Abcarian: Nepo babies beware! You didn’t hit a triple if you were born on third base

If you live on the Westside of Los Angeles and have a child in private school around here — PS 1 in Santa Monica, maybe, or Windward in Mar Vista — you have almost certainly had encounters with “nepo babies,” kids of famous parents who have gone on or will go on to fame in the entertainment industry themselves.

Although the zippy term “nepo baby” only recently entered the lexicon, the idea that the sons and daughters of celebrities get a leg up in their parents’ world is nothing new. It’s as old as the silver screen itself.

My daughter went to school with a slew of celebrity spawn. The children or grandchildren of world-class musicians, actors, directors, agents. And though I’ve interviewed many famous people in my work, it was always slightly jarring to be sitting in the bleachers next to, say, Denzel Washington watching his son play middle school football. Or for my kid to come home for winter break with a rhinestone-spangled pine cone ornament made by Bob Dylan’s grandson. Or for her to announce that she’d just seen Ziggy Marley perform at her friend’s bar mitzvah party. You just knew that future appearances on the red carpet was the birthright of those children.

opinion columnist

Robin Abcarian

Some of the celebrity parents were so self-absorbed that they never seemed to remember meeting the normal parents. One time, when my daughter was little, she was invited to a classmate’s birthday party at the Santa Monica Pier carousel. When I walked her in, the birthday girl’s mother, the actress-wife of a much more famous actor-husband and someone I knew from our kids’ small classroom, walked toward me and said, “I’m sorry, this is a private party.” (Their daughter grew up to become a talented agent.)

Last month, New York magazine set the nepo baby world alight with its cover story extravaganza, complete with elaborate family trees, on the phenomenon. Nepo babies have gotten a spate of attention recently, sparked by social media posts from young people surprised or disappointed to discover a favorite talent coasted into the credits on skids greased by famous parents.

The New York story featured an interview with Meriem Derradji, a 25-year-old tech-support worker, who seems to have brought the idea of ​​nepo babies into the public conversation with a tweet last May: “Wait,” she wrote, “ I just found out the actress that plays Lexie is a nepotism baby omg her mom is Leslie Mann and her dad is a movie director lol.” (Maude Apatow, of “Euphoria,” is Judd Apatow’s daughter.)

“In 2022,” wrote New York’s Nate Jones, “the internet uncovered a vast conspiracy: Hollywood was run on an invisible network of family ties — and everyone was in on it!”

His piece, an exhaustive look at the current crop of Hollywood nepo babies — too many to list, really — did not go over well with some of the kids who lashed out.

“I’m so sick of people blaming nepotism for why they aren’t rich and famous or successful — obviously it’s not fair that people who come from famous families are getting a leg up because of that but guess what?” tweeted Lottie Moss, the supermodel Kate Moss’s younger sister. “Life isn’t fair — if you put your mind to something you can accomplish anything.”

She later deleted the post, according to news reports, after receiving negative feedback. Well, OK, it was a full-on backlash.

Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. tweeted that he was already studying screenwriting at USC when “My dad told me in a perfect world, I would play him in straight outta compton…. I accepted the challenge. And auditioned for two years before getting the role.”

And further down in the thread: “Once the door was opened it was up to me to walk through it and thrive.”

The next day, Jackson returned to the topic, retweeting a 1998 clip of the supremely talented nepo baby Whitney Houston, who was the daughter of Cissy Houston and niece of Dionne Warwick, telling Magic Johnson, “Nepotism’s not all that easy.” “Embrace it,” Jackson suggested.

What has annoyed the internet, as far as I can tell, is that so many nepo babies give lip service to their privilege but don’t really admit that it has made their careers not just possible but predictable.

“The internet cares a lot more about who your family is than the people who are casting you in things,” the actor/model Lily-Rose Depp told Elle magazine a couple of months ago. “Maybe you get your foot in the door, but you still just have your foot in the door.” The fury of a thousand tweets rained down upon her.

Because guess what?

“Getting a foot in the door is the hardest part of show business,” snapped a commenter on Reddit, where many discussions about nepo babies have taken place, “and these people are born with a foot in the door.”


In Hollywood, a million people are trying to stick their foot in the door. Those with recognizable last names don’t have to worry about making it inside. Once you’re on the inside, of course you must rise to the occasion. But a famous last name will make it a whole lot easier.

Hollywood nepotism sticks in our craw, I think, because it violates the fantasy that, as Lottie Moss wrote, “If you put your mind to something you can accomplish anything.”

That’s a little bit rich from a model whose genetic gifts likely have nothing to do with willpower and whose last name surely put her at the head of the line in her chosen profession. Or should I say family business?

Anyway, I happen to agree with something that Ben Dreyfuss, son of actor Richard Dreyfuss, told Vox in August about nepo babies. You can’t just hate them for who they are. It’s not their fault.

“It doesn’t make you a bad person to be born into a better situation than someone else. You had no control over that,” said Dreyfuss, who is a journalist, and yes, an actor as well. “But it does make you a bad person to insist that you’re Horatio Alger.”


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