“She has her mother’s eyes. And agent.” With these words, the cover of last December’s edition of the New York magazine announced – in bright pink letters – a detailed analysis of the phenomenon of the so-called “nepo babies,” a term which refers to the children of celebrities. “With a single tweet about Maude Apatow [the daughter of director Judd Apatow and actress Leslie Mann], the phrase ‘nepo baby’ became part of our collective vocabulary this year,” said culture editor Gazelle Emami. “Suddenly, it felt like everywhere you looked, there was another child of a famous person booking a role.”
The cover showed, inside an incubator, the faces of Maya Hawke (daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke and star of the hit series Stranger Things), Jack Quaid (son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, star of The Boys), Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, who has appeared in Big Little Lies and The Batman), Lily-Rose Depp (daughter of actor Johnny Depp and model Vanessa Paradis) and Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), among others.
As soon as one peeks into the celebrity universe, the list becomes endless. Lily Collins, Brooklyn Beckham, John David Washington, Margaret Qualley and Emma Roberts are other examples. This phenomenon is also illustrated by Mini V, a new magazine for teenagers launched by V Magazine, which chose 15-year-old Ever Anderson for its first cover. The name might not sound familiar, but if you take a closer look, you will notice that Anderson does have her mother’s eyes. And yes, her agent, too.
Ever Anderson is the daughter of British screenwriter and director Paul W. S. Anderson and Ukrainian model and actress Milla Jovovich, who met in 2001 while filming Resident Evil. Anderson wrote and directed the movie and Jovovich starred as its hero, Alice. Ever Anderson was born in 2007; her parents got married two years later, in 2009. She made her film debut in 2017, playing a young version of Alice in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, directed by her father. In 2021, she also played the young version of Scarlett Johansson’s character, Black Widow, in the Marvel movie of the same name. “Once I realized that role-playing with my dolls could actually be a profession, of sorts, I knew that acting was for me,” says Ever Anderson, who last year became the face of the Miu Miu brand and who this year will play Wendy Darling in a new version of Peter Pan titled Peter Pan & Wendy, which will premiere on Disney+.
Although her face is not (yet) famous on the big screen, Ever Anderson has a large community of followers on social media. Her Instagram account has more than half a million followers – and a warning: “Monitored by parents. No DM’s. Inappropriate comments reported.” On TikTok, she has more than 800,000 fans. And everything suggests that these figures will just keep on rising in 2023.
Anderson thus joins “that increasingly large and ubiquitous tribe [of children of celebrities] that has taken over American show business in recent years,” says columnist Nate Jones, who wrote the article in New York magazine. Nepo babies have always existed in Hollywood (Carrie Fisher, Anjelica Huston, Liza Minnelli, Jane Fonda, to name a few). But with some luck – and as long as the last name also came with a bit of talent – this was barely mentioned, it was little more than a fun fact to round out an interview or a story. Now, in the era of social media and the instantaneous scrutiny of every faux pas, every project that they work on is put under the microscope and regarded with suspicion.
Part of the blame lies with the nepo babies themselves, who sometimes seem oblivious to their privilege, incapable of realizing that they have it a little easier than the rest. These nepo babies (now adults with their own projects and ambitions) often mention words like “effort,” “talent” or “merit” in interviews. “It is obviously a really easy assumption to make to think that I would just have roles landing on my doorstep because of my name, but that’s an idea I’ve always kind of rejected,” said Lily-Rose Depp in an interview with Vogue, adding: “I’ve always been under the impression that I have to work twice as hard to prove to people that I’m not just here because it’s easy for me.”
Following the publication of the nepo baby analysis, Lottie Moss, the sister of supermodel Kate Moss, tweeted that she was “sick of people blaming nepotism” for not being rich, famous or successful themselves. Singer Lily Allen (the daughter of actor Keith Allen and producer Alison Owen) tweeted that “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.” Maude Apatow said the term made her feel “sad;” Zoë Kravitz has talked about feeling insecure.
Even the actress Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh) posted a long text on her Instagram account, where she wrote that “the current conversation about nepo babies is only meant to try to belittle, denigrate and hurt.” Interestingly, in a 2019 interview for The New Yorker, Curtis recognized that her family name helped her land her first role in the 1978 film Halloween, for which she auditioned several times until it was between her and another woman: “I’m sure the fact that I was Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis’ daughter, and that my mother had been in Psycho – if you’re going to choose between this one and this one, choose the one whose mother was in Psycho, because it will get some press for you. I’m never going to pretend that I just got that on my own, like I’m just a little girl from nowhere getting it. Clearly, I had a leg up.”
Nepo babies will have to start adding a good publicist to their roster, someone in charge of damage control who will keep them from looking arrogant before an audience that is eager to tweet about the latest blunder of the rich and famous, and to remind them that the term is not so much a criticism of their talent as it is of the system. The fact is that, today, the family tree of Hollywood’s new faces is more visible than ever. A meme that circulated after the article was published sums up the phenomenon eloquently: “be wary of anyone whose parents’ names are blue on Wikipedia.”
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