Ellie Kemper on strangers touching her baby bump: ‘personal space violation’


I absolutely adore Ellie Kemper. She is someone that I can watch for hours without ever getting tired of her. Ellie stars in The Secret Life of Pets as Katie, one of the few humans in the film. Soon after the movie’s July 16 opening, Ellie and husband Michael Koman will be welcoming their first child. Now that they are in the home stretch, Ellie is discussing some of the odder aspects of pregnancy, like losing her personal space. She told Willie Geist on Today Sunday that when she first got pregnant her friends would reach out to touch her stomach, which she found odd because there was nothing there. However, that was nothing compared to people she doesn’t know touching her stomach uninvited. Even though she tried to put a positive spin on it but calling it a “a nice reminder of humanity,” she can’t quite get away from the fact that some stranger has their hands on her belly.

Sometimes, it’s best to keep your hands to yourself

If there’s one thing that has fascinated Ellie Kemper during her pregnancy journey, it’s the simple fact that people really like to touch her growing stomach.

“Now I’m showing and I don’t know what goes through a person’s mind—a stranger’s mind no less—when they think oh yes, your stomach is something that now belongs to me and I can touch it,” she shared with Willie Geist on TODAY Sunday. “It’s actually crazy.”

She continued, “In a way, I think it’s a nice reminder of humanity, but then I quickly go back to the idea that you wouldn’t do this if I wasn’t pregnant.”

It was even stranger for the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star early on in her pregnancy when friends would feel the urge to feel her stomach.

“It was just odd. I’m not a very touchy feely comfortable person so with someone touching me, I’m like ahh personal space violation,” she joked. “It was like touching my digestion. There was nothing quite there.”

[From E! News]

Like Ellie, I am not a touchy-feely person. A handshake is the most intimate I want to be with most people. Her line about touching her digestion is funny because it’s so true. If I had just eaten a whole large pizza, no one would grab my stomach and say “oooooh, let me touch the Sicilian Meat Lovers Pie!” It’s a bizarre concept and yet some people feel entitled to do it. I think I’ll design a Baby Bump Hand Swatter for pregnant women.

When Ellie was on The Late Show she told Stephen Colbert that she had intended to do everything you were supposed to for the baby, like playing classical music. She said she’d heard sardines were good for the fetus due to the Omega 3 oils so she bought a ton but never ate them because she doesn’t like them. When Stephen produced a plate of sardines, Ellie was barely able to swallow one but declared she could “feel Baby getting smarter.” I was kind of the poster child for not doing what the books said I was “supposed to” while pregnant. I think the most sophisticated thing I played for my fetuses was Bohemian Rhapsody.

Seasons 1 and 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are streaming on Netflix. Ellie not only loves the show but describes Tina Fey as a “very grounded, very kind, very polite boss who treats everyone well.” The show is coming back for a third season, which thrills me because I live for Titus and Lillian’s interactions.




Photo credit: WENN and Fame/Flynet Photos

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42 Responses to “Ellie Kemper on strangers touching her baby bump: ‘personal space violation’”

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  1. snusnud says:

    I adore Ellie Kemper.What a bold woman ! She is very right about strangers touching her belly though! I understand when friends do it but with strangers seems..odd?

    Also I am glad she talked about having giggle incontinence since she was young (basically she pees herself when she laughs really hard) on Daily Show with Trevor Noah some time ago.That is a very common problem ( about 33 percent of women have it,a friend of mine included) but not many people talk about it because they find it shameful.

  2. Coco says:

    I’m 27 weeks pregnant and I always thank everyone who asks if it’s ok to touch my belly before getting handsy. I live in the Bay Area so not sure if folks are just more respectful of personal space or if I give off a don’t touch me vibe, but I totally expected a lot more touching my belly without asking and pretty much everyone asks first. Makes me really happy.

    • Sunnee says:

      I’m also 27 weeks and I’ve been somewhat amazed that no one (other than my husband and parents) has reached out to touch my bump. I must REALLY give off the “don’t touch me” vibe haha.

    • Meghan says:

      I’m 32 weeks and also haven’t had many random people trying to touch my belly, it’s all been family. And oddly enough, most of my family members ask me first. … they know I am not touchy feely.

