Children of prominent personalities take over the spotlight that was once their parents’ like clockwork—and at this point, it’s so common and routine that barely anyone would bat an eye. But with the recent increase of controversies surrounding the true colors of these famous children, they are once again thrust into a limelight that may not be as glorious as they thought.
The term nepotism refers to the favoritism that comes with family ties or close relations among influential people in an industry. So it’s not a surprise that the offspring of famous people are referred to as nepotism babies, or “nepo babies” for short. Blessed with silver spoons in their mouths, these people carry on the fame of their family names from the moment they are born, giving them the privilege and freedom to determine what to do with it as they grow older. Most of the time, they choose to pursue a career in their parents’ industry, while others take a different path.
But as nepo babies become more and more dependent on riding the coattails of their parents, fewer opportunities become available for those who are truly deserving of these roles. The question now is: are we willing to allow this issue to remain glossed over?
Here, there, everywhere
In most industries, there is an unspoken inclination to favor those with special connections, so one won’t have to scrounge too deep to find nepo babies; Hollywood, for one, is teeming with them. After all, producers and owners prefer these nepo children over others as they are a great, bankable marketing strategy that gathers massive attention to their product and brand.
The current trend of nepotism exposés revealed some of the public’s most beloved celebrities were actually nepo babies; while it could leave a bad taste in one’s mouth, celebrities could take it as a compliment, as it means that they are recognized for their talent and not for their name.
Nepotism is notoriously prominent in the showbiz scene, mainly because once one is under the spotlight, it’s not that easy to get out of it. Nepo babies are almost always expected to stay in the public eye unless their parents decide to shroud their family life in privacy. With this, people often see them ease so smoothly into a career in the limelight that one begins to wonder what goes on behind the scenes.
There are indeed nepo babies who have the capability to continue their parents’ legacies, but this is not always applicable. At times, the quality of the work they’re involved in is compromised, giving rise to criticisms and speculations about whether the infamous starlet in question is truly deserving of the role. Perhaps these observations are not unwarranted, especially when one can distinctly see differences in terms of skill, attitude, and charisma. Some, like Elizabeth Olsen, Drew Barrymore, and Maya Hawke, can be said to have enough of that charisma which allowed them to prove that they inhibited talent and reputation beyond their family backgrounds. Others, such as Brooklyn Beckham and his subpar stints in photography and cooking, are not as fortunate.
It’s not even necessary to go all the way to Hollywood to witness such a phenomenon. The Philippines has no shortage of established showbiz dynasties—the Legaspis, the Barrettos, and the Eigenmanns, to name a few. A lot of local nepo babies, too, have had their fair share of controversy and judgment from the general public.
But the entertainment and fashion industries are not the only ones rampant with nepo babies. Businesses and politics are not exempt from this trend, and Filipinos know all too well the large influence of filial relations when it comes to acquiring seats of power. With the Philippine president and vice president themselves being former first children, and other public servants doubling as corporate bigwigs in fields such as real estate and consumer products, the whole country is already deeply submerged in a well of nepo babies—and it might take a while before we ever breach the surface.
Controversies surrounding nepo babies are not new. In a November 2022 Elle feature, Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of American actor Johnny Depp and French model Vanessa Paradis stirred up discussions and infuriated some fans with her commentaries disregarding the effects of nepotism on her career, which led to ostracism against her on social media.
And it’s easy to see where they’re coming from; with both her parents already superstars in their respective industries, Lily is the cream of the nepo baby crop. So while it’s true that a nepo baby’s success can be attributed to their own hard work, the kind of privilege that they have is not just something they can dismiss when it so clearly plays a part in bringing them to the top of their careers.
These advantages may be quite unfair to those who had to work their way up—self-made personalities who shed their blood, sweat, and tears to jump through hoops and get to where they want to be. This sparks a question among many of what is worse: nepotism babies who knowingly use their status to get ahead or those who refuse to acknowledge their privileges?
The stigma surrounding nepotism holds a negative connotation—another reason why most of them deny nepotism privileges with a distasteful look. However, not all nepo celebrities dismiss what they have. In an interview with the New Yorker, Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, admitted she booked the leading role for the breakout horror film Halloween because of her parents, “I’m never going to pretend that I just got that on my own, like I’m just a little girl from nowhere getting it. Clearly, I had a leg up.”
Jamie is only one of the many nepo babies who has forwardly spoken about the benefits they reap from their privilege. As talented as some of these star children are, it’s not a secret that a considerable portion of their success comes from the system they greatly benefit from whether they admit it or not. Unfortunately, seeing the same names and families within the same industry creates a social divide that takes away opportunities from minorities, and it’s time to face the facts—being called a nepo baby is only a small price to pay for the advantages and special treatment they enjoy.
All in the name’s work
While nepotism isn’t exactly black or white, and these nepotism babies aren’t at fault for the privileges they are born with, the practice of this culture may still lead to harmful consequences. These biases may leave other people feeling discriminated against for not getting the same opportunities simply because they are not born under renowned names in an industry. This is strongly unjust especially to those who have been in the industry for so long, only to be overshadowed by newcomers using their generational fame, wealth, and star power to rise in the limelight.
Nepotism fosters social inequality as it creates a closed-off structure that makes it difficult for new voices to be heard. Although it may have its upsides, like in family-run businesses that preserve their legacy and tradition, there still should be a meritocracy that gives equal chances and opportunities to promote a fairer society; a society that sees all people beyond their names and special connections and acknowledges them through their capabilities, talent, and hard work instead.