Nepo baby explained: Meaning, examples and celebrity reactions

We delve into the meaning of the buzzword 'nepo baby'

A collage of nepo baby examples
(Image credit: Future)

Wondering what 'nepo baby' means and who qualifies as one? We've explained the term and shared examples of the celebrities that fit the label.

The cult of celebrity is a fascinating one that has dominated headlines and fuelled fandoms for centuries. Famous for their professional endeavours, human interest naturally extends into celebrities' personal lives too, from romantic relationships and celebrity diets to even their own offspring. 

It's the latter that has captured public discourse in the last few years, with the new term 'nepo baby' seeing a surge in interest after New York Magazine declared 2022 'The Year of the Nepo Baby'. Long after we've cast opinion on the celebrity baby name and cooed over the baby pictures of celebrities with twins, some of these children grow up to follow in their parents' footsteps, becoming celebrities in their own right. But many have questioned how much of those celebrity childrens' success is down to talent, and how much is fueled by mum or dad's influence and connections. We explain what nepo baby means and who is in the current Hollywood crop of nepo babies...

What does nepo baby mean?

Nepo baby refers to the child of a famous person who, when of age, has forged a career in a similar industry and achieved success due to their parent's name, reputation or connections.

Nepo is a shortened version of the term 'nepotism' which Collins Dictionary defines as "the unfair use of power in order to get jobs or other benefits for your family or friends." As for the baby part, it's used to signify that they are a famous person's offspring, rather than referring to actual babies, and a Nepo baby can be any age.

The term 'nepo baby' and it's use in everyday language has grown in popularity following the publication of a New York Magazine feature in December 2022. The media outlet ran a front-page article with the headline "She has her mother's eyes. And agent." in which they overanalysed "Hollywood's nepo baby boom". The cover included celebrities such as Dakota Johnson, Lily Rose-Depp, Maya Hawke, Ben Platt, Zoe Kravitz and Maude Apatow - all of whom have famous parents in the film and music industry.

Whilst the term is not exactly a new one, New York Magazine dubbed 2022 the 'Year of the Nepo Baby', due to increased interest in the famous familial connections of some of Hollywood's rising stars. It in part referred to an incident in February 2022 when a tweet went viral for discovering nepotism in the cast of HBO show Euphoria.

Meriem Derradji tweeted: "Wait I just found out that the actress that plays Lexie is a nepotism baby omg her mom is Leslie Mann and her dad is a movie director lol." 

Referring to actress Maude Apatow, Meriem correctly identified that she is the eldest daughter of actress Leslie Mann and film director Judd Apatow, who is behind hits such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and This is 40.

The tweet led to a wider social media discussion on nepotism in the film industry in particular - though nepo babies also exist in the music and fashion business too.

Who is a nepo baby? Famous examples

Nepo babies in film and TV

  • Kate Hudson (mum - actress Goldie Hawn, dad - musician Bill Hudson)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow (mum - Blythe Danner, dad - Bruce Paltrow)
  • Maude Apatow (mum - actress Leslie Man, dad - director Judd Apatow)
  • Zoe Kravitz (mum - actress Lisa Bonet, dad - musician Lenny Kravitz)
  • Dakota Johnson (mum - Melanie Griffith, dad - actor Don Johnson)
  • Lily Rose-Depp (mum - actress Vanessa Paradis, dad - actor Johnny Depp)
  • Maya Hawke (mum - actress Uma Thurman, dad - actor Ethan Hawke)
  • Billie Lourd (mum - actress Carrie Fisher, grandmother Debbie Reynolds)
  • Laura Dern (mum - actress Diana Ladd, dad - actor Bruce Dern)
  • Keifer Sutherland (mum - actress Shirley Douglas, dad - actor Donald Sutherland)
  • Michael Douglas (mum - actress Diana Douglas, dad - actor Kirk Douglas)
  • John David Washington (mum - actress Pauletta Washington, dad - actor Denzel Washington)
  • Rumer Willis (mum - actress Demi Moore, dad - actor Bruce Willis)
  • George Clooney (dad - talk show host Nick Clooney)
  • Lily Collins (dad - musician Phil Collins)
  • Jane Fonda (dad - actor Henry Fonda)
  • Angelina Jolie (dad - John Voight)
  • Angelica Huston (dad - John Huston)
  • Alexander Skaragard (dad - actor Stellan Skarsgaard)
  • Margaret Qualley (mum - actress Andie Macdowell)

Zoe Kravitz and Lenny Kravitz

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nepo babies in music

  • Miley Cyrus (dad - musician Billy Ray Cyrus)
  • Norah Jones (dad - musician Ravi Shankar)
  • Lily Allen (dad - actor Keith Allen)
  • Mabel (mum - musician Neneh Cherry)
  • Willow Smith (mum - actress Jada Pinkett Smith, dad - actor Will Smith)
  • King Combs (dad - rapper P Diddy/Sean Coombs)
  • Robin Thicke (dad - actor Alan Thicke)
  • Gracie Abrams (dad - filmmaker JJ Abrams)

