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Nepo(tism), Baby

Nepotism is not exactly new. It is something deeply ingrained in our society – and typically associated with positions of privilege or power, whether it be in politics, sport, business or - as I had the displeasure of discovering in the last years of my degree - law.

Its explosion into the everyday vocabulary came courtesy of TikTok. Gen-Zers had uncovered a not-so-secret-secret – many of the most treasured and iconic celebrities of this generation were a product of nepotistic privilege:

This discovery emerged in the wake of Maude Apatow’s performance of Lexi Howard in Euphoria’s penultimate episode, ‘The Theatre and Its Double’ which aired on the 20 February. The episode is endearingly relatable to any fellow wallflowers who feel like they fall short of the whole participating in life thing. Lexi, after a season of preparation, has the opening night of her play, very closely influenced by the experiences of her friendship group.

Apatow shares her surname with her father, Judd Apatow - a producer, writer and director of many comedy classics including The Forty-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Funny People (2009) and The King of Straten Island (2020), the latter of which Apatow herself co-starred in with Pete Davidson. Apatow’s mother, Leslie Mann, is an actress known for being that hot mum in 17 Again (2009), as well as Funny People (2009) (my favourite Adam Sandler movie which ironically feels very un-Adam Sandler). While Maude Apatow’s standout performance in Euphoria has no doubt established her as a star in her own right – it brought attention to the fact that when you really think about it - many of today’s talents in Hollywood have likely benefited from opportunities afforded to them by the virtue of their famous families.

The casting of model, actress, and daughter of model Cindy Crawford, Kaia Gerber, in the latest season of American Horror Story, Double Feature and its sister show, American Horror Stories, attracted polarising views online.

In Lexi Heinitz’s article written for Looper, Heinitz unpacked some of the views emerging from Gerber’s performance and the overarching prevalence of nepotism in Ryan Murphy’s productions. Reddit user u/wordworrier on r/AmericanHorrorStory reddit commented, “Ryan Murphy loves his nepotism bbs” referring to the casting of AHS veterans Billie Lourd, Taissa Farmiga and Emma Roberts, as well as fellow newbies Paris Jackson and Noah Cyrus.

The pervasiveness of nepotism in basically every facet of life, including Hollywood, has given rise to an important question – to what degree should we tolerate and accept nepotism when it is not going anywhere anytime soon?

Kendall Jenner has been often criticised for denying the impact her famous family may have had on the rise of her modelling career. This is despite the fact that Jenner’s aspiring career served as a plotline in Keeping Up With The Kardashians. In one episode, “momager” Kris Jenner arranged an appointment with modelling agency, Wilhelmina Models. By 2018, Jenner was one of the highest paid supermodels in the world. That same year, Jenner was criticised for deciding against walking in New York Fashion Week to go on holiday with her sisters’ – a privilege, as acknowledged in Diandra Malivindi’s Elle articlemany aspiring models are not afforded.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who herself is a nepo-baby, weighed in on the debate with her interview with Hailey Bieber for Who’s in My Bathroom?’. Paltrow acknowledged that while nepo babies get “access” to opportunities that “other people don’t have,” they often must work “twice as hard” to prove themselves in Hollywood.

Similarly, in December 2022, Jamie Lee Curtis shared a post on Instagram about her experiences as what she describes as being an “OG Nepo Baby.” She wrote: For the record I have navigated 44 years with the advantages my associated and reflected fame brought me, I don't pretend there aren't any, that try to tell me that I have no value on my own.

The point that perhaps gets lost in the debate is not that all nepo-babies are talentless or without value in their own right. Rather, it is when nepo-babies fail to acknowledge the hand that privilege has played in their access to the opportunities that allow them to become famous. In June 2018, Gigi Hadid spoke to Vogue about her own privilege.

Acknowledging her background, Hadid said that she knew she came from privilege but “always had this big work ethic, because her parents came from nothing” and she wanted to “work hard to honour them.” Actress Maya Hawke, daughter of actors Uma Thurman andEthan Hawke, has also openlyaddressed her privilegen, telling Rolling Stone, “I feel the only way to handle the nepotism thing - which definitely gives you massive advantages in life – is, you will get chances for free, but the chances will not be infinite.”

It is in Hawkes’ quote that the balance lies - acknowledging what they have been given, but expressing a desire to continue to earn this privilege in their own right.

Image created with Canva

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