Bella Hadid. Gigi Hadid. Kendall Jenner. Lila Moss. Kaia Gerber. Lily-Rose Depp. These girls, considered some of the most influential and recognizable faces in today’s fashion world, have impressive resumes, from walking during fashion weeks in Milan, Paris and New York, to becoming the face of Chanel or being known as the “muse” for designers like Riccardo Tisci and Karl Lagerfeld. Magazine covers, runways and commercials have become a part of their daily life.
What these models also have in common is nepotism: when those in power or influence favor and often give jobs to their relatives. The fashion industry has turned into a game of politics and luck. Most aspiring models run to multiple castings and are grateful for any job they can get to help them pay their rent. Others were simply born with “it:” the connections, fame and money to make a name for themselves just because their family consists of some of the most influential TV stars, models or public figures. Many argue that the so-called “nepotism babies” drive away creatives with less money and networking access. But skill and nepotism are not mutually exclusive.
Many nepotism babies have undeniable talent or have had the proper training paid for by their parents. If they prove they have what it takes, they may deserve their spots in the fashion industry. Instead of automatically raising nepotism babies directly to the top, the industry should treat them as they would treat any other aspiring model who can, through hard work, earn notoriety. As long as they recognize their privilege, the talented nepotism babies should be treated as equals.
The least that nepotism babies can do is admit their privilege’s impact on their career rather than claiming they are self-made. Kendall Jenner, who was only 11 when her family’s reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” started, claimed the opposite: that nepotism actually made her career harder. In a 2021 “KUWTK” reunion with Andy Cohen, she said her name made “her job a little bit harder” and that she actually “ran all over, not only New York City but all over Europe, trying to get a job and make [her] way.” But in the same interview, she also claimed that she “presented the cutest little modeling book to [her] mom when [she] was 14 [who] then did her Kris Jenner things and made it all come to life.” It is hard for me to believe that Jenner would be named the “world’s highest-paid supermodel” by Forbes Magazine if it wasn’t for her birth-given celebrity status.
Model Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of actor Johnny Depp and model Vanessa Paradis, walked her first show for Chanel at 16 years old despite having no experience and only being 5-foot-2. In an interview with Glamour Magazine, she denied her advantage. She said if “somebody’s mom or dad is a doctor, and then the kid becomes a doctor, you’re not going to be like, ‘Well, you’re only a doctor because your parent is a doctor,” ignoring the fact that all doctors have to go through years of medical school and training and cannot just network their way into a job. The first flaw of being a nepotism baby is not recognizing your innate power. One can still appreciate their style and work, but her lack of self-awareness may turn people away. Nepotism babies can be successful and good at their job, but the first step is respecting their peers who need to work 10 times harder.
When talented nepotism babies recognize their advantages, they become much more respected in the eyes of the public. Bella and Gigi Hadid, some of the most recognizable faces in the fashion industry, undeniably warrant their careers. It’s true that they inherited their runway-ways from their mother Yolanda Hadid, a “Real Housewife of Beverly Hills” model. Not only do they have great style and looks, but they are also respectful and acknowledge their birthright. In an interview with Vogue Australia, Gigi said that she knows she comes “from privilege” and that she “wanted to stand next to [other girls] backstage and for them to look at [her] and respect [her] and to know that it’s never about [her] trying to overshadow or take their place.” Though many of the opportunities they’ve been given are because of their mother, the public looks at them with high regard because, instead of victimizing themselves, they compose themselves with humility.
Without a famous family to fall back on, aspiring models, actresses and other professionals are at a disadvantage. Self-made Italian model Vittoria Cerretti shared on Instagram how hard it is to “see a nepo baby walk past you,” and it takes years for normal people to get recognition, but nepotism babies “get it free by day one.” Most models like Ceretti have to deal with rejection and don’t have wealthy, prominent families to fall back on. But although the issue of nepotism takes away jobs from the regular public it is inevitable that parents always want to give their children the best opportunities available.
Unfortunately, the fashion industry is not always a place of merit where the best opportunities are well earned. When this favoritism takes place, designers, the media and the public should treat nepotism babies as they treat other models. And when nepotism babies take the top spots, they should remain cognizant, at the very least, of their families’ influence on their success.