Like anyone passionate about their job, people in the entertainment industry often say they felt like they were destined to perform, simply because they love their craft. On the other hand, some performers literally have entertainment running in their blood because their families are filled with Hollywood industry vets. These connections earn some celebs nicknames like “nepotism brat” or “nepotism baby.” And, while many stars shy away from addressing their (sometimes obvious, other times not-so-obvious) connections, some are totally down to discuss their ins. These celebrity quotes about nepotism are a mixed bag.
Let's be honest: Nepotism is a huge advantage in any career setting, and Hollywood is no exception! For those who benefit from nepotism, the biggest pro is having your foot in the door when it comes to getting work before you even have to work. On the contrary, aspiring performers with zero industry ties are forced to establish themselves from square one, which puts them at a major disadvantage when competing with nepotism babies (especially considering those who practice nepotism insist their family member was simply the only person imaginable for a career-making role).
Because family connections carry so much weight in entertainment — sometimes, even more than actual talent — having them is a privilege, and that’s why most nepotism babies try their hardest to keep their industry connections under wraps. Still, not all celebrities are hush-hush about it. Numerous stars in the film, music, and fashion world have openly discussed their experiences with nepotism, and you might be surprised by some of the confessions celebs have made in press interviews throughout the years.
1. Elizabeth Olsen
The younger sister of Y2K sweethearts Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Elizabeth Olsen has had her fair share of haters claiming she's riding on the coattails of her older twin sisters. But the Wandavision star was always wary about career handouts — even as a kid. Because of this, she even considered dropping her surname to distance herself from her siblings’ careers.
“I was 10 [years old] and I was curious about auditioning… But during that time, I thought, ‘I don’t want to be associated with [Mary-Kate and Ashley],’ for some reason,” she said to Glamour UK in April 2021. “I guess I understood what nepotism was inherently like as a 10-year-old. I didn’t know if I knew the word, but there is some sort of association of not earning something that I think bothered me at a very young age.”
Good for Olsen for staying true to her family name despite having doubts way back when — no doubt she's making her big sisters proud.
2. Lily Collins
Lily Collins' last name is a dead giveaway of her star-studded connection. Drumming legend Phil Collins, is her dad. But in an interview with Marie Claire back in 2014, the Emily in Paris actress revealed that, when it came to finding an agent in LA, having a famous father actually wasn't that unique of a selling point. She said,
When I first met with agents I was asked, "Well, what makes you so special? Everyone in LA is a cousin or daughter of someone... At the beginning, [my father] was the most interesting thing about me. Now I’ve done eight films, it’s an afterthought. I get kids who say, "Oh, I love your movie, but my mum loves your dad." It’s really nice to be able to share that with him, but it doesn’t define who I am career-wise.
At the time of the interview, Collins had already appeared in numerous movies; her biggest role was playing the lead in 2013 YA fantasy film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Although some may say her opportunities were the result of nepotism, with a Golden Globe nomination under her belt today, there’s no doubting her raw talent.
3. Hailey Baldwin Bieber
A member of the eclectic and well-known Baldwin family, Hailey Baldwin is the daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin (and niece of his uber-famous brother, Alec). Since she comes from a lineage of professional performers, the model and former dancer is the perfect example of someone who's been "born to do it." But back in 2016, the then-19-year-old starlet expressed that she wanted to establish her own career without her name being a huge driver. "I want to do everything on my own without my name being a factor," she told Grazia magazine. "I try to keep myself separate from it."
She also noted that working in entertainment was a natural move for her. "Kids that already have a famous background are just following in their families’ footsteps. My dad [Stephen Baldwin] and all of his brothers have done this. This is my family business."
4. Gigi Hadid
Fashion fave Gigi Hadid is one of the biggest models in the world, but she'll be the first to admit that she didn't have to work as hard as other models to get to where she is — which I totally respect!
