Judd and Maude Apatow
Source: Getty Images

Judd Apatow and daughter Maude Apatow.

The New Phrase "Nepo Baby" Represents Half of Hollywood — Here's What It Means

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Feb. 23 2022, Published 3:35 p.m. ET

Have you ever watched a movie or TV show and wondered why an "up-and-coming" actor looks so familiar? Have you ever listened to an album and wondered why the musician sounds like you've heard them before? Part of this phenomenon can be explained in one phrase: "nepo baby." Twitter has taken the term and turned it into a series of hilarious memes, but what does it mean? And who qualifies as a "nepo baby?"

Read on for everything we know.

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Dakota Johnson and mother Melanie Griffith.
Source: Getty Images

Dakota Johnson and mother Melanie Griffith.

What does "nepo baby" mean? It's short for "nepotism baby."

Arguably, the phrase "nepo baby" was coined after internet fans of Euphoria actress Maude Apatow realized she is the daughter of actress Leslie Mann and director Judd Apatow. Her character on the show, Lexi, is known for directing theatrically, something that Maude also seems to be pursuing in her father's footsteps. Since then, tweets of all sorts have sprung up, noting celebrities and their famous connections.

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One user wrote about actress Bianca Lawson, "The best nepo baby is Bianca Lawson, people didn’t know who her dad was till he married Beyoncé mama, they also didn’t know that her mama had a baby by Marvin Gaye or that her uncle is Berry Gordy."

Another user said, "Tracee Ellis Ross is the best nepo baby because some people don’t even know who her mother is, lmao." The actress's mother is the incredible Diana Ross.

Zoë Kravitz and mother Lisa Bonet.
Source: Getty Images

Zoë Kravitz and mother Lisa Bonet.

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The phrase "nepotism baby" refers to an actor, actress, or musician who arguably received a start in the entertainment industry based on who their parents are. Actor Ben Stiller went on a Twitter tirade several months ago arguing that he earned his way into the industry, despite having not one but two famous parents.

A popular meme about "nepo babies" has also sprung up. The first meme in particular takes shots at indie musicians, and reads, "Never ask a woman her age. Never ask a man his salary. And never ask an indie musician why their parents' names are blue on Wikipedia."

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Diana Ross and Tracée Ellis Ross.
Source: Getty Images

Diana Ross and daughter Tracee Ellis Ross.

When people are underlined in blue on Wikipedia, it typically indicates they are famous enough to have individual Wikipedia pages themselves. Common examples of "nepo babies" in the indie music industry are Clairo, King Princess, Samia, and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes.

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While memes are mostly for hilarity and lighthearted fun, a larger conversation about who has earned their way into the entertainment industry is unfolding. Being a "nepo baby" is generally regarded with a negative connotation, except for actors or musicians who acknowledge and accept their privilege (and, hopefully, use their privilege to make a change in the industry).

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Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of actress Janet Leigh and actor Tony Curtis, told The New Yorker in 2019 that she fully attributes her early success to her privilege as the child of two very famous actors.

Jamie Lee Curtis dressed as her mother Janet Leigh in 'Psycho.'
Source: Getty Images

Jamie Lee Curtis dressed as her mother Janet Leigh's 'Psycho' character.

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Discussing Halloween, she said, "I auditioned many, many, many times ... I’m sure the fact that I was Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis’s daughter, and that my mother had been in Psycho — if you’re going to choose between this one and this one, choose the one whose mother was in Psycho. I’m never going to pretend that I just got that on my own, like I’m just a little girl from nowhere getting it. Clearly, I had a leg up."

Can nepotism in the entertainment industry be a good thing? Or will the recent attention to the phenomenon lead to a decline? Only time will tell.

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