Welcome to the age of the Nepo Babies: The many offspring of A-list parents now dominate our celebrity world… So how many, asks JULIE BURCHILL, would have made it without a little leg-up?
- Nepo Babies — youngsters who land easily in the world of entertainment
- It is trending on Twitter thanks to a cover story in New York Magazine
- It wrote about the likes of Dakota Johnson and Zoe Kravitz
- Lily Allen admitted she was a nepo baby but seems torn on the subject
Nepo Babies — youngsters who land easily in the world of entertainment, cushioned by their parents’ famous names — have been trending on Twitter thanks to a cover story in New York Magazine about the likes of Dakota Johnson and Zoe Kravitz.
Headlined ‘She Has Her Mother’s Eyes — and Agent’, it says the Nepo Baby’s credo is: ‘Try, and if you don’t succeed, remember you’re still a celebrity’s child, so try, try again.’
I’ve been tracking the insipid Xeroxes of talented parents for a while now, and they aren’t just a product of Hollywood — we have plenty of the pampered poltroons here, too.
The Beckham children, the Jaggers, Lily Allen, Roman Kemp, Iris and Raff Law, Amber Le Bon . . . it’s pretty much impossible to open a magazine or turn on the TV without being faced with the scion of some famous family or other.
Brooklyn Beckham, Victoria Beckham and David Beckham GQ Men of the Year Awards at the Tate Modern
Kate Moss and Lila Grace Moss Hack attending The 2022 Met Gala
Kate Winslet has just appeared in the Channel 4 drama I Am Ruth alongside her daughter, Mia Threapleton. Liz Hurley is to star in a thriller being directed by Damian, her 20-year-old son.
Last year I watched Tilda Swinton walk the red carpet at Cannes with her daughter, Honor, to promote their film, The Souvenir. Sean Penn’s Flag Day, starring his daughter, Dylan, also premiered there.
Some believe it’s only natural for children to want to follow in their parents’ footsteps when choosing a profession — and many would say that it’s normal for parents to try to put in a good word to ensure their children get a bit of an advantage.
So am I wrong to be perturbed by seeing so many youngsters with famous names clogging up our culture — youngsters who, were their parents not in the entertainment racket, might instead be doing something more useful, like stacking supermarket shelves?
Lily Allen — always willing to prove that spending £37,000 a year on a Bedales education is no guarantee of being smart — seems torn on the subject.
She’s honest enough to admit that ‘I’m a Nepo Baby, and both my parents are super talented’ (she is the daughter of actor and presenter Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen), while arguing that the children of the famous, like herself and her brother Alfie (Theon Greyjoy in Game Of Thrones) are sometimes worthy of sympathy.
‘In childhood we crave stability and love, nurturing; we don’t care about money or proximity to power yet,’ she wrote this week. ‘Many of these Nepo Babies are starved of these basic things in childhood as their parents are probably narcissistic.’
Nepos do try to argue their corner. ‘I am doing the work and putting in the time,’ pleads 18-year-old Leni Klum, daughter of Heidi, from the Dolce & Gabbana catwalk.
‘Nothing is going to get you the part except for being right for the part,’ pouts 23-year-old Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny, of her forthcoming role in the HBO series The Idol.
‘I wanted to make my own way, far from the paternal genius,’ says Lily Collins, aka Emily In Paris and daughter of superstar drummer Phil.
Forgive me if I’m short on understanding.
Last year, Roman Kemp became a millionaire at the tender age of 28 after bagging an M&S menswear deal with his ex-Spandau Ballet dad Martin, on top of their ITV show Martin & Roman’s Weekend Best! Having witnessed this abomination in the name of research, I can only say that if this is their best, I hope I never see their worst.
Other examples of the-son-also-rising are actors Timothy and Rafe Spall and Bradley (TV presenter) and Barney (actor) Walsh. Then there’s Ray and Jaime Winstone, and Danny and Dani Dyer: two diamond Cockney geezers and their little princesses (one an actress and the other a Love Island ‘star’). Nepotism is an equal-opportunities racket, after all.
