From Maestro’s Maya Hawke to Avengers’ Elizabeth Olsen: Celebrities who acknowledged their nepo-privilege

The veracity with which the age old nepotism debate has caught fire in recent times, easily places it in the bracket of evergreen gossip fodder. The debate also stands consistently sparked, courtesy of legacy names from showbiz justifying the assumed privilege— sometimes aggressively, sometimes candidly. Maya Hawke in this regard, has added her name to the mix once again. The actor wholeheartedly accepted how repeatedly being called out for her privilege in navigating her path in Hollywood, is in fact, “a lucky place to be”.

Maya Hawke and Elizabeth Olsen on nepo-privilege
Maya Hawke and Elizabeth Olsen on nepo-privilege

Actor Ethan Hawke with daughter Maya Hawke
Actor Ethan Hawke with daughter Maya Hawke
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Who really deserves it?

Maya, daughter to actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, had been caught unawares in the nepotism crossfire earlier, based off her comments during an interview in 2019. The fact that the Do Revenge actor auditioned with her father in her bedroom and bagged a role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood (2019) just didn’t sit right with the internet. Especially for how nonchalantly Maya relayed her anecdote. Almost 5 years later, the actor has a refined perspective to share. She is self-admittedly “comfortable with not deserving it and doing it anyway”.

Maya Hawke in a still from Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood
Maya Hawke in a still from Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood

Elizabeth Olsen, sister to actors-turned-fashion designers Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, recalls feeling conflicted about this very sentiment back when she was all of 10 years old. In 2021, the Avengers star recalled not wanting to be associated with her sisters during her early years as a child actor. Elizabeth even considered dropping her last name. Olsen then, presents herself as a bankable example of a quintessential ‘nepo baby’ who has managed to prove her worth over the years.

Elizabeth Olsen with sisters Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen
Elizabeth Olsen with sisters Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen

Going the extra mile

To Euphoria star Maude Apatow’s credit, nepotism has never been a topic she has tried to shy away from. Daughter to director Judd Apatow and actor Leslie Mann, Maude has featured in numerous films helmed by her father, also starring her mother, such as Knocked Up (2007) and This Is 40 (2012). Though being tagged a ‘nepo baby’ comes with the territory, Maude is willing to do whatever it takes to prove her worth. In a 2020 interview with Variety, Maude shared how she often consults her parents for inputs when it comes to her creative pursuits, but is prepared to go the extra mile on her own accord. “I will literally spend the rest of my life trying to prove myself and work twice as hard”, she said.

Maude Apatow with parents Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann
Maude Apatow with parents Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann

 

Gwyneth Paltrow, during her appearance on Who’s in My Bathroom? with Hailey Rhode Bieber, echoed this sentiment. Daughter to actor Blythe Danner and director-producer Bruce Paltrow, Gwyneth made her debut in TV movie High (1989), written and directed by her father. She went on to have a rather celebrated career, with an Academy Award, a Golden Globe win and an Emmy to her name. However, she is still cognisant of her cushioned launch in the industry. During her chat with Hailey, Gwyneth acknowledged her privilege saying, “As the child of someone, you get access other people don’t have, so the playing field is not level in that way.”

Gwyneth Paltrow with her parents Blythe Danner and Bruce Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow with her parents Blythe Danner and Bruce Paltrow

 

Gender to merit: varied perspectives

Daughter of actor Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen, Lily Allen correctly pointed out how the gendered connotation of the term ‘nepo baby’ is almost always female. Referring to the term being loosely thrown around as the showbiz equivalent of being a ‘Karen’ the singer, songwriter and actor emphasised how “it’s just a word that is basically used for women who are taking up space.” While this is the primary essence of the nepotism debate, Allen’s observations on her Miss Me podcast, highlighted an often overlooked facet of patriarchal privilege inherently a part of the practice of keyboard warriors showing women their place.

 

Ben Stiller, son to comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, is an established actor in his own right. Back in 2021, he voiced his support in favour of team The Rightway, which featured top-tier ‘nepo babies’ as the key players. Starring Sean Penn’s son Hopper Penn, the film was set to be directed by Steven Spielberg’s daughter Destry Spielberg and Stephen King’s son Owen King. Taking cue from the same, American film and television producer Franklin Leonard took a jibe at the idea of Hollywood being a meritocracy in an X post (formerly Twitter). Stiller’s response to this was to point out how every aspirant eventually has their own path, irrespective of whether they already have a foot in the industry or not. 

Leonard and Stiller’s X exchange eventually arrived at the conclusion that while “access is access”, one cannot endlessly skirt by on the legacy of their last name.

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