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Zelda Williams Addresses Nepotism in Hollywood

Zelda Williams Addresses Nepotism in Hollywood

Zelda Williams has written an open letter addressing what she’s “often found to be a popular view on … an entire generation of the children of actors, singers, producers, directors, and entertainment professionals in general.”

“Having heard the word ‘nepotism’ thrown around my entire life, even before I decided to purse [sic] an acting career, it is nothing new to hear similar words discussed now. But I finally feel the need to address some things,” the 22-year-old actress (and daughter of Robin Williams) writes on her Tumblr page.

“Is it a fool’s errand to even give in to such a fruitless discussion? Perhaps. But while I’ve never been one to listen to naysayers I am protective of my friends and colleagues and I’ve found myself more and more concerned by how negatively people have been treating us of late,” Zelda adds. “It’s time someone shed some light on the subject, perhaps started an actual educated conversation about it. Hey, a girl can dream, right?”

Click inside to read Zelda‘s full letter

Regarding Progeny (A Letter by and About the Actor Children of Actors)

FYI: This is an open letter addressing what I’ve often found to be a popular view on the ‘kids of’, an entire generation of the children of actors, singers, producers, directors and entertainment professionals in general.

EDIT: Sorry, apparently there were some glaring typos that needed fixing. I wrote this in about an hour the other night in a passionate fit without editing… heck, I didn’t even really flesh out some of the ideas I’d meant to. Regardless, fixed some of the typos (message me if you find more) and added a brief paragraph.

To whom it may concern,

Having heard the word ‘nepotism’ thrown around my entire life, even before I decided to purse an acting career, it is nothing new to hear similar words discussed now. But I finally feel the need to address some things. Is it a fool’s errand to even give in to such a fruitless discussion? Perhaps. But while I’ve never been one to listen to naysayers I am protective of my friends and colleagues and I’ve found myself more and more concerned by how negatively people have been treating us of late. It’s time someone shed some light on the subject, perhaps started an actual educated conversation about it. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

However, I would like to make it clear that while I’m speaking about a generation I am a part of, I’m not speaking FOR them. These are my views alone.

It’s interesting to me that so many people out there seem to enjoy harshly judging the children of entertainment professionals if they follow in their parent’s footsteps. However, these critical views aren’t original and they certainly aren’t new. People have always made presumptions about those who have attempted to be a part of the same industry as their previously successful parents and much of it as I’ve experienced becomes disdain. Success or even participation is often met with claims of favoritism, or nepotism, or perhaps the parent’s relevant connections playing a large role in their ascension. They cry that it’s unfair, that they are undeserving, that they couldn’t possibly have done it on their own.

And while I’m sure I’ll be frowned upon for crying ‘sexism’, I find that this sort of negativity is often particularly thrown at the daughter’s of actors (a group of which I am a part), especially when it comes to looks. But the physical expectations placed on women in the entertainment world aside, there’s a presumption of my own I’d like to make: I think most of the shade thrown at the children of successful parents stems from the fact many people don’t want to believe that lightning (or in this case the perfect mixture of luck and talent) could possibly strike twice in the same gene pool.

Though this might surprise some of you, I don’t entirely disagree.

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 parents’ 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 not the only thing I can think of that could possibly be deserving of the jealousy or disdain of others, but it is the one that has had the most lasting effect on me. But who am I to talk? After all, my first movie was with my father, I’m sure that’d lead many to call me a hypocrite. And I did a set of commercials with him for Nintendo regarding the games my parents named me after, I doubt those help either. But take a second to think: were you in my shoes, would you have really done any differently? The latter was an incredible opportunity that helped me with my house, my savings… the former was my first break, and came after months of auditioning and vetting. I was a child when I got that first role, and I’d earned the part and wanted to give it a shot. I didn’t realize that so many would be opposed to my very participation, no matter how I did in the film.

In the end 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 parents’ 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 overall had a wonderful and blessed childhood and for that I am eternally grateful. I know for many this is not the case… and I know the circumstances of my birth and the opportunities I am given are extremely rare. I’m well aware of where most of the outside anger or jealousy stems from. But I’m still grateful to my parents for raising me well enough to be thankful and aware of all of the things I have. I will never take that for granted.

