Definition: The term ‘nepotism baby’ or its shortened version “nepo baby” are the children of celebrities who are following in the (well-trodden) footsteps of their parents and pursuing careers in the spotlight.
How to use it in a sentence: ‘Did you know Dakota Johnson is a nepotism baby? Her mum is Melanie Griffith and her dad is Don Johnson!’
Over the last few weeks ‘nepotism babies’ have been getting a lot of attention, with the term becoming a staple in social media vernacular, with the hashtag #nepotismbaby garnering almost 10 million views on TikTok. Anyone even vaguely aware of popular culture will know that famous families and legs-up in Hollywood are nothing new, if anything, they are the building blocks of celebrity; a vast amount of actors, models and musicians ‘make it’ because of the opportunities and privilege they are afforded by being related to people in powerful places.
So many of the creative industry’s household names started as the kids of Hollywood royalty, like George Clooney, the Gyllenhaal’s, Liza Minelli, Drew Barrymore, Carrie Fisher and Gwyneth Paltrow, and have now surpassed their parents’ fame – to the point it’s generally forgotten that they fall into this category. With a new-generation of nepotism babies rising up the ranks, it seems that we’ve replaced a collective disdain for those who have had success come to them easily because of who their relatives are, and decided that this is an unavoidable part of society and in their position we would probably do the same. Nepotism is bad, yes, but the world is on fire! There are bigger fish to fry! So, now, all we – the public – are asking (very reasonably), is that these nepo babies are at least talented and/or entertaining.
There’s a clear divide: the nepo babies getting it right, who are talented and therefore more palatable, and the ones getting it wrong, making their privilege clear and uncomfortable to watch. Audiences will forgive the fact you didn’t have to work very hard to get cast in a billion-dollar movie production so long as you can act. Fashion lovers won’t troll you for modelling and becoming the face of a massive brand on your sixteenth birthday, if you do it well and with some pizazz ( a la the Hadid sisters). Your music will get streamed, and even go viral like Willow Smith’s, if it’s a banger.
Maude Apatow, who plays Lexi in Euphoria, has become the latest poster child of nepotism babies who are getting it right, following in the footsteps of Dakota Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Zoë Kravitz. Her parents are actor Leslie Mann and director Judd Apatow, both of whom are much revered, which helps with Maude’s branding as this loveable-girl-next-door-who-actually-lives-in-a-mansion vibe. Twitter users have given her the seal of approval, @drivetosyds tweeted “shoutout to Maude Apatow gotta be one of my fav nepotism babies 🙏” and @Rendy_Jones said “Maude Apatow might be in the Dakota Johnson/Jack Quaid side of nepotism babies (good).”
Then there’s the other side of nepo babies, those who aren’t heralded like Zoë or Maude. Cara Delevingne has been embraced as a supermodel, with her brows becoming world famous, but as this well-connected star turned her hand to acting and music, audiences were less impressed. Kendall Jenner and Brooklyn Beckham have also been subjected to criticism, with some dubbing them ‘bad nepo babies’. A popular reddit thread with over 500 responses has been asking the loaded question ‘Which hollywood nepotism baby do you think is actually talented?’, with mixed responses such as ‘I don’t find her exactly talented, but I’ve grown found of Dakota Johnson’s personality. Wbu?’ and ‘from the older generation – Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Dern. Two genuinely fabulous actors with enormous talent.’