Miley Cyrus and Billy Rae Cyrus

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nepo babies in fashion

  • Kendall Jenner (parents - Kris Jenner and Caitlin Jenner)
  • Kaia Gerber (mum - model Cindy Crawford)
  • Bella Hadid (mum - model and reality TV star Yolanda Hadid)
  • Gigi Hadid (mum - model and reality TV star Yolanda Hadid)
  • Hailee Baldwin (dad - actor Stephen Baldwin)
  • Lila Moss (mum - model Kate Moss)
  • Leni Klum (mum - model Heidi Klum)
  • Iris Law (mum - actress Sadie Frost, dad - actor Jude Law)
  • Eve Jobs (dad - Apple founder Steve Jobs)
  • Anais Gallagher (dad - musician Noel Gallagher)
  • Paris Brosnan (dad - actor Pierce Brosnan)
  • Deva Cassel (mum - actress Monica Bellucci, dad - actor Vincent Cassel)

Kaia Gerber and Cindy Crawford

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nepo baby reactions

Lily Allen took to Twitter to weigh in on the nepo baby debate following the New York Magazine profile. Accepting that she is a nepo baby herself (her dad is the actor Keith Allen), she shared how nepo babies are essentially everywhere and not just confined to Hollywood.

The singer pointed out that there are many in politics, law and financial services and said these are the nepo babies to be wary of "if we’re talking about real-world consequences and robbing people of opportunity".

Another nepo baby made light of the article. Actress Eve Hewson (who recently starred in Bad Sisters on AppleTV) is the daughter of Irish musician Bono. "Gonna get Nepo Baby tattooed on my a**," she joked. She also shared the feature she was mentioned in on Twitter alonside the caption: "I HAVE JUST BEEN MADE AWARE I HIT MY 2023 GOALS AND IT’S STILL 2022."

While recognising their privilege, some nepo babies have shared how being in the shadow of their parent's success can be difficult. Model and actress Lily-Rose Depp (the daughter of actor Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis) told ELLE: "People are going to have preconceived ideas about you or how you got there, and I can definitely say that nothing is going to get you the part except for being right for the part.

"The internet cares a lot more about who your family is than the people who are casting you in things," she added. "Maybe you get your foot in the door, but you still just have your foot in the door. There’s a lot of work that comes after that."

Working harder to earn your place was something similarly echoed by nepo babies Gywneth Paltrow and Hailey Baldwin (now Bieber). Appearing as a guest on Bieber's  Who's in my Bathroom? Youtube video, Gwyneth, who is the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and film director Bruce Paltrow shared that "once your foot is in the door, which you unfairly got in, then you almost have to work twice as hard and be twice as good".

As for Maude Apatow, aka the actress who spurred the viral tweet in February 2022, she said she finds the label "sad" for recognising her upbringing and not her talent. She told Net-A-Porter: "I try not to let it get to me because I obviously understand that I’m in such a lucky position. A lot of people [in a similar position] have proven themselves over the years, so I’ve got to keep going and make good work."

She added: "It’s so early in my career, I don’t have much to show yet, but hopefully one day, I’ll be really proud of the stuff I’ve done by myself."

Apatow also said that despite the judgment from the public over her nepo baby status, she herself is her harshest critic and sometimes she has to not take it all too seriously.  

"I’m always hard on myself. Sometimes I get in my head and think, Why would anyone want to hear what I have to say?" she said. "Then I tell myself, It doesn’t matter, it’s just entertainment. I try to clear my head of any of those thoughts. You can’t constantly judge yourself—it’s such a creativity killer."

Nepo baby names

Celebrities are somewhat known for their love of unusual baby names (Jamie Oliver, I'm looking at you), and we've rounded up some of the most unique celebrity baby name choices here.

  • Jamie Oliver and wife Jules have five children together: Poppy Honey Rose, Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Buddy Bear Maurice, River Rocket Blue Dallas
  • Rihanna and A$AP Rocky's baby name was leaked by the press - they opted to call their first son RZA
  • Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott have two children together, a girl called Stormi and a boy named Aire
  • Gwyneth Paltrow is a nepo baby herself, and she and Chris Martin named their first child Apple
  • Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost called their baby Cosmo. Scarlett also has a daughter with her first husband, with the less unusual name Rose Dorothy
  • Ed Sheeran and Cherry Seaborn welcomed their first baby in 2020, naming her Lyra Antarctica
  • Elon Musk and Grimes caused a stir on the internet with both their baby names: X Æ A-12 and Exa Dark Sideræl
  • Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani have named their three children Apollo Bowie Flynn, Kingston James McGregor, and Zuma Nesta Rock
  • Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey named their children Moroccan and Monroe

If you love to keep up with the personal lives of your favourite celebrities, Adele has shared that she wants to be a mum again soon and Simon Cowell has revealed his son's dream job.

Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.