Breaking down the nepo baby boom


Emma Kogel

Illustration by

Melina Khan, Editor-in-Chief

Between “Hannah Montana,” “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Euphoria,” there is one common denominator: nepotism babies. The actors who made names for themselves in these titles (Miley Cyrus, Dakota Johnson and Maude Apatow, respectively) — and hundreds of other celebrities in hundreds of other examples — are products of nepotism.

Until last year, the privilege of being born into a successful family and all the resources that come with it, especially in Hollywood, was noticed but rarely called out.

But this largely changed after a December 2022 article by Vulture rounded up the recent discourse about the children of celebrities and the buzzword to describe them: nepo babies.

The article, which pinpointed the internet as the origin of the phrase, dubbed 2022 “the year of the nepo baby,” because of the online chatter about the topic. But since then, “nepo baby” has only become more widely used — TikTok videos tagged with the term have racked up more than 300 million views to date, and Google searches of the phrase peaked in popularity on Dec. 24, 2022 per Google Trends.

The main argument critics have against calling someone a nepo baby is that the term suggests that having a well-connected family brings about unfair advantages.

In many cases, though, children do follow in their parents’ footsteps. Data from the General Social Survey, which tracks trends in American society, indicates that children are between 1.7 and 2.7 times as likely to pursue the same career paths as their parents, depending on their gender.

However, the career is only one half of the conversation — the other, more significant side is whether nepo babies can be successful in their own right, which is where many celebrities are objecting.

Lily-Rose Depp, the actress daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, said in an interview with “Elle” magazine in November 2022 that the term “just doesn’t make any sense.”

“Nothing is going to get you the part except for being right for the part,” Lily-Rose Depp said.

Kaia Gerber, the daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber, acknowledged her privilege in an interview with “Elle” magazine in January. But she also said that nepotism in the acting industry is “so different,” because “no artist is going to sacrifice their vision for someone’s kid.”

Online, such comments by nepo babies like Lily-Rose Depp and Kaia Gerber have been criticized for being tone-deaf. But they’ve also continued the conversation about nepo babies, including who qualifies as one.

Last month, a horde of TikTokers began weighing in on their own claims to the nepo baby-verse by sharing uncommon family connections. From dads owning the popular hometown plumbing company to moms who pass on their thrifting skills, the new trend has shed light on just how widely the term can be applied, even if it’s a stretch.

Between the debate about who’s really talented in Hollywood and the TikTok trend of normal people sharing their claim to fame, it’s clear the term nepo baby has hit the mainstream. Moreover, it proves that nepo babies are not just celebrities — in fact, nepo babies are everywhere, depending on how you choose to apply the term.