      What I am getting tired of is random women going on about how they gained a lot of weight and I am just all bump and haven’t gained much weight at all. Yes the 24/7 nausea has been wonderful and kept my weight gain low.

  3. Nancy says:

    I’m with her. Hands to yourself please. Women in the grocery store would pat my belly with the oh so cute crap…wtf. To quote Ellie…who I think is adorable….in Bridesmaids: “May I have a glass of alcohol please!”

    • Sabrine says:

      I was walking downtown when quite large with my son and an old man touched my stomach with his cane. Creepy beyond belief and unfortunately forever in my memory bank.

      • Mark Hummel says:

        Jesus! That’s f’ing assault in my book. If I happened to be with you during that affront, I would have had to resist the temptation to swat that man with his own cane, while saying “howdaya like that? howdaya like that you rude bastard!”

  4. aims says:

    I was eight months and I was at a store and the checker felt the need to rub my belly, a total stranger. I was pissed. You would never rub a women’s stomach if she weren’t pregnant.

  5. Flowerchild says:

    @ Hecate

    Right Titus Burgess is life, I live for his Instagram post they give me so much joy.

  6. meme says:

    I would never think of just going up to a pregnant woman and touching her belly. I wouldn’t go up to anyone and just touch them anywhere. I even ask pregnant friends/family if I can touch their baby bellies.

  7. Nikki says:

    My niece’s father in law went to touch her pregnant stomach, and she intercepted his hand, pushed it firmly away, and said firmly, “There’ll be NONE of that!” I thought that was hilarious, and so HER…I always thought it was obnoxious to touch someone’s belly without permission. BUT: my daughter is approaching completing her first trimester of her first pregnancy. We aren’t allowed to breathe a word of it to anyone yet. She visited, and I shocked MYSELF by suddenly leaning over and ecstatically kissing her tummy (which doesn’t even show!). My bad!! Luckily she laughed, but I’ll have to get a grip on myself!

    • AngelaH says:

      I feel like it’s a little different when it is your daughter that is pregnant. I mean, you created her and now she’s creating life. I think I could understand that.

      Other than my very very close friends and family, I wouldn’t want people just touching me. I’ve always found it such a bizarre concept. But I don’t feel the need to touch pregnant bellys, so maybe I’m the bizarre one? It creeped me out when my sister would have me touch her pregnant belly when my niece was kicking or had hiccups. But I find pregnacy to be really gross so maybe that’s why I don’t have that belly touching urge. I mean, it’s miraculous and all that, but gross.

  8. Sam says:

    This happened to me. Usually it’s older women, in my experience. The younger generation seems to be better about getting that touching a person without consent isn’t a great idea. But the older women – yeesh. My husband has one auntie who I swear could tell my son’s position inside me by the way she would grope me each time we met. My husband had the bright idea that I should start telling people it was a tumor, but I never got that irate. Maybe with No. 3, I’ll reach the breaking point.

  9. Locke Lamora says:

    I’ve only seen her in interviews and I find her a bit annoying. Too peppy and happy for my taste. But she’s right about people acting like they had the right to invade pregnant women’s personal space.

    • Nancy says:

      Yeah happy peppy people usually grind my nerves as well. But for whatever reason, I like her. She seems genuine. Guess a glass half empty with a leak girl like me only wishes to have some of her enthusiasm!!! JK, it’s not all that bad!

  10. Melody says:

    I say: BELLYTOUCH ‘EM BACK!! When they complain about your weird inappropriate behavior, feign ignorance and ask “Are we not doing this, then? Good!”

    • INeedANap says:

      When I was 15 I reached out and touched my aunt’s belly. She started rubbing mine right back. I learned my lesson and never pulled that ish again.

    • Scal says:

      Yup, this is what I did during my first pregnancy and it stopped people in their tracks pretty quickly.

      I had one person touch my belly at the GYM. After I got off the treadmill and was all sweaty. No. No. No. Get away from me.

  11. Izzy says:

    I do not for the life of me understand the urge to touch someone’s belly when they’re pregnant, and I say this as someone who has never been pregnant. Some of my closest friends have had multiple children, and NOT ONCE have I ever just walked up to them and patted or rubbed their belly. The only time I have ever touched a woman’s pregnant stomach is when invited to, in order to feel the baby kick.

