longer-term sponsorship is unlikely, said William Chipps, senior editor of the IEG Sponsorship Report, which tracks and analyzes sponsorships.

"Given the current marketing environment -- where companies are pulling back on budgets -- the last thing they would do is align with any personality that has a hint of controversy surrounding them," Chipps said.

But for now, Kaiser in Bellflower is still being deluged with calls, e-mail and letters, including about 200 media inquiries a day from as far as New Zealand and London, officials said.

A country music station in Grand Rapids, Mich., also called the hospital seeking an interview with one of the doctors. Several dozen gift baskets full of eight items for the babies arrived at the hospital, as well as enough flowers to fill a florist shop. Nannies, baby photographers and breast-feeding women called to offer free services and support. A woman from Peoria, Ill., wanted to send eight hand-knit blankets.

One mother of triplets even called to offer advice, said Socorro Serrano, Kaiser's media manager.

She said to expect judgment and unkind words, but to "hang in there."

But that mother was more the exception than the rule, Serrano said. Many callers expressed outrage, demanding an explanation about who was going to care for the children and pay for their care.

"In the first few days we got calls like 'How dare you do this?' and 'You should have your [medical] license revoked,' " Serrano said. There were even those few who wished the babies would not survive, Serrano said.