Kaia Jordan Gerber and her mother Cindy Crawford attending Edward Enninful OBE
To be fair, these fathers are of working-class origin: it’s understandable that having escaped humdrum lives themselves, they would want their children to have a good time, too — especially in light of recent statistics about the sorry prospects of white, working-class children.
And as far as I know, none of them has agitated in favour of dismantling capitalism.
But it’s especially irritating when woke parents and/or woke offspring display or benefit from nepotism. Wokers are meant to believe in social justice above all.
But somehow, over the past decade, wokeness and nepotism have formed an ugly alliance, and the creatures it has spawned combine the worst of both worlds: the privilege of the old guard with the virtue-signalling of the new.
When asked by Mojo magazine recently to list his albums of the year, Paul Weller said ‘my daughter Leah’s album is f***ing great. She’s been chipping away for years, but she’s really got it together: it’s proper melodic tunes and good words.’
On particularly dark days, it feels like every other new actor, musician or model appears to be a child of those great grandaddies of woke, Bono and Sting. Elijah Hewson (son of Bono) fronts a group called Inhaler.
His sister, Eve, who recently starred in the Netflix thriller Behind Her Eyes, is at least honest about her stellar start.
‘Some of the friends I went to drama school with are the most talented actors, but have found it difficult to get an agent or an audition,’ she says. ‘That’s never been a problem for me, and I think that’s because of my family.
That’s not the way the system should work, of course, but if the door is open, walk through the door.’
Sting’s children are even more ‘creative’: Joe is a singer-songwriter and bassist, Fuchsia is an actor, director and producer, Jake is a model and director, Giacomo is an actor, Brigitte is an actress, while Eliot, too, is an actor. But even this shower of maverick creativity cannot hold a £95 Bella Freud (fourth-generation famous!) candle to Outer Stella Overdrive, the rock group fronted by Raff Law (son of actor Jude) and Rudy Albarn (son of Blur singer Damon).
A photograph in Tatler magazine accompanying a gushing feature about them last year pushed these boys to the foreground while their two bandmates — who did not start life as VIP sperm — were shoved to the back.
‘While their childhood anecdotes are full of familiar names — like Paul McCartney (for Rudy) and ‘Auntie’ Kate Moss (for Raff) — Outer Stella has been forged through their own hard work,’ this puff piece claimed. (Raff’s mother Sadie Frost directed the video for their 2020 track Bad Times.)
Don’t you just love seeing youngsters making it to the top with sheer hard woke?
If they’re not from acting dynasties, thespians today are often from wealthy backgrounds.
Lily Allen with her father Keith Allen who is a welsh actor, T.V. presenter and pantomime star. Lily admitted she was a nepo baby but seems torn on the subject
All the male leads in BBC’s hit drama The Night Manager — Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston and Tom Hollander — were not merely all privately educated, they all went to the same private prep school, the Dragon (fees £28,000 per year).
This same institution also blessed us with Emma Watson and Jack Whitehall. Laurie and Hiddleston went on to Eton, as did Damian Lewis, Eddie Redmayne and Dominic West (whose daughter, Martha, appeared alongside him in last year’s TV adaptation of The Pursuit Of Love.)
A friend of mine, a gorgeous and talented young man of working-class origin, briefly quit making a fortune in the City to train as an actor. Within months, he had given up and gone back. There were far more posh boors at his drama school than in the Square Mile.
In the past, one way for working-class children to get into acting was through modelling — a tried-and-tested route for humbly born girls from Marilyn Monroe to Twiggy. But modelling itself has now been eaten alive (even if nothing else has) by the Sads — Sons and Daughters.
Think of Kaia Gerber (daughter of Cindy Crawford), Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, Tali Lennox, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Amber Le Bon, Iris Law (them again!), Oasis progeny Lennon and Gene Gallagher, all three of Meryl Streep’s unremarkable daughters . . . actually, I give up.
