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The sealed fate of Lourdes Leon: Madonna’s daughter has flipped the nepobaby concept on its head

Model, dancer, pianist, designer... at 26-years-old, the first-born of the queen of pop has done tons of things, always far from her mother’s shadow. Until now, that is, as she’s trying to imitate her without holding back

Lourdes Leon
Lourdes Leon – also known as Lola Leon – performs during a music festival in Madrid, on September 23, 2023.Mariano Regidor (Redferns / getty)

The life of Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon is so public that it was documented even before she was born. The first news about her dates back to April of 1996, when she was still six months away from her arrival into the world. Of course, that’s what it means to be the daughter of Her Majesty, the queen of pop: Madonna.

Since she saw the light, Lourdes Leon (or Lola, as she prefers to be called) also saw the spotlights and flashes that lit up each of her public appearances. She was only seven-years-old when, dressed up as a miniature bride, she appeared at her mother’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, throwing petals on the stage, to the delight of the singer’s fans. However, despite being the daughter of one of the most recognized artists of all time, Leon hasn’t been too exposed to the spotlight – nor does she seem to be too attached to the media attention that her mother’s clout offers her. And the 26-year-old also never appeared to have a fixed direction… until now, that is.

These past few weeks, everything seems to have fallen into place in Leon’s professional and personal life. She now has a clear professional destiny — and she’s not trying to run away from her mother’s shadow. Music appears to be her goal. She performed at a festival in Madrid at the end of September, while this past week, she released her third song (after recording two last year) called Spelling, which has a clear inspiration: Frozen, the hit single from the album Ray of Light, which Madonna put out in 1998.

The sound, at first, is similar. As is the music video, with the protagonists floating freely in nature, cloaked in blue light and black clothes, surrounded by crows, dark dogs and mystical happenings. Leon has acknowledged that the inspiration for the song absolutely comes from her mother.

“This piece is very special. It’s an homage to my mother’s timeless piece of art Frozen. That piece has come up countless times in my life, connecting the two of us. I would be nothing without the woman who brought me into the world. I revere her, and hope that this translates,” Lolahol — as she is known artistically — wrote on her Instagram account. She has just over half-a-million followers. While Leon made her debut in music months ago, Madonna’s name suddenly resonated behind all of her output.

In the spring of 2022, a term (which has already become a reference) went viral: nepotism baby or nepobaby. No one is unaware that the Hollywood hills are full of these nepobabies, who seem to have flourished in recent years. The connotation— rather than purely negative — is descriptive. Young children, nephews and cousins of actors, singers, directors or producers have existed since the times of Jane Fonda or Sofia Coppola… but they’ve popped up like mushrooms in recent times, where a connection seems essential to succeed. The conversation has obviously reached the nepobabies, who either accept the term, or complain about this new treatment. Lourdes Leon — until now — intended to stay outside of that conversation, as she said in an interview a few months ago.

“I want to feel like I deserve things and not just like I’ve been given things,” she told The Cut. “And, yes, there’s undeniable privilege that I’d be stupid to not realize. Nepotism babies are pretty awful usually, and my mom and my father raised me to be so much smarter than that.”

Beyond this self-declaration of intelligence, it seems that the young Lola Leon isn’t lacking a certain realism regarding her upbringing. She considers herself to be one of those nepobabies, but with a certain distance. She studied in art schools since she was a child (her mother boasts that she’s a piano virtuoso), attended university in Michigan and New York and seems to have surrounded herself with her own team, while making her own decisions, always with the calm that comes from knowing that you’re supported financially. As she declared to Vogue Spain a few weeks ago, during her time in Madrid, she’s in no hurry. “I don’t work well in situations where someone tries to impose rules on me. It’s better to develop at your own pace. I don’t believe in the formula of releasing music all the time.”

She sets her times and tastes. Five years ago, she decided to model for the first time, but instead of opting for a classic brand belonging to one of her mother’s friends — such as Marc Jacobs or Jean Paul Gaultier — she did so with Gypsy Sport, more urban, closer to her style. When she walks on the red carpet while wearing the brand’s clothes, she’s a worthy heir to her mother and to stylistic liberation, showing her nipples or her unshaven armpits.

A couple of years ago, the American edition of Vogue placed her — not without criticism — among the models who will mark the new generation, alongside superstars such as Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber. Each professional model featured in the magazine had dozens of fashion shows and advertising campaigns behind her… except for Lola, who has only made a few appearances in the fashion world.

Madonna and Lourdes Leon
Madonna and Lourdes Leon, at the fashion show for Tom Ford's Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear Collection. Nina Westervelt (WWD / Getty Images)

Over these last few years, Lourdes Leon has oscillated between wanting to shake off the stigma of being who she is by descent, or allowing herself to be rocked by the luck of fame that gets her into events and parties. She’s gone back and forth between being the young woman who studies music at university, or the one who does perfume ads for Stella McCartney, another family friend. While she tried to enter the music industry on her own in the past, she’s now trying to break in by copying her mother – a path that, until now, she seemed to have rejected.

However, just because the young woman treats Madonna as an inspiration, it doesn’t mean that the world buys what she’s selling, or that she’s seen as the second coming of her mother. Four days after her latest song was released, Spelling only had 200,000 views on YouTube and less than 10,000 listens on Spotify.

As a so-called nepobaby, if you don’t achieve quality standards — which are probably even higher than for anyone else — you’ll be nothing more than another name in the long list of “sons and daughters of so-and-so.” This is especially the case for Lola, when it’s practically impossible to reach (or even get close to) the cultural and social power of her mother. Madonna has meant so much for the millions of people who continue to buy tickets to see her, even four decades after her debut. As she’s an idol, fate may be sealed for her daughter. Success in the industry is no longer guaranteed.

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