What is a nepo baby? Meaning and New York Magazine article explained - examples from Ben Platt to Maya Hawke

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A recent New York Magazine article has sparked discussion about the ‘nepo babies’ of Hollywood

Following a New York Magazine article, titled “She Has Her Mother’s Eyes. And Agent. Extremely overanalysing Hollywood’s nepo-baby boom”, the conversation regarding “nepo babies” has exploded online, with opinions ranging from “all nepo babies are bad” to “what’s a nepo baby?”.

If you fall into the latter category, then don’t worry - this is everything you need to know.

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What does nepotism mean?

Nepotism refers to the specific advantage or privilege that is given to family members in a particular occupation or field.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines nepotism as: “The act of using your power or influence to get good jobs or unfair advantages for members of your own family.”

Ben Platt and father Marc Platt attends the “Into The Woods” World Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 8, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)Ben Platt and father Marc Platt attends the “Into The Woods” World Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 8, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
Ben Platt and father Marc Platt attends the “Into The Woods” World Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The word itself originates from the Italian word “nepotismo”, meaning nephew. It comes from the practice of Catholic popes and bishops assigning their nephews to important positions between the Middle Ages and the late 17th century. Because these Catholic popes and bishops had taken a vow of chastity, they therefore did not have any offspring of their own and instead gave their nephews preferential treatment, elevating them to positions often given by fathers to their sons.

While nepotism can occur in basically any field, such as business, politics and religion, the word has most recently been used largely in conjunction with celebrities and their famous family members.

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What is a ‘nepo baby’ - who are some examples?

Recently, the term “nepo baby” has made its way into mainstream use, referring specifically to celebrities and their famous parents or relatives.

Some examples of nepo babies include:

Jack Quaid (L) and Dennis Quaid attend the Giorgio Armani and Cinema Society screening of Sony Pictures Classics’ “Truth” at Museum of Modern Art on October 7, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)Jack Quaid (L) and Dennis Quaid attend the Giorgio Armani and Cinema Society screening of Sony Pictures Classics’ “Truth” at Museum of Modern Art on October 7, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
Jack Quaid (L) and Dennis Quaid attend the Giorgio Armani and Cinema Society screening of Sony Pictures Classics’ “Truth” at Museum of Modern Art on October 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Emma Roberts (L) and Julia Roberts arrive at the premiere of New Line Cinema’s “Valentine’s Day” held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on February 8, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)Emma Roberts (L) and Julia Roberts arrive at the premiere of New Line Cinema’s “Valentine’s Day” held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on February 8, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Emma Roberts (L) and Julia Roberts arrive at the premiere of New Line Cinema’s “Valentine’s Day” held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on February 8, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) | Getty Images
  • John David Washington (Tenet, BlacKkKlansman), who is the son of Denzel Washington (Malcolm X, Training Day)
  • Kiefer Sutherland (24, Stand By Me), son to Donald Sutherland (Citizen X, The Undoing) and Shirley Douglas (Flash Gordon, Wind at My Back)
  • Colin Hanks (Fargo, Impeachment: American Crime Story), son to Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Elvis)
  • Nicolas Cage (National Treasure, Face/Off), who is the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, who directed classics like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now 
  • Alexander Skarsgård (Succession, True Blood), son of Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård (Andor, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)

What’s the New York Magazine article about?

New York Magazine’s newest cover, titled “She Has Her Mother’s Eyes. And Agent”, comes from writer Nate Jones, and focuses on the nepo babies of Hollywood. In the article, Jones states that “a nepo baby is physical proof that meritocracy is a lie” and that nepo babies “try, and if at first you don’t succeed, remember you’re still a celebrity’s child, so try, try again”.

Responses to the article have been mixed.

