Lena Almeida was at a downtown Toronto hotel celebrating the birth of the Prince of Cambridge with about 100 others when everyone's attention turned suddenly — via live-streaming video — to the central focus of all the fuss.
On the small screens of their mobile devices, the guests gathered at the King Edward hotel caught their first glimpses of the royal baby, his tiny fingers poking through as his proud parents walked out of a London hospital and into the media spotlight that will follow him for the rest of his life.
"It was just great to be around so many people who were there to celebrate the birth of the new prince," says Almeida, a 35-year-old "mommy blogger" and mother of two from Mississauga.
"I think a lot of people became emotional because we do have that connection to the couple."
Of course, Prince William and Kate were an ocean away and, for many Canadians, their lives seem remote and unattainable.
But Almeida lands firmly in the camp of those who feel a connection with the young royals who were so casual and relaxed with reporters as they introduced the new third in line to throne — later named Prince George Alexander Louis.
Kate and William joked with reporters — apparently William has changed at least one diaper and seems glad the baby has a full head of hair, unlike himself — before the tiny prince was tucked into a car seat and William climbed behind the wheel to drive his family home.
"I think that they're just so down to earth and real," says Almeida. "Even Kate when she came out, she was beautiful, she was glowing, but you could clearly see she still had the post-baby bump.
"And that is so refreshing to see in a time when celebrities, three weeks later, are debuting their post-baby [body] in a bikini on a magazine cover. And we can't relate to that."
The post-baby glow
Measuring to what degree Canadians really relate to or are influenced by William and Kate — particularly in this period of post-baby glow — is not easy. In recent years, polls have suggested a mounting public indifference to the House of Windsor in Canada.
Shortly before Prince George's birth, parenting blogger Andrea Traynor, an account director at public relations giant Hill + Knowlton Strategies in Toronto, did what she describes as an "entirely unscientific" survey through a couple of Facebook groups about the influence Kate was having on maternity fashion locally.
Seventy-one per cent of the 266 women who responded said they weren't influenced at all by Kate's fashion choices.
But Traynor looks around and sees ways people may be unconsciously influenced, like perhaps through the merchandizing decisions that retailers make based on what a royal is seen wearing or using, or by the onslaught of glossy headlines that can't be avoided while waiting at the grocery store checkout.
"You're standing in the grocery aisle, you're waiting for your groceries to trickle up the conveyor and inevitably you're going to look at some of those covers," says Traynor.
"So I think we are all influenced in our own way whether or not we're picking up those magazines and actually taking them to heart and then translating that into direct sales."
In the celebrity camp
For Traynor, this fascination with celebrity lives is an aspirational thing.
"I think with all celebrities, and I would put [Kate] in the celebrity camp, we aspire to do things or have things that make our lives feel like they might be something akin to what these celebrities might be doing," says Traynor.
"We can't afford a Chanel bag, most of us, but we could, if we saved our pennies, afford Chanel sunglasses. So if we see a celebrity in a pair of Chanel sunglasses maybe we aspire to have something like that similar to them."
At KICK Maternity in Toronto, manager Andrea Spano already had a maternity dress in stock when the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in it during her pregnancy.
"It wasn't actually my intention to buy something that she wore, but then we kept getting emails that Kate Middleton was seen in this dress," Spano says, noting that she's reordered the navy-and-white-dot faux wrap Seraphine Maternity dress four or five times.
While KICK customers haven't made specific requests for clothes identical to Kate's, Spano says they have made reference to how some of the styles on display in the story are like those the young duchess might wear.
Traynor, whose blog Mommy Gearest, focuses on all the gear that goes with raising kids, will be keeping a close eye on any strollers, car seats and other baby gadgets that show up in any photos of the new prince.
"Certainly it's an industry that is just wrought with huge competition and having your item in the hands of a celebrity is gold."
Reports surfaced earlier this year suggesting that Kate has purchased a Bugaboo stroller, a brand that is widely available in Canada and which can carry a pricetag Traynor estimates of around $1,200.
House of Windsor strategy
"The Bugaboo is still probably the celebrity stroller," she says.
"It's probably what people most associate with celebrities because so many have been seen with them and because of the pricetag. So it will be interesting which pieces of gear Kate and William choose to protect and stroll around with their baby, if they're even seen out that much at all in the first year."
Whatever gear Prince George is pictured in, and wherever he is pictured, will all be part of the House of Windsor's careful strategy to present an image of young, modern royals that people could relate to, in Britain and elsewhere.
Alanna Glicksman, a Toronto-based public relations consultant and entertainment blogger, says the new family's appearance outside St. Mary’s Hospital this week "couldn’t have been more perfectly planned."
William putting the carseat in the car was a nod to how their life is going to be, Glicksman said.
"William will be a family man. They'll make sure he's always seen and very present in the baby's life and this is really the way that the monarchy is trying to modernize itself and show that they really are like every other family."
As for Kate, Glicksman suggests, it remains to be seen how much inspiration her actions will offer others.
"But in the way that she's been since joining the Royal Family I think she is someone that we can all aspire to be," says Glicksman, noting Kate's charitable activities, involvement in her husband’s family and interest in sports.
"There's nothing she can't do and I think that sends a good message to Canadian women and to women all over the world just showing that whatever you want to achieve you can achieve."
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