But while they raised me well, taught me to be independent and helped advise me on whatever field of work I should wish to pursue, I still chose to be an actor through my late teens and a writer now. 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.

In any case, to whoever is reading this, I am in no way discrediting or denying you your own opinion. Hell, by even pursuing a career in the public eye I knew that I should at the very least expect others to have their own opinions on me, my life and my family, whether they were informed enough or not. But no matter your views on me, my abilities, my peers or this industry, I’d like to thank you for reading this. If nothing else, it means there are at least a few others out there who are interested in and have now heard one other side to a many faceted discussion.

Hopefully, I’m not the only one who wants to hear them all.

Much love,
Zelda Rae Williams

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Credit: Jemal Countess, Angela Weiss, Neilson Barnard, Andrew H. Walker, Larry Busacca; Photos: Getty
Posted to: Zelda Williams

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  • Fassdong

    Well most children of stars don’t have any talent. So…?

  • cute

    ummmm it is infinitely harder for a normal person without a hollywood family to enter the film industry…these are usually the truly talented ones, the ones who struggle…so, yeah get over it zelda…at least you’re rich

  • cute

    …..and yes it is easier to become a lawyer if your dad is a lawyer…as there are many more law schools and law firms than acting parts…and you become a lawyer based on merit, not who you know which is the central most problem with the hollywood film industry

  • true

    we are going to have this horrid mirror mirror movie in a couple of weeks, and that girl, phill collins´ daugther. CAN´T ACT! so… there it is…

  • kami

    she makes some good points. i think most ppl expect the offspring of an actor/entertainer to have it easier. or if they fail that they have money to fall back on unlike the struggling non celebrity children who go into the business.

  • loric

    Im a single bisexual girl,but i am confident, Ijust wanna to find people who like me,be friends,start a relationship,dating,even marrige….and my friend recommended===datebi.c/o/m’It is the best place for looking for bisexual men & women dating relationship or marriage.Hope you all find your true love..

  • Tony

    I always wondered how that Emma Roberts got any part. Not only is she a Plain Jane with a stiff face, but she can’t act worth a damn. So, how did she get her parts? Through her dad and aunt’s connections? What else could it be?

  • Amanda

    Oh, poor little rich girl! Honey you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth and you’ve got an edge over every other wannabe actor-singer-dancer in the world whose dad wasn’t Mrs. Doubtfire. Even if the criticism over nepotism is unwarranted, you should shut up and accept it because I can think of worse things in the world than being born to an actor.

  • Jay

    I would care more if I actually knew who Zelda Williams was. This is the first I’m hearing of her. So obviously nepotism isn’t working in her favor because she’s not even famous. So her writing this letter is moot.

  • cute

    LOL yes…MIRROR MIRROR…among countless others!! Either be born into the film industry or be RICH…even Melissa McCarthy who I LOVE is lucky her cousin was Jenny McCarthy, because you know that gave the girl some connections…happy about that one because Melissa is actually funny, but just another example of how hard it is to get into Hollywood with no connections…and if Zelda doesn’t get parts, that’s how bad she is…and thats F***** up

  • lola_uk

    So, just WHAT, exactly is the point this delusional hollywood “heiress” is trying to make?

  • Carbon Copy

    Waaaaaa… save it girl! I read half the blog and it’s just her whinnying away about not choosing her parents, blah blah blah. It’s obvious that it’s less effort and less talent for the progeny of successful actor to be given a chance if they do decide to be in the industry.

  • Cirol

    @loric: Loric Iam your true love

  • tamjo

    Nepotism occurs in every industry, but writing a letter to everyone to accept you as a serious actress or writer is ridiculous. You’ve gained access into a world that many wish they could be exposed to if they have the dream of Hollywood stardom. Of course like in any industry you have to prove yourself, but really what is your point? Poor you for being judged because you have family in the business and people perceive you to have benefits that most don’t have. Writing this letter just proves to us what a spoiled, egotistical person you are. If you were Joe Blows child no one would care??? Get over yourself.

