The other day, I found myself staring at a list of Hollywood stars and starlets that were able to trade in on some level of parental fame, fortune, or notoriety to find success. It’s a long list, a list that took up way too much room to be included in this post. It was proof positive, however, that having fancy parents is a good thing, even if you are raised by a nanny, forced to entertain old people at stuffy occasions, and end up in therapy for life (presumably you can afford it).
After exhausting this 20-million person list (of 40 people), I began clicking through links mentioning said stars all over the interwebs. There are people I had never once thought about whose life stories I am now intimately familiar with (I’m available for trivia nights). I read articles from old college newspapers, saw videos of them in high school plays and childhood dance recitals, and ran across that weird picture of Chaz Bono (then Chastity) and Jennifer Aniston together in high school again. One repeat finding was articles suggesting that, despite what could have been easy success, so-and-so-famous-child-subject took the hard way, knocked on doors, faced rejection, and earned every ounce of their fame and glory. This assertion was usually followed by quote from the star thanking God that their parents were the kind of down-to-earth people who let them learn from their mistakes and take the hard road.
To be fair, I imagine that having rich, famous, and powerful parents is hard on anybody craving credit for their personal achievements, and that having people assume that, instead of auditioning, you lucked into your Oscar-worthy role in the most recent $1 billion action movie/period piece/SFX extravaganza is grating and frustrating. Still, I have one thing to say to these obviously very “wise” fame-hungry people: I refuse to give you credit. This is all as it should be.
There is no doubt in my mind that many children of the rich and famous work for a living. If they work in the entertainment industry they probably wake up at around 4:30am and work for 18 hours straight several times a week, just as the truck drivers and catering truck workers and production assistants do.
Ultimately, however, children of rich and famous people have a special advantage that the rest of us don’t. They get attention for doing wrong things and immediate credit for doing right things. They get news articles written about their first successes (and first DUIs). These help guarantee second successes and/or book deals. By the time their second successes roll around, they are forever enshrined in the cultural lexicon of the era.
In middle school I knew somebody with the unfortunate distinction of having the exact same name, first and last, as the son of the seminal director/producer of our time. Today they live in the same city and neither is doing anything all that interesting or important. Still, one of them has a fansite dedicated to his (EXTREMELY) modest successes while my former classmate is essentially un-Google-able. If my classmate makes a major scientific discovery, decides to release an album, or even brutally murders an innocent man, there will be little to no fanfare. When his name-doppleganger has a bit part in an indie film movie, it will probably be covered in People Magazine.
So, famous children of famous people, I get it. You want to feel like you own your own achievements. We all do. As a mater of common decency, however, it is not fair to the rest of us for you to suggest that your success is the product of raw talent. That you were both exceptionally lucky in parentage and born with superior skills and thicker skin. Blaming your success on your parents is the way the rest of us protect ourselves from feeling the full weight of our unpublicized, mundane failures, and we deserve that protection in exchange for living with only reasonable options in life.
So no more thanking God and your parents for allowing you to be a normal person. You are not a normal person. Own it and move on. I can’t speak for somebody in your shoes, but being wildly successful sounds fun any way you slice it. Don’t worry, credit or not you’re still winning.