Lily-Rose Depp and the Endless Nepotism Discourse


Trinity Gilreath, Staff Reporter

Actress and model Lily-Rose Depp has recently come under fire for comments she made during an interview with “Elle” where she denounces the “nepo baby” label she’s been confined to, attributing her success to just hard work and dismissing claims that her privileged background helped get her where she is today, comparing it to the process of working in the medical industry. The interview’s backlash only became worse after Italian model Vittoria Ceretti spoke out against Depp’s take on nepotism and shared her struggles of being a self-made model. She also adds that she does respect nepo models until they deny the privileges that got them where they are and compare their success to hers. Egyptian model Anok Yai also shared her experience getting into the modeling industry and how difficult it was for her to get her foot in the door; even having a photo of her go viral didn’t give her the same opportunity as her peers. 

If you don’t know who Lily-Rose is, you probably recognize her last name as she is the daughter of actor Johnny Depp as well as Vanessa Paradis, a French model and singer. Due to her very well-known and successful parents, Lily-Rose’s career has been the subject of debate on nepotism in the modeling industry, as Depp has become one of the most prominent runway models of the 21st century and even became the youngest ambassador for “Chanel” ever at the age of sixteen. At seventeen, Depp walked her first runway show after being handpicked by Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. It’s important to add that Depp is 5’3″ and the height requirement for a model is 5’9″. It should also be noted that Depp’s mother, Vanessa, is also a Chanel ambassador and was a close friend of Lagerfeld before his death in 2019. So it’s clear Depp’s very successful career can’t just be credited to a good work ethic. 

The Problem with Nepotism
Despite attempts at inclusivity, the fashion industry is known for its elitism as well as its diversity issue in terms of race and body type, and it seems like the rise of nepo models has only worsened this issue as the forefront of the modeling industry all seem to be thin white girls with rich and famous parents while models of color and plus-size models are pushed to the side. While most models have to deal with the stress of spending hours at casting calls and having to deal with rejection regularly, these nepo babies never have to worry about money or losing out on jobs, and usually, these nepo models don’t have half the talent as the models whose opportunities are being taken away from. 

Nepotism doesn’t just exist in the modeling industry, plenty of our new favorite actors or singers are the children of very successful celebrities, like Maude Apatow, Gracie Abrams, and Maya Hawke, who are all the offspring of some of Hollywood’s elite.  and these are just someone the latest examples. Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Jane Fonda, and Jamie Lee Curtis, who’ve all had prevalent careers for decades are also the daughters of the very famous. Along with affecting our screens and music apps, Nepotism can affect us in real life, with it existing in the workplace for us regular people. Business owners hiring and promoting family members or friends over more deserving employees is not a foreign concept and is another reason why nepotism can be a problem.

In Defense of Nepo Babies
Of course, there are obvious issues with nepotism, especially with the privilege and entitled attitude that a lot of the recipients of nepotism seem to possess. But at the end of the day, you can’t choose what family you’re born into, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with parents helping their children succeed. And as long as they acknowledged the privileges, I don’t see the problem with nepotism helping someone’s career. Plus, the rise of nepotistic babies is kind of our fault as well. Nostalgia and celebrity culture is so warped in our brains that of course, we’re going to give more media coverage to someone like Lily-Rose Depp compared to their peers who weren’t blessed with an A-list actor for a father. Modeling only recently (like as late as the 1990s) became a part of celebrity culture as opposed to just a way to advertise clothing, and since we only give attention to those we deem famous like Depp and the Jenners, it’s not a surprise these girls are put on the forefront of modeling. 

Depp made a valid point about how nepotism can be sexist. Saying that the discussion of nepotism usually centers exclusively around women, at least when discussing modeling, Romeo Beckham, son of Victoria Beckham, was only on the cover of L’uomo Vogue on his debut yet didn’t receive half the criticism Depp or Lila Moss got for having similar big opportunities during their debuts. Plus, it also seems like people only care about nepotism when discussing a famous father. Even though Depp’s mother was also a model for Chanel and her connections are most likely the reason Lily Rose was able to find success as a model at such a young age, Lily’s father, Johnny, is largely credited for all of her success, despite only really having an impact on her movie career as her acting debut was in one of Depp’s movies. It’s almost as if the topic of nepotism is discussed the most when it allows people to credit a man for a woman’s success. 

Overall the idea of nepotism is nuanced and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. Nepo Babies aren’t the problem, some of my favorite models and celebrities, in general, come from very successful families, like Bella Hadid, who despite starting off getting the same as the models who’ve all received criticism for their family relations, has become a well-respected model due to hard work and using her platform for good as well recognizing her privilege. The concept of nepotism isn’t black and white and acting like it is to downplay someone of Hollywood’s most talented because of their nepotistic background, will only end up negatively affecting the entertainment industry.