Good genes & good jeans: The unfair nature of nepotism?

Good genes and good jeans: your mum, a supermodel from the 80s; your dad, a fashion designer. You were born into a world of opportunities which most could only dream of. But does this enviable privilege strip you of your chance to succeed on your own? Are you left forever, wondering if you booked that job because of your talent or because of your connections, wealth, status or simply your surname?

Let’s say you’re more gifted and hard-working than your contemporaries; people will still only believe it’s because of who you know, not what you know. As a young actress, stylist, photographer, model, whatever it is you want to be; if one or more parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts are highly successful in your industry, it changes things.

You purposely didn’t tell anyone who your dad is, hoping to achieve greatness on your own – but curiosity gets the better of people, and it’s only so long before they’ve Googled you, unable to understand why you have quite so many designer handbags. Or worse still, somebody spots you in the society pages of Tatler and your cover is blown. It doesn’t matter how hard you work; you’re haunted by comments in the corridor: “Oh, but don’t you know who her dad is?” Stealing any sense of achievement when you land your first play straight out of RADA.

And then there is the question of whether creativity is hereditary? Is the skill of being on stage passed down through your DNA? Even if that isn’t the case, you grew up in a kitchen where the dining table was littered with scripts, story ideas, swatches of fabric, or unedited magazine mock-ups. Your living room doubled as a recording studio – the sound of world-class jamming sessions filling your ears from the moment you came into this world. Talk of fabric cuts and the style trends of that season discussed over dinner. Come sixteen, you don’t need an internship; your whole life has effectively been just that. A childhood spent absorbing the priceless information around you.

Having slept under the stage curtain after school waiting for your mother (an actress) to finish a show on Broadway, not only is your understanding of the theatre beyond that of any of your peers, it’s an ingrained part of who you are – part of your identity. Although the same could be said for the child of a world-class historian or mathematician, or for that matter, someone who happens to excel in any subject, but they don’t end up splashed across the front page of the tabloids, citing “The Unfair Nature of Nepotism”.

Getting slammed in the media for bagging the coveted spot on a cover just because of who your mother is suggests that you are not good enough to get there by your own merit. But how can there be an outcry over the unfairness of nepotism when it was never fair in the first place? Chances are your mother was a ‘freak of nature’, like someone who excels at algebra because of their photographic memory, but her superpower was simply winning the genetic lottery. Tall, whimsical, with impossibly defined cheekbones and flawless skin, the ability to make more money than most, simply because of what she looked like. So, when your mother got that job originally just because of her face, or the extra five inches she grew during puberty - was that fair? People clad in tracksuits, sat at home trolling on Twitter, keyboard warriors expressing their disapproval over the choice, as though the opportunity had been snatched from them while they slept. But in reality, they weren’t even in the race.

Nepo babies... nothing about their world is fair; the invites, the clothes, the connections, the otherwise unattainable information and insights into the industry – and yet from a different angle, we could (almost) feel sorry for them, living in the shadows of their parents. Forever trying to fill the footsteps that were carved out for them without their consent and always secretly wondering what they would’ve achieved without their superstar parents. To anyone who thinks it’s unfair... was it ever fair in the first place?


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