Self-made versus born rich: 14 celebrities you didn’t know had famous parents

By Monica Athnasious

Published Apr 29, 2022 at 12:57 PM

Reading time: 6 minutes

Discussion surrounding whether a celebrity is a ‘nepotism baby’ or not has been saturating social media for the past year or so—and we’ve got another list to add to the growing pile. For the ferocious fans out there, trust me, no one is questioning the ‘worthiness’ of their success or doubting the evidence of some of their talent—it’s merely an acknowledgement of their privileged beginnings that undoubtedly aided them in the pursuance of their careers.

Unfortunately, the more we uncover, the more we realise that most, not all, but most celebrities had a helping hand in getting them where they wanted to go and that fame—which so many of us dream of getting—is oftentimes a birthright. A closed circle that limits its newcomers. Here’s 14 celebrities you might not have known have rich or famous families.


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1. Brooke Shields

Infamous for her iconic eyebrows, Brooke Shields gained critical acclaim in the 1978 film Pretty Baby at just 12 years old. Talented in her own right, and though she undoubtedly had to build up her own career, Shields actually has ties to Italian royalty. Her paternal grandmother was reportedly a noblewoman and daughter of an American socialite and Italian prince. Shield’s father was also a successful businessman and Revlon executive. Following her parents’ divorce, the actress’ modelling career as a child was the major income for both her and her mother.

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2. Gwyneth Paltrow

While the younger generation may only know her as the owner of lifestyle brand Goop and Iron Man’s on-screen romance, Gwyneth Paltrow actually comes from a different kind of royalty—Hollywood royalty, that is. Heralding from one of the most prestigious film families out there, Paltrow is the daughter of Bruce Paltrow and Blyth Danner. Her father Bruce was a very successful producer and writer, while her mother Blythe was an incredibly well-respected actress winning two Emmys and a Tony in her career.

With two film legends as parents, it’s no surprise that Paltrow tried her hand at the industry.

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3. Cara Delevingne

“In contrast to Moss or Naomi Campbell—rising out of Croydon and Streatham to international profile—for Cara high society fame and gossip column interest run in the blood,” wrote The Evening Standard in a profile piece on the model’s family line. Just like fellow iconic-brow alum Shields, Cara Delevingne has some pretty high society ties throughout her family heritage—one that is made up of publishing executives, models, socialites and even some politicians.

Cited in The Evening Standard as “occasionally described country aristocrats,” Delevingne’s mother was a prestigious socialite who reportedly was personal friends with Princess Margaret. Her father (Delevingne’s maternal grandfather) was a newspaper publisher who later ran both The Evening Standard and the Daily Express. But it’s not just her mother’s side that has prestigious ties.

Delevingne’s father, who was a property developer, heralded from a well-connected family. His mother (Delevingne’s paternal grandmother) was the daughter of a Viscount (Hamar Greenwood) and an infamous debutante during the 1920s. Her paternal grandfather was also friends with Edward, Prince of Wales. Basically, her family has been running in the same circles as the British Royals forever—honestly, we’d be here all day running through it all.

Not only is it well documented that her older sisters were in the modelling scene before Delevingne but among her sixteen godparents are Nicholas Coleridge and Joan Collins—yep, the Joan Collins. If you don’t recognise Coleridge’s name well, he was only Condé Nast’s chairman for thirty years before stepping down in 2017…

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4. Emma Stone

Quirky and popular actress Emma Stone is another that was born into wealth. Her father founded his own general contracting company and remained the CEO and much like High School Musical’s Sharpay Evans, Stone spent some of her teenage years living in a fancy resort called the Camelback Inn Resort.

5. Natasha Richardson

Our favourite Parent’s Trap mum and Diana lookalike, Natasha Richardson is a descendant of the Redgrave family—a family with immense ties in acting and film. Not only was her father an Academy Award winning director and producer but her mother Dame Vanessa Redgrave was a highly esteemed actress who heralded from an acting dynasty winning: an Academy Award, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes, two Emmys, two SAGAs and even a Tony throughout her career—making her one of the few actresses ever to obtain the Triple Crown of Acting.

Her maternal grandfather, Sir Michael Scudamore Redgrave, was also a successful filmmaker and actor who won an Academy Award for his role in Mourning Becomes Electra.

