When New York Magazine declared 2022 the “Year of the Nepo Baby,” it sparked a wave of controversy in the otherwise wholesome arena known as Hollywood. And just when you thought the buzz was starting to die down, another interview (this time by Kaia Gerber) comes along to reignite the flame.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the term (slang for “nepotism baby”) refers to a celebrity born into their celebrity status. Models, actors, musicians, you name it—if they’re the offspring of a Hollywood star currently working in the entertainment industry, they’re fair game.
The magazine cover, featuring the faces of several nepo babies superimposed onto cartoon images of babies in a hospital nursery, was met with the expected response. Twitterers started twittering—sharing a cohort of memes and opinions—while those in Hollywood reacted with grace and dignity.
Just kidding. They. Did. Not. Take. It. Well.
To be fair, the cover and accompanying article (complete with a comprehensive family-tree style chart) was derisive in nature. It was also, as many pointed out, not exactly groundbreaking (nepotism in Hollywood certainly isn’t anything new).
But, in a post #MeToo era, the imbalance of power amongst the elite has become a major talking point. The piece went viral, prompting a number of generational celebrities to respond. And, instead of admitting to the privilege handed to them on a silver platter at birth, most tried in vain to fight against the label. Like poison ivy, though, scratching at it only made it worse and their responses ranged from confusing to wildly out of touch.
Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of legendary actors Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis) said the term was “designed to try to diminish and denigrate and hurt.” O’Shea Jackson Jr. echoed the sentiment, saying that his father, rapper Ice Cube “couldn’t hold my hand through my career, I had to get my ass up and make it work.” Lily Allen (daughter of actor Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen) argued that Hollywood nepotism wasn’t as important as the political, legal, or banking nepotism that has “real world consequences.”
She also pushed back on the basic premise that celebrity kids benefit from their family connections, saying that they “are starved” of things like love and family stability because “their parents are probably narcissistic.”
It only gets worse from there.
Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) said, “I’m not resting on my laurels, this industry is very competitive and opportunities are hard to come by!“
True. The entertainment is notoriously difficult to break into. Which is exactly why people are criticizing those who have been able to bypass the competition with instant access, name recognition, and family connections.
Lottie Moss, who um… isn’t a nepo baby, but a nepo sibling (her sister is Kate Moss) had a true “Let them eat cake” moment when she wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “I’m so sick of people blaming nepotism for why they aren’t rich and famous or successful,” before adding “Life isn’t fair.”
The internet, as you can imagine, did not take her words well.
Lily-Rose Depp (daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis) was equally mocked for her interview with Elle where she said, “nothing is going to get you the part except for being right for the part.”
She went on to say, “Maybe you get your foot in the door, but you still just have your foot in the door,” (seemingly oblivious to the fact that a foot in the door is the unfair advantage people are railing against) before comparing Hollywood nepotism to the child of a doctor pursuing a career in the medical field.
Unsurprisingly, people were quick to point out that her height (reportedly between 5’3 and 5’5) would have almost certainly derailed her runway modeling were it not for her famous lineage.
Plenty of other stars chimed in, but Allison Williams (daughter of news anchor Brian Williams) was one of the only ones whose response was well-received, calling her privilege “very simple to acknowledge.”
Turns out, though, people don’t like to be told they’re privileged and they sure as hell don’t want to admit that they actually benefited from their privilege. So, instead of following suit with self-awareness and empathy, celebrities continued to try and convince the public that they didn’t really have that big of an advantage.
In her recent interview with Elle, Kaia Gerber (daughter of Cindy Crawford) said, “No artist is going to sacrifice their vision for someone’s kid. That just isn’t how art is made,” inciting her own wave of backlash.
Social media called her out for being tone-deaf, though in her defense, perhaps she’s just naïve. It seems like Kaia, and so many other nepo babies, think that the term implies they shouldn’t be famous. No one said you can’t follow in your family’s footsteps, but if those footsteps happen to be famous, it’s fair to say your path was pre-paved.
Sure, you might work hard and have talent, but there are a lot of hard-working, talented actors currently struggling to make ends meet and balancing multiple minimum wage jobs in between auditions. And while, yes, nepotism does exist in every industry (look at Alex Murdaugh), it’s not exactly the same.
Fame-driven careers depend on public perception. You’re more hirable if you’re marketable, and nepo babies, who practically come out of the womb with a built-in media presence, are inherently more marketable.
So, other nepo babies would do well to take note. You can argue your talent until you’re blue in the face. You can try to convince us that you work just as hard as someone who came from Iowa to act. But denying the perks of being part of a celebrity dynasty comes across as ignorant at best and entitled at worst.