    I agree with Ellie Kemper – it is a huge violation of personal space. If I ever do have kids, it’ll be hilarious and scary, because if anyone starts rubbing or touching my belly (other than the man who got me pregnant), I know I’ll be like “WTF are you doing, would you pull that sh!t if I wasn’t pregnant? No? Then why do you think it’s a good idea now???” NOT a fan of personal space violations.

    • Erinn says:

      Yeah exactly – I haven’t had a kid either … but I’ve never just touched a pregnant belly. I just… don’t understand it. It’s like – I know you have a baby in there, good for you? But I don’t WANT to touch it. I just don’t understand it at all. WHY is this a thing? WHY do people do that?

      But I also don’t want randoms, or even a bunch of people I know well, just walking up and touching my (non-existent) infant either. It’s so germy.

    • Kitten says:

      Exactly. I have ZERO urge to touch a pregnant woman’s belly.
      Because that’s just…weird.

    • spidey says:

      Totally agree – you wouldn’t touch a woman’s belly normally so why should you when there is a baby inside?

    • AngelaH says:

      Thank you all. I was born without the urge to touch pregnant bellys! It’s weird. Pregnancy is weird in general and then other people acting like your body isn’t your own because there’s a baby growing inside? No. Just no. I have never been pregnant and at this point I probably never will be, but if I am and someone tries to just touch my belly, their hand is going to get smacked. People touching me without warning really freaks me out.

      Also, I find pregnancy kind of gross so I’m not all, “OMG, PREGNANCY BELLY!” It’s not like you are going to get a wish granted or something or telepathically link to the baby and become some kind of baby whisperer. What is the point???? I did feel my sister’s belly when my niece was in there and was kicking or had hiccups. One time for hiccups and one time for kicking. That was enough. It’s weird.

  12. Scarlet Vixen says:

    I’ve been pregnant 3 times, and I didn’t get many strangers touching my belly. My friends and family would ask, but I honestly can’t recall absolute strangers reaching out to touch me. Maybe I just glared hard enough at anyone who started to reach out.

    But not even 5 min ago I was talking to a coworker about how strangers will touch my daughter’s hair. She’s 3.5yrs old and has lovely strawberry blonde curls that so many people say make her look “angelic” (if they only knew what a lil stinker she is…), and people just want to stroke her hair. I do it all the time too, so I understand why. But, I just think it’s creepy that others think it’s ok. 85 yr old grannies at church get a pass, but random person at the grocery store checkout does not–I don’t care how freaking adorable my kid is.

    • Sam says:

      People touched my hair constantly! I was a platinum blonde baby and people constantly touched my hair. Turns out, there are cultures that consider blonde hair “lucky.” Yes, this is a thing. And they will try to touch a blonde child’s hair. It’s a thing. Still not great, but my mom found it kind of funny.

    • Kay says:

      I also have strawberry blonde hair and I’m approaching 30 and this still happens. And it’s usually sweet grannies, but it’s completely unsettling to feel strange fingers in your hair at the checkout counter.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I have curls and people have always touched my hair too. Funnily enough, I used to work as a grocery store checker in high school, and once as I was grabbing change from the register this man stuck his entire hand in my hair right by my ear. Grabbed a huge handful of my hair and was like petting me and squeezing my hair. It was so creepy! Dude, not only do I not know you, I don’t know where your hand has been!

      Curlys don’t like getting touched, it makes them frizzy. There are so many reasons against touching a stranger’s hair (or other body part)!

  13. sunnydaze says:

