Did Nepotism or Know-How Make These People Stars?

Success smiles more often on people from famous families. Jaden has Will and Jada to thank, and where would Solange be without Beyoncé? Still, not everyone with connected kinfolk is riding coattails. The Root takes a look some high-profile careers to see which ones stand on their own.

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  • Jaden Smith

    Jaden Smith

    Occupation: Child actor
    Best Known For: His starring role in the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid and supporting roles in The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Pursuit of Happyness.
    Background: His superstar parents Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
    Nepotism or Know-How? Sure, nepotism gave him a solid boost (come on, he played opposite his dad in The Pursuit of Happyness), but he’s starting to show the talent and good looks it will take to shine on his own.

  • Zoe Kravitz

    Zoe Kravitz

    Occupation: Actress, singer and model
    Best Known For: Her angst-ridden good looks, courtesy of celebrity parents Lilakoi Moon (nee Lisa Bonet) and Lenny Kravitz.
    Background: Kravitz has accumulated modest supporting roles in movies like The Brave One, but the jury’s still out on the authenticity of her acting chops.
    Nepotism or Know-How? No doubt the star power of Zoe’s parents helped her career, but Daddy Kravitz’s pedigree may have had some help, too. His mom, Roxie Roker, starred in the ’70s sitcom The Jeffersons, and his father Sy Kravitz was a news producer for ABC. We’re just sayin’ …   

  • Robin Thicke

    Robin Thicke

    Occupation: Singer
    Best Known For: His soulful R&B crooning and for being the husband of actress Paula Patton.
    Background: Father Alan Thicke starred in the ’90s sitcom Growing Pains, so he may have been able open doors for his son’s musical career. But make no mistake, the boy CAN saaaang.
    Nepotism or Know-How? As a musician, he originally went by his last name Thicke but eventually evolved and inserted Robin into his solo ventures. He’s also received accolades that Papa Thicke had no part of, most notably a 2004 Grammy for his work on Usher’s Confessions.

  • Cuba Gooding, Jr.

    Cuba Gooding, Jr.

    Occupation: Actor
    Best Known For: His supporting role as a pro football player in the movie Jerry Maguire and the enthusiastic speech he made when he accepted an Oscar for it.
    Background: His father is Main Ingredient’s lead vocalist, Cuba Gooding, Sr.
    Nepotism or Know-How? He’s so, uh, intense and outgoing that we’re guessing he would have made a name for himself without the family connections.

  • Jesse Jackson, Jr.

    Jesse Jackson, Jr.

    Occupation: United States congressman
    Best known For: Representing Illinois’ 2nd District
    Background: With all the cherry gigs he had on his father Jesse Jackson, Sr.’s campaigns and with the Rainbow Coalition — not to mention the two books they wrote together — a congressional spot was practically inevitable. That might not have been a problem if, in 2009, Rep. Jackson hadn’t been called one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress.
    Nepotism or Know-How? A bit of both, perhaps? As an aside, it’s worth noting that Jesse Jr. has a friendly relationship with another American political heir: George W. Bush. 

  • Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian

    Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian

    Occupation: Reality TV stars
    Best Known For: Flitting around in their Keeping Up With the Kardashians reality show, stirring up gossip in the celebrity realm, and, ahem, their bodies.
    Background: They don’t know how to do much but look good, but that comes at a price that their father, attorney Robert Kardashian, could afford. Robert was best known for his work in the O.J. Simpson case. He died in 2003.
    Nepotism or Know-How? If looking good and living the life costs money — and judging by their Rolls Royces and Bentleys, it does — then they should thank their lucky stars they have the Kardashian name.

  • Solange Knowles

    Solange Knowles

    Occupation: Singer, actress
    Best Known For: Being the younger sister of superstar songstress Beyonce.
    Background: She’s been in the music game since she was teenager, with dad-a-ger Mathew Knowles at the helm of her music career. It’s worth noting that Solange has penned the majority of her songs and some of her sister’s, too. She’s quick to distance her career from her sister’s, with a musical and fashion style that distinguishes her from Beyonce’s cookie-cutter image.
    Nepotism or Know-how?  In God Given Name, a song from her second album, she sings “I’m not her and never will be.”

  • Ray J

    Ray J

    Occupation: Singer, actor, and reality TV star
    Best Known For: Being R&B singer Brandy’s little bro.
    Background: Early in his career, Ray J landed roles on several sitcoms, including Sinbad, Moesha and One on One. He’s had several chart-topping singles, including Wait a Minute, One Wish and Sexy, Can I? Last year, he debuted in VH1’s For the Love of Ray J, which follows him on a quest to find the ideal woman. Oh, and there’s the infamous sex tape with Kim Kardashian.
    Nepotism or Know-How? It sure seems as if Ray J has stepped out of big sis’ shadow.

  • Tracee Ellis Ross

    Tracee Ellis Ross

    Occupation: Actress
    Best Known For: Playing the lead role of lawyer-turned-restaurant-owner Joan Carol Clayton in the popular sitcom Girlfriends from 2000 to 2008.
    Background: Daughter of the legendary pop music diva Diana Ross.
    Nepotism or Know-How? Eight years starring in a much-beloved sitcom points to know-how over nepotism. Let’s hope we see more of her on TV.

  • Nicole Richie

    Nicole Richie

    Occupation: Socialite-turned-fashionista
    Best known For: Her friendship with Paris Hilton
    Background: Nicole was adopted by R&B singer Lionel Richie, but she wasn’t catapulted into the limelight until she and BFF Paris Hilton got their own reality TV show, The Simple Life, in 2003. Since then, Richie has ditched the drugs, weight and BFF and made a name for herself as an author, musician, and fashion designer (House of Harlow).
    Nepotism or Know-How? She’s no longer just a socialite, but being a socialite in the first place is all about powerful connections and affluence. Nepotism, for sure.

