There are two hot topics that keep recurrently surfacing in our ‘Freshest Goss’ WhatsApp group chat between myself and friends, with not-to-besniffed-at Instagram followings who shall not be named. The first being ozempic injections, the miracle weight-loss drug that everyone is secretly using — I’ll save that for another time when I’ve got my head around the science — and the second is ‘nepobabies’. The latter is basically nepotism dressed up with a Tik Tok-friendly hashtag that’s recently made headlines. A quick search yields thousands of naming and shaming takedowns of examples of nepobabies in Hollywood, fashion and beyond. They — the nepobabies — have in turn begun their fightback with the likes of Lily Rose-Depp (daughter of Johnny) accusing the internet-fuelled criticism of sprigs with famous last names of being misogynistic. They also draw misguided comparison between doctors and their children, who train to become doctors, too, and offspring of actors, who she maintains also put in an equal amount of graft to get to a point of success.
Watching TikTok videos of Gen Z kids and their sassy probings that usually begin with ‘Did you know such-and-such is daughter/son of so-and-so?’ pointing out that said nepobaby shirks away from discussions of their gained privilege, I’ve had to admit that my generation has sadly given nepotism a free pass, After all, hasn’t it always been thus?
Working in fashion and media, it’s almost second nature to uptalk models, creatives and actors, and earmark them as ‘someone to know’ purely because of their lineage. It’s a learnt behaviour that’s hard not to be guilty of purely by virtue of the sheer prevalence of nepobabies.
But what other talent is being overlooked because a last name gets a foot in the door?
Our group is generally split down the middle over whether we’re for or against. ‘But they’re talented/beautiful so why shouldn’t they be spotlighted?’ is the conventional defence. ‘But what other talent is being overlooked because a last name gets a foot in the door?’ is the rebuttal.
‘Nico [my daughter] will probably be a nepobaby when she grows up,’ a friend said, to which I guffawed. I definitely don’t have a last name that would grant a one-up on the career ladder. Namedrop Lau in Wing Yip supermarket and you might get free pomelo and a tacky calendar owing to the amount the NW London Lau’s have spent there over the years.
Then lo, Nico came home the other day and proudly announced, ‘You’re famous, mummy! My friends at school said they saw you in a magazine!’ I have this very magazine to thank for my mug being regularly in circulation. I immediately refuted the idea, to which she just ran around the house yelping, ‘You’re famous, you’re famous, you’re famous.’ I realised that whether I like it or not, it will be hard to escape some minor degree of nepobaby-ism. Whatever she does down the road, she will automatically inherit my old handbags and gladrags. She’ll be like the nonplussed style ingénue, the type that I used to read about in the back pages of Teen Vogue, who talked about inheriting their grandmother’s Chanel jackets and their mother’s Ferragamo flats. To my shame, I used to wish my family were the kind that had old Chanel and Ferragamo knocking about in their wardrobes.
Nepobabies might well be trending but the deeper and rooted effects of nepotism aren’t something to be shrugged off. Long may the nepobaby takedown live.