Importance of Good Stories and character development -as shown by nepo babies

Although most of you probably already know what a nepo (nepotism) baby is, for those who are unsure, the term refers to a child of a successful professional. More specifically, it means that the nepo baby got a shortcut to fame or success due to their successful parents. It is the generally accepted opinion of the masses that these children would not be as successful as they are on their own merit unless they came from a succesful family; there are some exceptions.

In this post, we will examine the importance of stories through famous nepo baby examples, both those who have gained general acceptance and those who are frowned upon.

Note: I want to say that even though I write brutally honest, I do actually like many of the famous nepo babies. Bella Hadid strikes me as a sweet person, and Dakota Johnson seems like a cool and funny woman, plus her acting is good.

Bella Hadid & why she succeeded

Bellas’s Mother, Yolanda, is a former model and tv personality. Her father is a luxury real estate developer (Hollywood area). Bella became known through a reality tv show featuring mainly Bella, her sister Gigi and their mother.

Both sisters are today very successful runway models, but more importantly, both are very liked by the general public, especially Bella. But why is that? Why is it that a girl whose mother and father together have all the possible connections to the modelling industry and know all the right people in Hollywood has become so loved by many?

Enter good storytelling.

For those who have not seen the reality show, it displays, in a nutshell, a demanding and emotionally abusive mother (Yolanda) whipping her daughters to become models. Hearing this alone, the girls have our sympathies, right? But that’s not all; in the reality show, the mother visibly favours the other daughter over Bella, leaving her looking stranded and rejected many times. Now Bella becomes an underdog. Everyone is always rooting for the underdog. We care more about what happens to the sister who doesn’t have it as good (think Cinderella).

About character development.

Let’s add to this mix that our main character Bella is also very softly spoken and always seems nice to everyone. So she’s likeable. And her ethnic background is half Palestinian Jordanian; if you know anything about politics, you know why this is another boost for her character, not to mention the fact that she is vocal about the ethnic pride she has for her heritage.

Then there is also the good reputation she has made for herself in modelling circles as a hard worker, which makes us feel like she is someone who deserves her place in the spotlight. She has made it a point never to speak badly about others publicly, not even those who have spoken ill about her; this reinforces her persona as someone with integrity and grace.

Dakota Johnson & why she succeeded

Dakota is the daughter of actress Melanie Griffith and actor Don Johnson. Her parents are divorced, and her step dad growing up, was the actor Antonio Banderas. So really, it doesn’t get any more Hollywood elite than that. Despite coming from Hollywood royalty, she has become a successful and well-liked persona in the public eye. Let’s examine why.

Good storytelling.

She has publicly stated many times that her famous parents ‘discouraged’ her acting career and that they tried to make her go to college, but she refused. This is how she has created this narrative that she is deserving of her fame because her parents never even wanted her to become an actor, distracting us from the fact that she probably had the best acting teachers, advice, connections and resources available. She also says that her parents cut her off financially (yet she landed a job in an oscar-nominated film only a few weeks later). This kind of repetitive public statements all feed into the story of a girl who, against her parent’s wishes and without their support, ‘worked hard’ to become an actor. What a great story!

About character development.

Dakota has also helped shape her public persona through her chosen acting roles (smart actors do this). Her big breakthrough role was in Fifty Shades of Grey, where she played the shy but smart, submissive yet stubborn girl who gets coerced into a sexually exploitative relationship with a narcissistic guy. In this movie, she was sexy but not too sexy (so as not to ruin her reputation or be hated by the female population). Whenever she gives interviews, she is easily approachable, funny and a little quirky. In her Open Door Interview with Architectural Digest, she humbly presents her down-to-earth-looking vintage designer home, making statements like she is a weird girl, her favourite feature is the bookshelf and that she’s not really an awards person (after showing her awards that are on display).

Brooklyn Beckham & why he is failing

Brooklyn is the eldest son of the legendary football player David Beckham and former Spice Girl band member (and current fashion designer) Victoria Beckham. Brooklyn has for years tried to become famous, his latest try after marrying Nicola Pelz, the daughter of a billionaire businessman.

Story problems.

If we start by googling Brooklyn Beckham, we run into the first problem in his story. His profession/occupation is listed as a ‘media personality’. Okay. As we dig a little bit deeper, we find his ‘career’ is quite colourful. In 2014 he was a model (yet he is not tall enough, nor does he have the physique for it). By that measure, it is clear to everyone that the jobs he landed as a ‘model’ were because of his famous parents.

Then, in 2017, he announced that he would become a photographer. So his parents got him into a private art school, but he could not finish even the first year. Nonetheless, he decided to publish a book with his photography (a publishing deal he obviously got because of her famous parents). As you can probably guess, the book reviews were crushingly bad.

Oh, but we are not done yet; in 2021, he decided he would become a professional chef and released a video series of him cooking, but it took over 62 professionals and a reported cost of around 100 000€ per episode to make it.

I think it is quite clear what the story problems here are, but let’s review; a nepo baby spoiled by his parent’s money and connections yet shows no real grit of his own. Has no apparent talent and doesn’t see things through and doesn’t work hard. Yet he is constantly in the media trying to get everyone’s attention and love using his parents’ fame solely to get that visibility. Simply put, he has done nothing to earn his fame, not even create the illusion of deserving, but quite the opposite.

Character problems.

Brooklyn has said that he will never be like his famous father and that he has failed because of his horoscope sign. By saying things like this, he is resigning all personal responsibility to a horoscope even though everyone knows he didn’t become a famous footballer like his dad because he is not talented like his dad (he should have just said that). Things like these give a dishonest and responsibility-avoidant image of Brooklyn. The young man says that despite his famous parents, he wants to find his own way. That is well said, but rather than being lazy, action should support this statement to make it believable.

Simple fixes for Brooklyn’s story and character problems.

From public relations point of view, a lot of damage has already been done in the case of nepo baby Brooklyn. Firstly the parents should have waited until he matured enough and found what he wanted to do before they used all their money and connections to promote the boy.

Brooklyn should have stayed away from the public eye until he was focused on a single thing (acting, singing, cooking, photographing, whatever) and only came out into the public eye after he had already done something. How can you promote a story if there is no story to be promoted?

He should avoid riding on his parent’s fame so obviously and find ways to create his own light, just like the other nepo babies in the previous examples have done.

Since he has already been in the public eye for so long trying to become famous on his own ‘merits’, the best he could do now is withdraw from the public eye, hire some very good public relations people and publicity trainers, choose one thing he wants to do and get to work. Lay low for a few years so that people can forget their unpleasant image of him and then come out with a more polished persona. The public forgets and forgives as long as you don’t annoy them. Moreover, when he finally reemerges, he should comment on his previous phase as a period of ‘finding himself’ or ‘becoming a man’. This would also help people forgive him because everyone can forgive a child.

Final words.

I hope that everyone understands that this post was not about the celebrities in it but about the importance of getting the story right and how developing a character can make people love or hate them. I urge you to seek stories everywhere you look, ads, movies, celebrities, books, and films and you will quickly notice that everything, absolutely everything in the world, is based on stories. So if you want to be a writer, writing is good, but that’s not enough. You need to emerge into the craft, not only by constantly developing stories but noticing them all around you.

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