    25 weeks pregnant here and while I’m a bit enormous I haven’t had any totally unsolicited bump rubs. Usually people will put their hands out with a questioning look and allow me to make the decision, but oddly enough it’s only women who have had kids. The ones who haven’t (for whatever reason) are incredibly respectful. What I do get VERY annoyed with are the bizarre conversations. I can’t tell you how many people (again, people who have kids!) just want to tell me how big I am. “Wow, you’re really big. Are you sure there’s only one?” Is this a serious question? One I’m supposed to engage with? “You’re due in October? Man, you have a long way to go. summertime is awful. You’re going to be miserable.” Again, is this a serious conversation? And people just leave it and walk away. No interest in engaging, just want to tell you how miserable you’ll be and how big you are. My husband and I had fertility issues and this pregnancy, while I’m incredibly grateful, has sucked beyond measure. If I dare to tell someone who asks how I’m feeling “Well, the baby’s healthy but I feel like crap, haha” several people have remarked “Wow, and to think there’s all these women struggling who would give anything to feel as bad as you do”. No regard for the fact I could be one of those women. And this is all coming from women with kids. The most recent is people who want to argue with me about what the sex is (we’re not finding out). “That must be a girl because ___” If I shrug or politely say, “we’ll see, it’ll be a fun surprise!” I’ve had people get borderline angry and insist they’re right. I don’t understand it. At all. I made a comment about this on Facebook and I couldn’t believe the stories people shared about what people said to them. At this rate, I think I’d take some belly rubs over rude and nasty people who think just because I’m a first time mother they have a right to say whatever the hell they want.

  14. Doodle says:

    Nobody really touched my tummy when I was pregnant but when my daughter was born random strangers would touch her all the time. I flipped out when an old lady jammed her taloned finger into my daughters mouth when she was fussy so she could then declare that she was hungry. Keep your digits out of my kid, freak show!

  15. LizLemonGotMarried says:

    So a couple of things:
    1) I have tickets to the ATL premiere of Secret Life of Pets tomorrow night and I. AM. SO. EXCITED. I might die. I have been wanting to see this movie since the first trailer last year. I’m taking my husband and my five year old and we’re just ridiculously happy.

    2) I just lost my second son at 16 weeks and I will confirm that people who know you’re pregnant have the weirdest boundaries. Like, nothing is off limits. I remember getting downright bitchy with people who kept touching my baby belly last pregnancy. What the hell is wrong with people?!?

    • AngelaH says:

      I am super excited for the movie too! Enjoy!

      I am so sorry for your loss. Women’s bodies are not public property. I don’t know why a pregnancy seems to make people think that they can do what they want.

    • Nikki says:

      I am so sorry for your loss. That can be very, very tough.. Sending you best wishes..

    • LizLemonGotMarried says:

      Thank you ladies! With a history of miscarriage, we knew it was a possibility, but once we got through the 12 week point we thought we were home free. We’re about 2 weeks out and I’ve stopped sobbing all the time. Just focusing on the beautiful boy we have and all the fun we can have with him.

  16. Insomniac says:

    I do not understand the urge some folks have to touch a stranger *at all*. I don’t think I’ve even touched the bellies of pregnant women I actually know.

    • AngelaH says:

      My sister made me do it twice with her first child. Once when the baby had the hiccups and once when she was kicking. Done. I felt it. It’s weird. I’m good. She would laugh whenever I was around and the baby was kicking. She would say, “She’s kicking, don’t you want to feel it? Don’t you care about your niece?” I would tell her that I would be interested in her once she was born. Before that, she was her problem! When she was pregnant with the second one, I never felt her belly. I have no regrets about it. It’s so strange to me.

  17. Scootypuffjr says:

    I’ve never had a kid, but I definitely wouldn’t want random people touching my belly. Ew. I felt my best friend’s belly when she was preggers with my goddaughter, after I was invited to. I’ve never felt the urge to just feel on someone’s pregnant belly. I definitely have a porcupine vibe – don’t touch me, and I have the same attitude towards other people (aka I won’t just randomly touch you).

  18. Lulu says:

    The first time my sister was pregnant I asked when she was huge just because it looked weird and I wanted to poke it to see if it was squishy, not because of any aww a baby feelings. I think it’s very weird that people want to touch a pregnant belly and absolutely bizarre that people do it either without asking or to strangers.

  19. TyrantDestroyed says:

    I will never forget when during a party a a friends’ house she and the husband where talking to a common heavily pregnant woman and suddenly they started to massage her stomach to feel the baby. The pregnant woman didn’t seem to mind and I understood they were passing their love (??) to the baby but I found this moment so odd and uncomfortable to watch.
    Of course I am not a touchy person, except from one or two persons in my life so I totally understand Ellie.

  20. Ange says:

    I love Titus on the show but the Lillian character annoys me, she seems quite superfluous. Nothing against the amazing Carol of course but Lillian is one note.