Nepo babies: what are they and why is Gen Z only just discovering them? | celebrity

Alyx, I keep seeing TikToks about “nepo babies”. What is a nepo baby and why do we hate them?

The answer to your first question is easy: nepo is short for “nepotism”. And a baby, in this instance, means the child of someone who’s already successful. You don’t have to be a baby to be a nepo baby. It is an all-ages phrase.

The nepotism baby discourse kicked off in February with a tweet about the cast of the TV series Euphoria.

Wait I just found out that the actress that plays Lexie is a nepotism baby omg 😭 her mom is Leslie Mann and her dad is a movie director lol

– girl idk… (@MeriemIsTired) February 21, 2022

This tweet is amazing for a few reasons. The first is that the “movie director” in question is Judd Apatow, one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood. Additionally, as the internet would later find out, the showrunner of Euphoria, Sam Levinson, is a nepo baby himself (his dad directed Good Morning, Vietnam).

By the time that tidbit came out, the nepotism discourse had reached fever pitch (and was shortened to nepo because: too many syllables). Dozens of buzzy young celebrities, from Zoë Kravitz to Maya Hawke and Dakota Johnson, were being outed on TikTok for their famous families (yes, anyone who was old enough to read People magazine in 2007 already knew).

But many who weren’t old enough to read People magazine in 2007 learned for the first time that nepo-babies were filling their screens; their airwaves; the pages of their glossy magazines and just generally getting big creative breaks well before anyone else in their age bracket (we knew).

Now, to the next part of your question: why do we hate them?

Patently, we don’t. We are fascinated by celebrities’ children and have always been. We also don’t think that nepo babies lack talent (shout out to my fave Mary Shelley).

But we also resent them.

Why are we talking about this now?

After much discourse in the earlier months of the year (most fabulously this Bloomberg hot take titled Open Your Mind to the Benefits of Nepotism) the whole thing kicked back off in earnest when New York magazine dropped a frankly incredible cover, celebrating the year of the nepo baby and flowcharting all of Hollywood’s genealogical hook-ups.

Are there any Hollywood stars who aren’t nepo babies? I thought that was just the accepted way in.

Yes, there are Hollywood stars that aren’t nepo babies. For instance, some just have stage moms. But still, it’s hard out there for the unconnected.

If we all know it happens, and having connections is a recognized way to get ahead in the industry, I’m assuming the nepo babies themselves are extremely chill and open about their privilege?

I once saw Connor Cruise DJing next to a wax mannequin of his own father in Los Angeles, so yeah, some nepo babies are pretty upfront about it. But many are not fond of the tone of the present discourse. We know because they are being asked about it in interviews. Lily-Rose Depp, who one could argue has benefitted as much from inherited cheekbones as inherited fame, told Elle: “It’s weird to me to reduce somebody to the idea that they’re only there because it’s a generational thing”, and also called it sexist. This prompted several top models to loudly roll their eyes on Instagram stories.

Meanwhile, Zoë Kravitz, revisiting talking points from the aforementioned Bloomberg hot take, told GQ: “It’s completely normal for people to be in the family business.”

Zoë Kravitz, the daughter of actor Lisa Bonet and musician Lenny Kravitz. Photograph: Stewart Cook/Rex/Shutterstock

Gwyneth Paltrow, in conversation with fellow nepo Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin), explained how family connections can actually be a disadvantage, because “once your foot is in the door, which you unfairly got in, then you almost have to work twice as hard and be twice as good” (we… no).

And just two days ago, Lily Allen, not unreasonablypointed out that being the child of a famous person isn’t exactly easy (we knew).

Is this just a Hollywood thing?

As Lily Allen noted, nepo babies are everywhere! (Hello, Justin Trudeau.) While the nepo baby chatter has mostly been centered around the most visible examples (famous people), the outrage underpinning it is broader.

Inherited wealth makes it easier to get ahead in every industry. Which is why New York magazine’s deep dive draws a clear distinction between being a nepo baby and simply being rich.

Because having not only inherited wealth, but also a parent who can stick their foot in the door for you makes success that much easier again.

If a field is highly compensated, highly regarded, or just highly visible (hello, journalism), you can bet you’ll find second or even third (fourth, in Drew Barrymore’s case) generation dynasties working within it.

So, is this just Gen Z making the discovery that every generation makes, that Meritocracy is a lie and all the scales are rigged?

Basically, yes.

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