  • Johnny

    If a boy peruses to be a doctor and he applies to the same hospital his dad works in he will definitely have a better chance than the other applicants.

    Zelda, you do have it MUCH easier than REAL actors in hollywood.
    Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Michael Fassbender, and Charleze Theron are good examples of ACTORS who have actually had to GO TO SCHOOL TO LEARN HOW TO ACT.
    Im tired of girls like Emma Roberts who think they are completely entitled to fame and ‘acting.’
    But whatever, their careers will fade fast. In fact most of theirs will never start

  • Ali

    Oh please, shut up.

  • leimore

    Why does the picture of Rachel Bilson is not in here?!?!
    Ooh well; most likely that Still Not relevant enough!



  • giuseppe sallo

    Wow. Zelda is pretty pissed. Y U so mad? Eat a pizza.

  • giuseppe sallo

    @Tony, She was miscast in SCREAM 4. ONE WORD: Cringeworthy.

  • RFG

    “tumblr page” tho …… ಠ_ಠ it’s called a blog.

  • Hamlet

    No one should have to stand getting bullied, #8.

    What is a real actor, #15? Children of stars can be just as talented as their parents. Plenty of actors that had non-star parents never went to acting school.

  • Jennica Panettiere

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” WTH did I do Jared? Is it cause I swore?

    Anyhoo, I’ll just repeat what I can remember I typed…

    Zelda, honey, people are not going to feel sorry for people like you. They are more likely to sympathise with the girl who saves up her money from
    working at a supermarket in HS just to fly to L.A, pursue her dreams and see herself waitressing for 3 years only to land the role of “Juror
    #8″ in a lifetime movie. Those are struggling actors, not you.

    And yes, having money to fall back on does make it easier for you guys, you might not get roles handed to you but your connections open doors that other people can only hope, gets opened for them. Also you don’t have to worry about finding regular 9-5 work in the meantime whilst you wait for your auditions.

    Some people can’t afford the best agents, so they have to settle for the dollar store version of
    an agent who might book them an extra or some bit part role in a movie that probably won’t ever get distribution.

    It’s like getting a VIP pass for shoots at a carnival game, whilst everyone else has to wait in line.

    Some of these people, I swear are so disillusioned with the real world no matter how hard they try to think they can identify with ‘normal’

    I’ve actually checked the history of this Zelda wench and she goes to celebrity events just as much as the rest of them. So where the hell is this craving to be seen as a normal person?

    People would be more tolerant of you if you just admit the nepotism rather than side stepping around it and acting like it’s not the big
    elephant in the room, which is totally laughable.

  • fatazz

    she needs to go get a job doing door to door sales, picking cotton or selling women’s shoes for a day and she will shut that trap of hers pretty damn fast …

  • JosettePurr

    @tamjo: SPOT ON!!

  • A

    No one wants to hear rich people complain, sorry but that’s one thing you can’t buy. Just shut up and be humble about it.

  • Johnny

    In addition to what I said earlier. WHAT ABOUT ELIZABETH OLSEN!!
    Everyone likes her because SHE HAS TALENT AND WENT TO SCHOOL FOR ACTING. Unlike other spoiled brats.
    People hate self-entitled princesses. Not Actors with talent,

  • paula

    As a struggling actress myself I find this disrespectful. She got Nintendo commercials and she probably got a good agent because she’s Robin Williams’ daughter and some of us have to sleep in friends’ couches or share 1 room 1 bedroom apartments with 7other people because that’s the only thing we can pay and this girl wants us to take her seriously?

  • mel

    @Johnny: Exactly, Lizzie Olsen has been this far because of her talent and she could have got into movies when she was a baby yet she chose not to get her sister’s connections to get an agent and met her current agent while doing an intership on a theatre company. I think the fact that she is an Olsen and looks just like her sisters have probably given her more exposure because people had no idea the Olsens had a little sister but she’s working hard for what she’s getting.

