New York Magazine recently declared 2022 the “year of the nepo baby,” publishing an “all but definitive guide to the Hollywood nepo-verse" through its pop culture publication, Vulture.
A nepo baby, in case you haven't heard, is the offspring of a famous person who follows their parent into the creative industries, and often is met with success despite the competition.
Poring over the magazine’s nepo baby infographic, which reads like a gossipy family tree, it’s easy to think that everyone in Hollywood is related somehow — whether a star’s parents were producers, directors, or famous actors in their own right.
A nepo baby, short for nepotism baby, is a term that entered the cultural lexicon recently, with think pieces describing who gets entry into Hollywood and how. Vulture's comprehensive article sparked a heated debate about the way nepo babies (and their success) should be perceived.
But first things first.
What is a nepo baby?
A nepo baby, short for nepotism baby, is the child of an actor, musician, producer or other industry insider who has likely benefitted from their parents’ fame or connections while launching their own career.
Vulture introduced a few different categories for the well-connected performers.
- They highlighted Gen-Z performers “on the come-up,” such as singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams, daughter of filmmaker J.J. Abrams, and “Scream” star Mason Gooding, son of Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr.
- "Booked and busy” nepo babies are children of major stars who have more established careers, such as “Girls” star Zosia Mamet, the daughter of playwright David Mamet and actor Lindsay Crouse, and actor Colin Hanks, Tom Hanks' look-alike son.
- Then there are the “platinum grade” nepo babies who come from famous parents but are definitely major players in their own right now, including Miley Cyrus, Dakota Johnson and Kate Hudson.
At the top of the pyramid are “nepo baby graduates,” who come from families in the entertainment industry, but who are such veterans at this point that “no one cares” who their parents were — A-listers like Laura Dern, George Clooney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Anjelica Huston.
Who are some famous nepo babies?
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are some well-known actors, musicians, models and influencers identified by Vulture, and the internet in general, as nepo babies.
“Orange County” star Colin Hanks, 45, is the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
Depp, 23, is the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. She is a model and has also acted films including “Wolf” and “Silent Night.”
Bryce Dallas Howard
“Jurassic Park” star, Howard, 41, is the daughter of film director Ron Howard.
“Emily in Paris” star Lily Collins, 33, is the daughter of musician Phil Collins.
Maude Apatow, 25, known for her role in HBO’s “Euphoria,” is the daughter of director Judd Apatow and actor Leslie Mann.
Miley Cyrus, 30, is the daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
“Glass Onion” star Kate Hudson, 43, is the daughter of actor Goldie Hawn and actor Bill Hudson. She was also raised by her mother’s longtime partner, actor Kurt Russell.
Model and influencer Hailey Bieber, née Baldwin, 26, is the daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin.
Deacon Phillippe, 19, who recently appeared in Mindy Kaling’s “Never Have I Ever,” is the son of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe.
“Girls” star Zosia Mamet, 34, is the daughter of playwright David Mamet and actor Lindsay Crouse.
Dakota Johnson, 33, is the daughter of actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson.
Zoë Kravitz, 34, is the daughter of musician Lenny Kravitz and actor Lisa Bonet.
The Oscar-winning Gwyneth Paltrow, 50, is the daughter of actor Blythe Danner and the late producer and director Bruce Paltrow.
Michael Douglas, 78, is the son of actors Kirk Douglas and Diana Dill.
Jane Fonda, 85, is the daughter of actor Henry Fonda.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis, 64, who has spoken openly about her privileged upbringing, is the daughter of actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
Drew Barrymore, 47, comes from a long line of Hollywood royalty. She is the daughter of actor John Barrymore and the granddaughter of actors John Barrymore and Dolores Costello. She is also a grandniece of actor Lionel Barrymore, and has several other relatives who were actors.
“Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay, 58, is the daughter of actor Jayne Mansfield and bodybuilder and actor Mickey Hargitay.
Josh Brolin, 54, is the son of actor James Brolin, who is now married to Barbra Streisand.
Anjelica Huston, 71, is the daughter of famed director John Huston and ballerina and model Enrica Soma.
Angelina Jolie, 47, is the daughter of actors Jon Voigt and Marcheline Bertrand.
Some nepo babies weighed in on the matter
It’s safe to say people have a lot of opinions about Vulture’s guide to the nepo baby universe, and about the topic of connections and privilege in general. The article sparked debate from commentators and from the children of the famous themselves.