In a 2018 interview with Vogue Australia, the model revealed that she's totally aware of her class privilege. Her father is a multi-millionaire luxury real estate developer, while her mother, Yolanda Hadid, is a former supermodel herself. Because of them, she never faced financial insecurity growing up — and it can be assumed Hadid's model mama showed her the ropes to the competitive industry, too. But Hadid has expressed that she used to feel guilty for her privileges since other models were in less-fortunate positions, telling Vogue,
I know I come from privilege, so when I started there was this big guilt of privilege, obviously. I’ve always had this big work ethic, because my parents came from nothing and I worked hard to honour them. There are so many girls who come [from] all over the world and work their arses off and send money home to their families like my mother did... and I wanted [them to know] that it’s never about me trying to overshadow or take their place.
5. Emma Roberts
30-year-old actor Emma Roberts has done it all. As a teen, she was a Nickelodeon star with her own TV show, Unfabulous; she then went on to act in blockbusters like Aquamarine, Nancy Drew, and Valentine's Day. Most recently, she's beloved for her TV performances in Scream Queens and American Horror Story — not to mention all the other TV and movie roles in between. However, when Roberts was in her early twenties, she was convinced that her Oscar-winning auntie — Julia Roberts — had very little to do with her success.
"A lot of people think that [my relation to Julia Roberts can be credited for my success], and they talk about nepotism, which I think is so ridiculous considering it's obviously not true," Roberts said in a 2011 interview with PopEater. "... Because I've auditioned for so many things and never gotten the part. Also, it's like, you know, maybe someone can get you one part, but they can't really get you ten parts."
Roberts has a point: Nepotism can only get an aspiring actor so far. But with an aunt as prolific as Julia Roberts, it wouldn't be surprising if Robert's familial ties opened a few doors for her when she was young. Now that Roberts is much older, it would be interesting to find out if she still dismisses her privilege.
6. John David Washington
Similar to Olsen, John David Washington is another super talented 30-something-year-old actor who struggled with the idea of not "earning" every single role that crossed his path because of his last name, which he shares with his no-introduction-needed father: Denzel Washington. However, instead of opting to change his surname, the Malcolm & Marie actor decided to simply lie about his father's identity.
"I saw how people changed when they found out who my father was," he told ABC Audio in 2020. "I used to lie, saying he was a construction worker or in jail, just to have some sense of normalcy. I felt like there was no way people would take me seriously, even if I was good. So I hid who my father was. I guess I was protecting myself."
I see where Washington is coming from, but couldn’t his fake dad have been a school teacher or a doctor? To each their own alibi!
7. Rashida Jones
Beloved by basically everybody, Rashida Jones is another celeb with an iconic father: one of the most prominent record producers of all time, Quincy Jones (who produced hits for Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Ray Charles, and others).
Jones' relation to her father is still a surprise to many — partially because Jones is such a popular last name, and Jones is an actor, not a musician. However, her mother, Peggy Lipton, was a popular television actor in the '60s and '70s, which explains where the former Parks and Recreation star got her killer theatrical skills from!
With parents who worked in entertainment, it makes sense that Jones ended up being a performer, too. But what's so refreshing about the 45-year-old actor's perspective on nepotism is that she's always been open about discussing privilege.
"I totally would have taken handouts," she said in a 2011 interview with NBC New York. "I didn't get any. I wish! No I'm just kidding. Listen, I went to college, I had a great upbringing, I'm privileged, I wanted for nothing my entire life, but I definitely did not get career handouts. It took fifteen years to build a career, which is what it should take."
Winner of a 2020 BRIT Award for British Female Solo Artist (which sort of like a Grammy, but ~British~), "Don't Call Me Up" singer Mabel has been topping radio and streaming charts worldwide for years now. But with parents who are U.K. music industry icons, the pop songstress has talent that's definitely genetic.
Daughter of Massive Attack producer and Afro-Swedish Grammy nominee Neneh Cherry, Mabel used to feel embarrassed about having "somebody" parents. At the start of her career, she even cold-called management companies without explaining her familial background, which is bold AF.
"When I was in my teens, [I] was like, 'I really want to do music,'" Mabel said in a 2017 interview with the Evening Standard. "I felt quite embarrassed by being my mum and dad's daughter. I thought, 'People will never take me seriously.'"