  • VH1's Basketball Wives

    VH1's Basketball Wives

    Occupation: Reality TV Stars
    Best Known For: Being the wives, ex-wives, girlfriends and baby’s mothers of NBA players.
    Background: Shaunie O’Neal (Shaq’s soon to be ex-wife) rounded up a gang of former NBA wives and girlfriends and created a reality show that explored the perils and perks of being romantically involved with an athlete.
    Nepotism or Know-How? These ladies are riding the coattails of their NBA husbands until the wheels fall off. Half of the cast members aren’t even involved with the players anymore.  

  • Rashida and Kidada Jones

    Rashida and Kidada Jones

    Occupation: Actress, singer and comic book author; actress, model, stylist, Disney fashion designer
    Best Known For: Harvard grad Rashida co-starred in The Office. Kidada, once Tupac’s fiancée, modeled for Tommy Hilfiger.
    Background: When your dad is mega-hit producer Quincy Jones (mom: actress Peggy Lipton) … doors open. In ’95, Kidada styled Michael Jackson for Vibe, the magazine her dad founded. Hilfiger took note and made her his muse.
    Nepotism or Know-How? Despite their cushy lanching pad, they are establishing their own reputations.

  • Antonia "Toya" Carter

    Antonia "Toya" Carter

    Occupation: Reality TV star
    Best Known For: Being the former wife of rapper Lil’ Wayne and the mother of his child.
    Background: In 2009 Toya and her co-star Tameka “Tiny” Cottle debuted in the BET reality show Tiny & Toya, which shows the ups and downs of being involved with a hip-hop artist. Toya is currently penning a book about her personal struggles and her search to find a sense of independence.
    Nepotism or Know-How? No matter how hard Toya tries to seperate herself from her relationship with Weezy, there are four words that will forever come before her name: “Lil’ Wayne’s Baby’s Momma.”

  • Moises de la Renta

    Moises de la Renta

    Occupation: Fashion designer
    Best Known For: Being Oscar de la Renta’s son.
    Background: As the adopted son of one of the world’s most recognizable designers, Moises, who was born in the Dominican Republic, has found the notoriously difficult fashion industry rather welcoming. Maybe — just maybe — it helps that his first piece, a $150 T-shirt, was featured in Oscar de la Renta’s fall 2005 runway show.
    Nepotism or Know-How? Let’s put it this way: Moises considered naming his line Moi before settling on his full name.

  • Angela and Vanessa Simmons

    Angela and Vanessa Simmons

    Occupation: Reality TV stars, owners of Pastry shoe collection
    Best Known For: Being rapper-turned-preacher Rev. Run’s daughters.
    Background: These sisters’ claim to fame was spending six seasons on MTV’s hit reality show Run’s House. After that show was canceled, they were given their own reality show called Daddy’s Girls.
    Nepotism or Know How? Come on, we all know their juice comes from being the preacher’s daughters.

  • Natalie Cole

    Natalie Cole

    Occupation: Singer
    Best Known For: Being a pop music diva and, in 1991, singing a duet across time with her legendary father, Nat King Cole, who died in 1965.
    Background: It helps when your name is the feminine version of your famous father’s. But Natalie, who has been open about her serious struggles with substance abuse, can sing. Nine Grammys don’t lie.
    Nepotism or Know-How? In 2007, Natalie appeared in Nas’ video Can’t Forget About You, which samples her dad’s Unforgettable. Still, she has the chops to stand on her own.

  • Ziggy Marley

    Ziggy Marley

    Occupation: Musician
    Best Known For: Being a multiple Grammy winner and the son of reggae legend Bob Marley.
    Background: When you make your first record with Bob Marley, who also happens to be your dad, things have a way of falling into place for the rest of your music career. Not that Ziggy’s not talented, but, y’know, record producers don’t say no to reggae artists with the last name Marley.
    Nepotism or Know-How? If it’s nepotism, he has company. All 11 of Bob Marley’s officially acknowledged children are in some way involved with his former firm, Tuff Gong International.

  • David Paterson

    David Paterson

    Occupation: Governor of New York
    Best Known For: Being the outspoken, oversharing “accidental governor” of the Empire State. Paterson was lieutenant governor when then-governor Eliot Spitzer stepped down in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal.
    Background: He is the son of former state senator, labor lawyer and Harlem power broker Basil Paterson.
    Nepotism or Know-How? Maybe know-how isn’t the right way to put it, but once you’ve had an SNL impersonation done of you, you’ve gone worldwide.

  • Raul Castro

    Raul Castro

    Occupation: President of Cuba
    Best known For: Being Fidel Castro’s younger brother.
    Background: Helped his more famous brother execute the Cuban Revolution. (Supervised executions, too.) Introduced his big brother to Che Guevara. A political (read: ruthless) hardliner, Raul stepped in when the charismatic Fidel began suffering health problems in 2006. In 2008, he was officially elected president.
    Nepotism or Know-How? Do you have to ask?

  • Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier

    Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier

    Occupation: Former President-for-Life of Haiti
    Best Known For: Living a lavish lifestyle while his impoverished subjects fled the country.
    Background: Son of the previous Haitian President-for-Life, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier
    Nepotism or Know-How? Jean-Claude never showed the same obsessive paranoia as his dad, nor any real interest in governing Haiti during his 15 years in power. But he kept Papa Doc’s oppressive police state in place, jailing and killing opponents, exiling journalists and swallowing up public funds. Since his ouster in 1986, he’s been lobbying to come home. Fat chance.

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