Last night, Emma Roberts linked to a Tumblr post by her friend Zelda Williams. What do these two young women have in common? Aside from being members of young Hollywood, they both come from Hollywood royalty: Emma’s aunt is Julia Roberts, and Zelda is Robin Williams‘ daughter. And Zelda wants to address people’s disdain over perceived nepotism in the industry.
Zelda’s open letter is meant to be about and for “kids of”/”children of,” her term for the progeny of famous actors, singers, directors, and other entertainment professionals. Writing eloquently and logically, she calls out those who hear about a Hollywood kid breaking into the industry and immediately sneer, “Nepotism,” or who would delight in seeing these kids fail to attain the fame their parents did.
Zelda’s film debut was working with her dad in 2004′s House of D. They’ve also appeared together in a Legend of Zelda commercial (seeing as he named her after the game) and a Cobra Starship video. And yet, she explains, she didn’t grow up expecting that Daddy would open doors for her. Hell, she resisted her famous pedigree and tried to enter a number of different industries before realizing that she still wanted to be an actor and writer.
She points out that “kids of” are used to the built-in disdain that comes with adopting their parents’ careers and how in many ways it makes them work harder. Of course, that disadvantage is balanced out with the access that they get at such a young age. I’ve copied a big chunk of the letter below, but I definitely recommend you read the whole thing on her Tumblr.
Believe it or not, there are a few of us among this supposedly ‘gifted’ or ‘spoiled’ generation (depending on who you ask) that are realists. I know many ‘children of’ who are very aware (and usually very self-aware) of the effort it took for their parents to succeed, as well as the chilly reception they will receive pursuing the same success until they ‘prove themselves’. It is this very knowledge that usually causes them to pound the pavement twice as hard in an effort to attack these pre-conceived notions with admirable fervor. Can you blame them? Whether they choose to directly follow in their parent’s footsteps or take a similar but divergent path, they’re bound to face resistance. On my part, I know that some of this drive directly stems from insecurity. After all, we’re judged so harshly already, why give anyone an actual reason to find us lacking? But those inherent anxieties aside, I do find that there is one enormous benefit to being the child of an actor that helps in our efforts to succeed in a very difficult realm of work.
And it’s not one that can be explained away by money or connections.
Though I could be naïve in saying so, I think the invaluable knowledge attained even just growing up around the industry and our parents is our biggest asset as a second (or third) generation entertainer. Whether through watching or listening, a lot of us are very conscious of the ways that we could fail at what we’re working to accomplish. After all, our parents have either avoided or fallen prey to these very traps before us. On my part, I strive that much harder to avoid some of these pitfalls, ones that perhaps my fellow non-actor-progeny may stumble into. Now, if anything were to be called our unfair advantage by birth, I would think it would be this… but then, learning from previous generations mistakes has never been humanity’s strength, no matter the profession. But I digress.
This knowledge is the only thing I can think of that could possibly be deserving of the jealousy or disdain of others. After all, you can’t choose the parents you’re born to, but you CAN choose what career you decide to pursue. And whether you want to be an actor, a scientist or a lawyer, if you were born into a family that had succeeded at that very same profession you would want to learn firsthand from their successes and mistakes too. And though this may seem unrelated I would like it to be noted that it also helped that despite my parent’s success and the prevalence of the industry in our lives, they gave me the most wonderful, relatively normal childhood that a girl could ask for. I travelled, learned and made my own discoveries and mistakes from the relative privacy of my childhood home in San Francisco. I went to school every day, like a normal kid, and dealt with the same issues any child faces: bullying, bad grades and good, peer pressure. I read every book I could get my hands on, tried every sport imaginable, and attempted a number of times to find an industry more suitable or accepting of me than the one I currently reside in.
And I still chose to be an actor and writer. So to all those may think my parents chose this life for me, or groomed it to await my arrival, the only thing they did was provide me with such a great upbringing that I became a strong and independent enough woman to look at this scary industry and still choose it for myself.
What have we learned from this? You can’t make everyone happy; for all the thoughtful “kids of” like Zelda, there are young Hollywood types who want to bask in fame without working. But bravo to Zelda for speaking out and granting us insight into the internal struggle of wanting to emulate your parents’ work while still making your own original art, and being met with cynicism no matter what.