  • [~Fug Face Man!ston~]


  • ok…but Lizzie Olsen only got that agent because of her name…BELIEVE ME no agent would take an unknown actor, no credits, if they didn’t think they could market them and make money somehow (Mary Kate and Ashley’s sister…hello) not saying shes completely devoid of talent, but again, it’s all about connections and money not talent. there are actors out there in the trenches that are just as talented as her, if not better, but don’t have the name or face recognition

  • Sayer

    They don’t have to get into the same profession as their parents. Why not become chefs? Harrison Ford’s son is a chef…not an actor.

    Gwyneth Paltrow’s first acting break came via her godfather, Stephen Spielberg. How many actors not related to people in Hollywood get a break via Spielberg?

    Anne Rice’s son has a book deal. You think the fact that his mother’s Anne Rice helped?

  • Danielle

    Emma Roberts and Rumer Willis = TALENTLESS

  • reba

    And she got a post, why? Because she IS the daughter of Robin Williams. Anyone else blogging about this would be ignored.

  • faz

    Children of celebrities are LUCKY and all I ever seem to hear is them complain! You can either complain about the stigma of having hollywood parents or you can try to make the most of it like jane fonda and liza minelli did. I respect people like Elizabeth Olson, I think people should learn from her. She is getting recognised on merit, nobody even knew she was an olson, she worked hard to get herself through school and looked for roles that with display her acting ability rather than her make her into a famous name.

  • zelda who

    okay zelda whoever the f you are, shut up… who actually knows you & likes you anyway? BYE GIRL stop complaining no one wants to hear it

  • June Clever

    Even her writing is pathetic. Isn’t your dad Robin Williams? Talent is not hereditary bitch. Go push a broom.

  • Sigourney

    It’s obvious that it’s less effort and less talent for the progeny of successful actor to be given a chance if they do decide to be in the industry.

  • Val

    Ok, here’s the deal. It is highly annoying to people outside Hollywood, who view working in films or on television as likely the most fun and well-paid jobs on planet earth!, to watch those jobs go to children of already famous and wealthy actors because your family already wants for nothing. You are rich. Your parent was able to raise you however they chose! Other families should be given a chance like that. It isn’t lightning striking twice, with looks and talent, it is a parent using connections to usher their child into a space that a less fortunate child should have an equal chance at attaining. Connor Cruise cannot act. Period.

  • Neil

    One would expect this kind of missive from someone who has benefited all her life from the roll of the genetic dice.
    The reason Zelda, that people rail against Nepotism is that it goes against any possible chance for those who’s parents weren’t famous to compete with someone who has personal and blood relative relationships with the decision makers.
    It is no secret that being in show business is always easy, but the ungodly amount of money probably cushions the blows.
    Why is it that your father grabs his crotch several hundred times and that opens doors for you, that if you weren’t his child, you would never be able to enter? There are a lot of people out there who have just as much a love for performance as you, they have paid thousands of dollars to get the education to do something they love, and every day they go out and beat their heads against a system that says, “All we’re really concerned with is doing favors for our friends kids”, that will never have the opportunities that you are so glib about having. The whole issue is not at all about your supposed feelings about how, even though you know this kind of situation is corrupt, you still partake in the privileges and benefits that it offers to you and a few select others.
    It is all about equal opportunity. This was the reason that this country was founded. This whole “hollywood/entertainment/political” aristocracy goes against everything that people have lived and died for over the last 200+ years.
    To be totally honest it is cheating and you are a liar if you claim that it is just as difficult for you as someone who is not in your ilk.
    We know you have had a tough life in the different houses your parents own or the estate in Montana. I will try to keep that in mind the next time I see some guy living on the street.
    You remind me of Marie Antoinette. When the French Revolution was in full swing she asked why the “peasants” were so upset. She was told that they had no bread. She replied “Let them eat cake”. Some have said that this was an example of her indifference to the plight of others. In reality, she was too uninformed, and too stupid to understand that people were starving. Every time she ran out of bread she ate cake, so why shouldn’t the peasants.
    Is that what you would like us all to do, Zelda? Eat cake?