(L-R) Actors Maya Hawke, Ethan Hawke, and Sam Rockwell during the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 3, 2018 in Santa Monica, California.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)(L-R) Actors Maya Hawke, Ethan Hawke, and Sam Rockwell during the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 3, 2018 in Santa Monica, California.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
(L-R) Actors Maya Hawke, Ethan Hawke, and Sam Rockwell during the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 3, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images) | Getty Images

One person wrote: “Some of y’all getting real defensive about the NY Mag cover on behalf of nepo babies, it’s funny, laugh.”

Another tweeted: “Whoever wrote that nepo baby article kind of a genius though… To be able to cite that many types and examples of nepo babies ohhhh they were mad as hell.”

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“Majority of nepo babies included in this article shouldn’t have been. Everyone except Depp (idk about her tbh) has made a path for themselves outside of their parents. Like don’t try to embarrass folks who worked hard for their names. Bad job NYM,” one wrote.

Another tweeted: “I don’t mind nepo babies if they’re actually talented and are humble. Sure it’s annoying af but that’s life. Suck it up. Play the game. The industry is a game. If you think it isn’t, good luck.”

What did Lily Allen say about nepo babies?

With nepo babies being a hot topic right now online, musician Lily Allen weighed in on the conversation on Twitter, seemingly coming to the defence of nepo babies in the entertainment industry.

She tweeted: “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 work consequences and robbing people of opportunity. BUT that’s none of my business.”

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Allen herself is daughter to Welsh actor Keith Allen (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Agatha Raisin) and English film producer Alison Owen (Shaun of the Dead, Saving Mr Banks), niece to British director Kevin Allen (Twin Town, Under Milk Wood), and sister to Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen.

Lily Allen and her father Keith Allen pose during the launch of the Lily Loves collection at New Look Oxford Street store on May 8, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)Lily Allen and her father Keith Allen pose during the launch of the Lily Loves collection at New Look Oxford Street store on May 8, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)
Lily Allen and her father Keith Allen pose during the launch of the Lily Loves collection at New Look Oxford Street store on May 8, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Response to Allen’s tweet was swift, with many disagreeing with her stance.

In the reply to her tweet, one person wrote: “How about we criticise both? Nepotism in art creates an echo chamber of the same perspectives for decade after decade while shutting out any new voices who aren’t lucky enough to be related to the right connections. You think that has no real consequences?”

Another added: “Lily I love you but as a person who has absolutely 0 connections to the industry (wanting to be a screenwriter) it infuriates me to see these nepo babies taking opportunities they haven’t earnt & this has consequences: it limits diversity in creativity which impacts on equality.”

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Allen later followed up on her initial post with a new thread of tweets, in which she wrote: “Look, I seem to have riled people up with my comments about nepo babies. I am nearly 40 years of age and am more than happy, in fact I think it’s important to disclose what a privileged upbringing I’ve had and how that has created so many opportunities for me.

“I mention my age because I haven’t always been able to have that conversation, in my twenties I felt very defensive about it, I felt like I worked extremely hard and that I deserved the success that I had, that people connected to my songs and that the songs came from me, I also had quite a fraught relationship with some of my family members so it felt difficult for me to attribute my successes to them, at the time.

Musician Lily Allen and her brother Alfie Allen arrive at The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival screening of ‘Bricklane’ at the Odeon West End on October 26, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by Claire Greenway/Getty Images)Musician Lily Allen and her brother Alfie Allen arrive at The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival screening of ‘Bricklane’ at the Odeon West End on October 26, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by Claire Greenway/Getty Images)
Musician Lily Allen and her brother Alfie Allen arrive at The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival screening of ‘Bricklane’ at the Odeon West End on October 26, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Claire Greenway/Getty Images) | Getty Images

“But we all know it’s more complicated than that. 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.

“I do feel that nepo babies are being somewhat scapegoated here though, there is a wider, societal conversation to be had about wealth inequality, about lack of programs and funding, and I guess that was the point I was trying to make, maybe badly.

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“I promise you I’m not rooting for an industry full of people that had childhoods that looked like mine. 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.”

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