It’s easier to list the top models today who made it unassisted by a famous name. Even the ultimate self-made model, Kate Moss, signed daughter Lila to her own agency, finding her work for Marc Jacobs and Chanel.
In a dark twist, Kate’s half-sister Lottie has gone from modelling high fashion to selling pictures on OnlyFans, apparently not able to live up to the ideal her proximity to one of the world’s most famous models got her.
In a rare bit of Nepo Baby honesty, she has said: ‘It’s hard when your sister is Kate Moss . . . everything was handed to me. I never felt like I worked for anything.’
Some of these kids are beautiful — some less so. Of course, it will be the plainest ones who garner most flak for being promoted beyond their abilities, which makes you wonder why their parents won’t be cruel to be kind.
Nepotism has also produced the ‘fat activist’ Honey Ross, who seems utterly without any gifts except a famous name, thanks to dad Jonathan. Activism used to mean going out and helping the less fortunate: for this generation of fauxminists, it appears to be stripping off and taking selfies.
No discussion of showbiz clans would be complete without the Jaggers: Jade (model and jewellery designer), James (singer), Georgia (model), Gabriel (model) and Elizabeth (model). And after it was revealed that Stella McCartney’s fashion label had lost £7.2 million in two years, the designer Jeff Banks sniped: ‘She would not be in the position she is in if it hadn’t been for her father.’
An arguable claim, but those old enough to recall Stella’s 1995 graduation show might consider that a little help from one’s friends never went amiss, either, as the then 24-year-old had both Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss modelling her clothes.
What does the future hold for nepotism? All those Beckhams for starters: footballer Romeo, musician Cruz and 11-year-old Harper, a pupil at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.
The eldest, photographer-turned-chef Brooklyn, has already delighted us with his book What I See — published when this gifted protege was just 18 — but two years later his interning for the famed photographer Rankin drew sniggers from insiders, one of whom revealed: ‘It’s not been the most impressive start . . . No one has asked him to make the tea yet, but some have been tempted.’
Across the Pond, the Yanks are even more shamelessly spawn-promoting than we Brits. Consider the new generation of Kardashian kids, Beyonce’s brood, Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon launching her first make-up range aged 14, and the Smith kids: at 24, Jaden, son of Will, has already been (deep breath) an actor, director, rapper, artist, activist and a brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton.
The bottom line is that people who work in the entertainment industry are fully aware of how lucky they are not just to do something they love for a living, but to be paid exorbitantly to do so.
At a time when workers in the essential services are striking for higher pay, it’s mystifying that not one handsomely rewarded, virtue-signalling actor has publicly pledged their excess millions to the community, as has Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who gives half of her £84,144 salary to charity.
Instead, they claim theirs really isn’t an easy life, whether comparing media attention to ‘a bloody, dehumanising war’ (Gwyneth Paltrow, daughter of an actress and a director); or ‘being raped’ (Kristen Stewart, daughter of a script supervisor and a producer).
But if this was really the case, would loving mothers such as Kate Winslet be so keen to star in projects with their aspiring young daughters? Of course not. A showbiz life is the ultimate cushy billet, and these parents are keen to pass theirs on.
Pity the poor outsider, then, armed with nothing but talent and hope. Because showbiz nepotism is gathering speed at such a pace that it’s easy to imagine a future when the only ‘entertainment’ jobs available to underprivileged kids will be pornography for girls and boxing for boys: the poor making beasts of themselves for the amusement of their betters, as in Victorian times.
As with much in modern politics, though, reactionary behaviour is covered up with good words, as mealy-mouthed virtue-signalling covers up the sneakiest self-serving behaviour.
Let actors talk of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ — when it comes to their children, they practise a level of self-interest that would make an old school tie blush.
Can it be good for any of us if it’s the connected, rather than the cream, rising to the top?
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