The Rise of the "Nepotism Baby"

April 6, 2022 | Maya Solanki

Angelina Jolie, Kiera Knightley, Jennifer Aniston–what do these three have in common? Apart from being acclaimed actresses in Hollywood, they were born to parents in the film and TV industries. They qualify as “Nepotism Babies,” a term coined for children of famous or powerful people, especially in Hollywood.

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Illustration by Michelle Musili

One of the first to gain traction as a “Nepotism Baby” is Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of actor Johnny Depp and French singer, model, and actress Vanessa Paradis. She started her acting career in 2014 in a film called Tusk—notably featuring her father, which has been seen as suspicious by many. Lily-Rose Depp is also a model and a Chanel brand ambassador. Standing at a mere 5’3”, people question the validity of her runway modeling career, especially considering that Lily-Rose Depp’s mother, Vanessa, has had a long-standing partnership with Chanel.

Maude Apatow, daughter of producer Judd Apatow and actress Leslie Mann, recently gained acclaim for her role as Lexi Howard in HBO’s Euphoria. While many applaud her for being one of the few “talented” newer Nepotism babies, some view her acting as uninspiring and lackluster. Is she a good actress, or is Lexi just a likable character? 

Maude Apatow acted alongside comedian Pete Davidson in King of Staten Island, which was co-written by her father. Her acting in this film was discomfiting at times which is why many people assume her role was the result of nepotism. After researching her roles, it seems that her filmography overlaps with that of her father’s, which is a familiar trend amongst Nepotism Babies.

With the recent release of The Batman, all eyes have been on Zoe Kravitz, who plays Catwoman alongside Robert Pattinson’s Batman. Daughter of famed actor and singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonnet, Kravitz has told British Vogue, “When I got into acting school, I never knew if it was because of my audition or my last name.” Many find it refreshing to hear a Nepotism Baby admit to her privilege. However, Kravitz almost seems to resent her privilege, which can be seen as an out-of-touch take.

Maya Hawke, daughter of well-known actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, began her career in modeling at 18, much like her mother and grandmother, Nena von Schlebrügge. Hawke is a clear example of someone who has benefited from the generational fame her family possesses. Hawke’s breakout role was in Season 3 of Stranger Things, where she played Robin Buckley. She had two roles in smaller productions before ultimately landing a role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a star-studded Quentin Tarantino film featuring the likes of Brad Pitt, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Margot Robbie. Interestingly enough, Tarantino is known to consider Hawke’s mother, Uma Thurman, as his muse. When asked in an interview with Variety if she was contacted directly about the role by Tarantino, Hawke claims she “just auditioned like everyone else” and even “did a self-tape in [her] bedroom with [her] dad.” Fans were angered by her answer, claiming that her naive response was just a display of ignorance in regard to the perks her last name brings her.

Aside from Hollywood and the modeling industries, the music industry has seen its fair share of Nepotism Babies. Singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams is the daughter of famous director JJ Abrams. However, many fans of Abrams do not even know her famous father and particularly like Gracie because she has “made a name for herself.” However, even if Gracie Abrams did not benefit from her father’s fame, she came from a family where resources such as voice lessons, equipment, or producers have always been accessible to them. While this is technically a fair practice, and she is seen as a talented individual, many people question her hard work and efforts to succeed in such a cutthroat industry when she already had a “leg up.”

The prevalence of this practice in Hollywood and other industries also begs the question: is nepotism inherently wrong? It can be found in every industry under the sun, small or large. The internet’s opinions on Nepotism Babies are divided, with some people idolizing them and others resenting how they play into an unfair practice. Many people dislike Nepotism Babies for one defining trait—denying their privilege.

Much to the dismay of many, Nepotism Babies are here to stay. Those in Hollywood will always be able to hold the door open for their kids and their grandkids, and the cycle will continue. Hollywood is an industry rooted in nepotism and dominated by white people, often white men specifically. Until the aristocracy falls, unfortunately, many unknown talents, especially POC, will continue to be overlooked.