Some stars were tongue-in-cheek about the discourse. Irish actor Eve Hewson, 31, who is the daughter of U2 frontman Bono, seemed to joke on Twitter that she was "actually pretty devastated” about not being included on the nepo baby list, then rejoiced when her followers pointed out that she had, in fact, gotten a mention.
Lily Allen, daughter of actor Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen, tweeted that that the dialogue around nepo babies in Hollywood distracted from more pressing topics of privilege and inherited wealth that flies under the radar.
“The nepo babies y’all should be worrying about are the ones working for legal firms, the ones working for banks, and the ones working in politics, If we’re talking about real world consequences and robbing people of opportunity. BUT that’s none of my business,” British singer-songwriter and actor Lily Allen, the daughter of actor Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen, tweeted this week.
“And before you come at me for being a nepo baby myself, I will be the first to tell you that I literally deserve nothing,” she added in a follow-up tweet.
Allen went on to argue that if people are upset about nepotism, they should not target individuals themselves, but wider inequalities in the entertainment industry.
“I promise you I’m not rooting for an industry full of people that had childhoods that looked like mine,” she wrote. “I just really think that we can’t get to a real solution without identifying the real problem, as fun as it is to laugh at the kids of famous people. Nepo babies have feelings.”
At the same time, she said it was important to disclose her “privileged upbringing” and said in another tweet, “It is quite clear that there is a severe lack of representation in the industry where class and race are concerned. Everyone loses as a result.”
Actor and rapper O’Shea Jackson Jr., whose father is Ice Cube, also shared his experiences having a famous dad.
Jackson, who played a younger version of his father in the 2015 biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” encouraged others to embrace their backgrounds.
“I say this to say. To the people who are 2nd, 3rd or any number of generational talent/wealth. Embrace that s---. Because it’s something that’s been happening for centuries,” he tweeted. “Do not let anyone get it in your head that you should feel bad or your accomplishments are less than…”
In a series of tweets, Jackson also acknowledged that his father gave him an invaluable start, but added that he then had to make his own way in the industry.
“My dad told me in a perfect world, I would play him in straight outta compton. I was already in college for screenwriting at USC. I accepted the challenge,” he tweeted. “And auditioned for two years before getting the role. After that it was up to me, he couldn’t hold my hand through my career.”
And of course, people weighed in on nepo babies weighing in. Generally, people criticized the nepo babies who seemed to struggle with the label, like Lottie Moss, the 24-year-old half sister of Kate Moss, who deleted her Twitter account after a series of tweets about privilege went viral.
Moss wrote, per the Hollywood Reporter, “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? Life isn’t fair — if you put your mind to something you can accomplish."
“No one rags on you if you’re talented & acknowledge the tremendous privilege that got you in the door,” comedian Franchesca Ramsey wrote.
For example, Jamie Lee Curtis was applauded for acknowledging that her parents being Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis likely helped land her a breakout role in "Halloween."
An old Whitney Houston interview was circulated, too: "We'll help you get in the door but when you're in it, you're on your own," she said her mom, gospel singer Cissy Houston, and cousin Dionne Warwick told her on "The Magic Johnson Show" in 1998.
The conversation about nepo babies is about more than nepo babies
The conversation around nepo babies is a springboard for other issues. The idea of people having a leg up in Hollywood also translates to people having a leg up in general, thanks to circumstances outside of sheer talent, like family connections or wealth.
Essentially, for many, nepo babies are proof that a meritocracy does not exist and that sheer talent is not enough to fuel a successful career.
Others were skeptical about who, really, should be considered a nepo baby in Hollywood, and questioned Vulture's criteria.
"Someone who was a grip on some sitcom in the 90s having a kid who ends up being an actor is not nepotism," the writer Ashley Reese tweeted.
Writer Rachel Shukert also shared her take on Twitter, questioning why some people on Vulture’s list were considered nepo babies at all.
She pointed to Vulture’s list of “industry babies,” the offspring of not-necessarily-famous or highly paid members of the entertainment industry, such as set builders and theater directors.
“I’ve been reading that nepo baby flow chart finally and apparently being the child of anyone who attempted any kind of creative profession is equivalent to being the kid of a ... studio chairman. What in the world,” she tweeted.
“Nepotism ABSOLUTELY exists but this is casting a really wide net, equating people whose parents managed to expose them to art and creative worlds (often in spite of financial struggles) with people who have literally had every opportunity handed to them,” she also tweeted. “Doesn’t feel super fair.”
Other seemed to celebrate their favorite nepo babies.
And, of course, there were memes. Lot of memes.
This much is true: Nepotism isn't going away, nor are nepo babies. Neither, it seems, is the nepo baby discourse.