Nepo Baby Rant: Springsteen, Jenner, Hadid, and The Myth of the Self-Made Celebrity Child
Sure, they worked hard for everything they have … but they didn't only work hard to get it.
A globally familiar last name will represent Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics: Springsteen.
Turns out Jessica Springsteen, daughter of the legendary Bruce Springsteen and singer songwriter Patti Scialfa, is ranked the 27th equestrian in the world, and she is making her Olympic debut in Tokyo this July.
When she made it to the US Equestrian jumping team, Springsteen celebrated on Instagram, saying: "Been dreaming of this since I can remember! Endless gratitude for my team, friends and family for helping me make this a reality."
She joins a team that also includes two-time gold medalist McLain Ward, who is ranked 9th in the world and won her gold medals in 2004 and 2008; one-time gold medalist Laura Kraut, who is ranked 28th in the world; and Kent Farrington, who is ranked 5th in the world, the highest ranked American.
Though she may be young, Jessica Springsteen holds her own. She started riding when she was just 5 years old and was even an alternate in the 2012 Olympic games when she was just 21. The now-29-year-old athlete has certainly worked hard to make it to the Olympics, but her famous last name is not a surprise.
In fact, it's not uncommon to see familiar names at equestrian competitions — from celebrity children to children of prominent businessmen … because who else has the money to bankroll years of horse riding?
Equestrian competitions, especially in wealthy communities in places like California, are like a pick and mix of prominent families. And while, like anything else, hard work and skill are part of one's success in the sport, the demographic of those who succeed in it makes the advantage clear: In most industries, coming from money and access to resources is a big indicator of success.
It's not just in horseback riding. Lots of niche sports are predominantly available to people with money for the equipment, lessons, and even just the time to ferry someone back and forth from a river to row crew or some remote riding stables.
Often, when you look at the elite levels of these niche sports, you find names of private school attendees and wealthy families — a pattern which was exposed by the college admissions scandal in which rich parents would pass their children off as playing these niche sports.
But recently, the conversation has turned to legacies in the entertainment industry.
How often are you Googling a celebrity just to see their parents' names written in blue on Wikipedia? How often are you reading their profiles to find they went to private school or are part of a legacy dynasty?
From more covert legacy celebrities like Dakota Johnson (her parents are Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) or Armie Hammer (who, like Anderson Cooper, is a not-so-distant Vanderbilt) to famous families like the Smiths, Hadids, Jenners, and more, it's not uncommon for celebrity kids to follow in their parents' footsteps — in fact, it's not uncommon for anyone to want to do the thing they watched their parents do — so can we stop pretending like it doesn't give them an unfair advantage?
In April 2021, Bella and Gigi Hadid's father, Mohamed, a millionaire real estate developer married to reality TV star and former model Yolanda Hadid, inadvertently opened up this debate in an Instagram tribute for Gigi's birthday.
The post listed 20 facts about Gigi and number one on the list? "Self-made," he claimed, "never took a single dollar from her parents."
The post went on to list more and more impressive accomplishments, but it is glaringly obvious to most people that, even if her parents did not have a direct hand in her successes, their money and influence certainly helped.
From her success as an equestrian, a sport which is not accessible to most, to her college acceptance — no doubt helped by her years at elite private schools and niche extra curriculars (like … being an equestrian) and prep courses and tutors — to her rise to fame as a model, which was aided by her proximity and access to the business and her mother's prior experience to help her get ahead — it's clear that Gigi may be impressive, but the list was a glaring example of how out of touch the family is with how much privilege they possess.
The same "self-made" moniker was called into question recently when Kylie Jenner was briefly named the youngest self-made billionaire ever.
However, with her initial fame coming from her family — who were rich and famous long before they had their own show — the title seemed misplaced.
Kendall Jenner also came under fire for dismissing the impact of her fame on her career. In fact, Kendall went so far as to say her name hindered her on the path to be a model.
During the KUWTK Reunion special, Kendall said: "What I have has almost worked against me." She continued: "I had to work even harder to get where I wanted because people didn't take me seriously as a model. Because of the TV show."
She claimed that her family name was an obstacle, saying she had it so much harder than other models … but the logic doesn't track.
Though she may have faced some skepticism with people associating her name with the show, she always had a safety net and a security blanket, never having to worry about bills, or rent, or even success — she already had that, because hers was already a household name.
While not getting booked for certain shows might have hurt, she knew that if she pushed past the naysayers, she would still have a career. Not everyone has that guarantee.
Kendall's statements belie a complete misunderstanding of what privilege her legacy status affords her. It's not about never having to work hard, as she issues; it's about access, opportunity, knowledge, and security, which most people trying to make it in the industry have none of … and most people in the industry have in full.
Just knowing the right people could change so many people's lives. But many people without connections are most likely working as hard as Jenner or Hadid, but also have to work side jobs or are putting everything on the line just to get a taste of the opportunities legacies were born with.
In some ways, fame feels like a scarce resource. Since people can't talk about everybody all the time, and brands can't cut deals with everyone, or cast everyone, or book the entirety of LA for the same photoshoot — one person's success can feel like a loss to others (especially for people of color and Hollywood's love of tokenism, but that's a whole other can of worms).
So it is extra cutting when a legacy celebrity won't admit that their connections helped them get the job over someone else. And it is crazy to think that said legacy celebrities really think they got to where they are only because of their hard work, sometimes even despite their pre-existing privileges.
Can someone tell these celebrities it's okay to use your parent's connections, money, and gene pool to live your dreams — just don't try to gaslight everyone else into thinking they aren't working hard enough?