Lily Allen says famous parents can be “narcissistic” and difficult. O’Shea Jackson Jr. says he had to get his “ass up and make it work” without help. And Jamie Lee Curtis seems to think she’s a member of a persecuted minority.
“Nepo babies” are crying foul over a buzzy New York magazine cover story that points out their inherent advantage as heirs to the rich and famous, saying they work too hard to deserve such criticism.
The splashy feature, about the children of parents in the entertainment industry who go on to pursue their own careers, has made big waves since it was published on Monday. In a series of 13 articles, quizzes, and graphics published online on Vulture, New York magazine’s entertainment blog continued to distill our cultural resentment of, and fascination with, those “whose parents’ names are blue on Wikipedia.”
Some of the celebs called out include actors like Lily Rose-Depp (daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis), Zoey Deutch (Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch), Hannah Einbinder (SNL writer Laraine Newman), and Charlie Hall (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall). These up-and-comers shared the page with more established stars like Angelina Jolie (Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard).
There’s not a ton in the feature that’s actually new, but the timely series—complete with an unsparing infographic tying Hollywood children to their parents in a family tree of unfairness—has some scions ardently defending themselves all over again.
In an Instagram post on Friday, Knives Out star Jamie Lee Curis took umbrage with the fact that she’s never stopped hearing about her famous parents in the span of her four-decade-long career. (The 64-year-old actress is the daughter of Oscar nominees Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis.)
“The current conversation about nepo babies is just designed to try to diminish and denigrate and hurt,” Curtis wrote. “There are many of us. Dedicated to our craft. Proud of our lineage. Strong in our belief in our right to exist.”
Lottie Moss, the 24-year-old OnlyFans model and paternal half-sister of Kate Moss, used far more pointed language in a tweet on Wednesday.
“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,” she wrote in the since-deleted post.
Meanwhile, Eve Hewson, the daughter of U2 frontman Bono, appeared sad to be left out of the discourse.
“Actually pretty devastated i’m not featured in the nepo baby article like haven’t they seen my hit show Bad Sisters??? The NERVE,” she tweeted on Tuesday.
She also made an interesting point in a comment on Instagram, noting that New York and other outlets would normally “gag” to have celebs like Rose-Depp on their cover. “New York mag uses these kids to benefit themselves,” she said.
The actress then continued to accuse New York of hypocrisy in a tweet on Thursday.
“In a beautiful turn of events, I have just been informed that Pamela Wasserstein, the CEO of @NYMag, is a nepo baby herself. Her dad bought the magazine in 2004,” Hewson said. Indeed, Wasserstein’s father, Bruce, bought the publication for $55 million back in 2004. Pam took a more active role in the company after his sudden death in 2009, the New York Times reports.
An unnamed talent manager in the Vulture piece confirmed some of our worst fears about these lucky celeb children, saying they’re often spoiled and lacking in self-awareness.
“They don’t realize how lucky they are because this is their world,” the manager said. “I am very transparent with my clients that there are steps they need to take to be able to be relevant past the 15-second mark. It’s not just about your clout. Where is your résumé? A lot of them are working toward their own thing, but at times they’re trying to bypass the steps a person coming from nowhere would have to do.”
Of course, the chorus of nepo babies who disagree with the piece seem to think they all work pretty hard.
“I had to get my ass up and make it work,” said O’Shea Jackson Jr., whose breakout role was playing his dad, rapper Ice Cube, in the 2015 N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. “From the roles I chose. The work ethic I put into them. My professionalism on sets and promo tours. Even leaving HIS agency and goin to find a team of my own. Once the door was opened it was up to me to walk through it and thrive.”
As most of us know from countless documentaries, memoirs, and interviews, growing up as the child of someone in the entertainment industry, especially someone mega-famous, is often difficult on the kid. Singer-songwriter Lily Allen, daughter of Welsh actor Keith Allen and producer Alison Owen, said as much in a series of tweets painting a very different picture of growing up with an image-conscious, workaholic parent.
“In childhood we crave stability and love, nurturing, we don’t care about money or proximity to power yet,” she tweeted on Monday. “Many of the nepo babies are starved of these basic things in childhood as their parents are probably narcissistic.”
She continued: “And entertainment business is not parent friendly eg. Touring/ months away shooting. It can be hard to see one’s own privilege when you’re still processing childhood trauma, and a lot of these kids haven’t figured that out yet.”
In a slightly revolting turn of events, the conversation about nepotism reminded netizens that Allen said she once turned down a role in Game of Thrones—opposite her brother Alfie—because of an incestuous storyline where she “would have had to go on a horse and he would have touched me up and shit.”
Nepotism, as it turns out, may not always yield the best opportunities.