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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: It’s a nepo's world

DTH Photo Illustration. A student examines Hailey Bieber's 'Nepo Baby' t-shirt on Vogue's website.

Nepotism has become a hot topic among Generation Z and those immersed in pop culture. Notable characters, or “nepo babies,” include the Hadid sisters, the Kardashian family and the cast of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story. But why is this currently part of public discourse? And what exactly is a "nepo baby"? 

We first must distinguish “nepotism baby” from any other person with six figures. A nepotism baby is a child born into an established or well-connected family. They were born inside the "room," while many others did not have that privilege. This is especially true regarding the entertainment industry, a notoriously challenging industry to break into — at least, without having a highly-acclaimed director as your father or a Grammy Award-winning family member. It takes years for many to knock on the right door. 

Inherited wealth and familial connections provide nepotism babies with a leg up in every industry and immediate access to lucrative careers. This act of influence, for some, has persisted for dynasties. A few consider it lucky to be born into this lifestyle, others are envious of it, but many are now criticizing the unfairness of this highly exclusive networking process. 

This might be attributed to the passage of time. Before the era of social media, reaping the benefits of being a celebrity’s child was not a popular topic of discussion. In most cases, to acquire fame, people needed talent to back it up. This standard remains partly true, however familial connections linking people to high value jobs is on the rise today. Recently, the fascination with nepotism became the talk of social media and news outlets. It has inspired online debates, with individuals questioning if those with nepotism privilege deserve their status or fame. 

As an example, Brooklyn Beckham, the son of English fashion designer Victoria Beckham and former soccer player David Beckham, has been called out for having “no talent” amongst his celebrity counterparts. Despite this, he has attempted to pursue photography, modeling, and more recently, a cooking career. Has nepotism enabled him to indulge in these esteemed ventures?

At the height of this nepo-talk, many of them (the entitled offspring of entertainers) came out to deny their privileges, such as Lily Rose-Depp in an interview for Elle. Rather than acknowledge her status as a "nepo baby," Depp said: 

“It’s weird to me to reduce somebody to the idea that they’re only there because it’s a generational thing. It just doesn’t make any sense. If somebody’s mom or dad is a doctor, and then the kid becomes a doctor, you’re not going to be like, ‘Well, you’re only a doctor because your parent is a doctor.’ It’s like, ‘No, I went to medical school and trained.” 

Other "nepo babies" responded to the discourse in an opposite fashion. Vogue Magazine photographed Hailey Bieber with the words “Nepo Baby” printed on her t-shirt earlier this month. However, this is not the first time Bieber has participated in the online "nepo baby" discourse. Last year, she invited Gwyneth Paltrow (daughter of director Bruce Paltrow and actress Blythe Danner) on her Youtube series “Who’s In My Bathroom,” where the pair revealed a controversial stance on the topic.

Paltrow said: “As the child of someone, you get to access other people don’t have, so the playing field is not level in that way. However, I really do feel that once your foot is in the door, which you unfairly got, then you almost have to work twice as hard to be twice as good.” Bieber replied, “need to hear this today.” This interview fueled the nepotism conversation even more, with many calling out their lack of awareness and attempt to control the narrative. 

There is a continuing theme of celebrities either downplaying or avoiding the topic altogether to those that embrace it with pride in response to the discourse. Suffice it to say that nepotism gives one opportunity many can’t attain, but it becomes another topic of discussion when one denies this reality. 


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