6. Laura Dern

A Jurassic Park OG, Laura Dern is a critically acclaimed, award-winning actress who was born to parents of a very similar calibre. Both her mother and father were accredited actors with very long careers—her mother actually starred in over 120 films. But that’s not all. Dern’s godmother was none other than Shelley Winters, Hollywood royalty quite frankly.

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7. Bryce Dallas Howard

Another Jurassic Park alum, Bryce Dallas Howard is actually the daughter of Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard—with a career from the 60s, Howard’s father has decades of experience in acting also.

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8. Drew Barrymore

One of our favourite 90s ‘it girls’ was none other than Drew Barrymore, but did you know that the Barrymore name is infamous in the Hollywood scene? They quite literally are an acting dynasty. Stretching back even before silent cinema to the 1800s in her great-great grandfather, Maurice Barrymore, who was part of an acting troupe. Littered throughout each and every generation of Barrymore’s family are cinema icons, award-winning actors of the highest calibre and Hollywood legends—there are so many that they are actually known as ‘The Barrymore family of actors’.

And of course, having a cinematic royal family lends itself to having an iconic godparent, and guess who Barrymore has for one? Steven Spielberg, of course. However, it wasn’t all glitz and glamour for the young actress, who began her career as soon as she could walk, as Barrymore’s early exposure to the industry (and complicated relationship with her mother) led to serious substance abuse issues.

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9. Nicolas Cage

Barrymore’s not the only one with a famous film family, our favourite meme Nicolas Cage is actually part of the Coppola family. Yep, you read that right. Cage was actually born Nicolas Kim Coppola, nephew to legendary The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire on his father’s side. The Coppola dynasty stretches far and wide but the actor allegedly wanted to drop his last name to avoid the appearance of such nepotism, instead opting for Cage, a decision allegedly inspired by character Luke Cage from the Marvel comics.

10. Zoey Deutch

Beginning her career on Disney Channel, Zoey Deutch has built a formidable, critically-acclaimed career in her young life. The actress was also born to film friendly parents. Her father is director Howard Deutch and her mother is actress-turned-director Lea Thompson. Both Deutch and her sister starred in their mother’s directorial debut in 2017 for The Year of Spectacular Men where her father also served as producer.

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11. Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller’s comedic flair has had us in his grips for decades now, but did you know that comedy is quite literally in his blood? His parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, were an iconic comedy team in the 60s known as ‘Stiller and Meara’. His mother was also an Emmy and Tony nominated actress and even won a Writers Guild Award for the movie The Other Woman which she co-wrote. Stiller’s father went on to have success even later in his career in Seinfeld during the early 90s.

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12. Jamie Lee Curtis

While we may know her as the mum from the 2003 film Freaky Friday, Jamie Lee Curtis’ career is well renowned in its own right, however, the actress’ family includes some pretty hefty names too. Her father Tony Curtis (born Bernard Schwartz) starred in over 100 films in a career that spanned six decades, but her mother is where true infamy lies. Famously known as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s actresses, Janet Leigh (Curtis’ mother) is most recognised for her role as Marion Crane in Psycho. You know that classic shower scene? Yep, that’s Curtis’ iconic mama. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role.

Also fun fact, Curtis is Jake Gyllenhaall’s godmother.

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13. Phoebe Dynevor

A breakout star from immensely popular Netflix series Bridgerton, Phoebe Dynevor shot into notoriety following the first season’s release as Daphne Bridgerton. However, this wasn’t the actress’ first time in front of the cameras, she actually began her career as a child in Waterloo Road. Her parents are also well versed in the UK television industry—her mother Sally Dynevor is a well-known actress who has been on Coronation Street since 1986 and her father has been a script writer for Emmerdale since 1995.

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14. Bessie Carter

Another Bridgerton starlet, Bessie Carter’s upper class acting runs in the family. Her parents are iconic British actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton. Ringing any bells? Well, her father Jim is famously known for his role in a little show called Downton Abbey. And her mother? Oh, she’s only the scary Dolores Umbridge. However, both parents have had incredibly long and infamous careers in both film and theatre beyond these characters, with numerous nominations and awards between them. Carter’s BAFTA-winning mother is also set to reprise her role as the Queen (whom she’s played before) in Netflix’s The Crown.

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