When a celebrity’s child wants to introduce themselves as Hollywood’s newest nepotism icon, they turn to the Golden Globes. Since 1963, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association annually selects a beloved actor’s offspring to receive the coming-of-age title of Mr. or Miss Golden Globe — changed to the gender-neutral Golden Globe Ambassador in 2017.
A savvy few parlayed this even longer leg up in Hollywood into established careers: Freddie Prinze Jr., son of Freddie Prinze; Melanie Griffith, daughter of Tippi Hedren; Griffith and Don Johnson’s daughter, Dakota Johnson; and Laura Dern, daughter of Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd.
Today’s latest star progeny is Jaya Harper, Dern’s 16-year-old daughter with musician Ben Harper. But Dern isn’t giving Jaya the Golden Globes christening Dern received at 15 in 1982. Harper is doing it herself — making herself famous on TikTok. (A cameo from her Oscar winner mom doesn’t hurt, of course.)
Celebrity children are the latest community to take over the video app popular with teens. While social-media-savvy celebrities like Jennifer Lopez or Reese Witherspoon run their own tightly managed TikTok accounts, the offspring of Julianne Moore, Victoria Beckham and even Chris Cuomo are the account holders, using their famous parents as guest stars and comedic punching bags to gain clout.
The kids are inadvertently ushering in unprecedented access to their celebrity parents’ most mundane moments. Harper documents her everyday life, failing tests, crushing on Blue’s Clues host Steve and eye-rolling at their parents. It just so happens Harper’s dorky mom interrupting her dance videos is an adored actress.
A Million Views > A Million Dollars
We weren’t supposed to see this far behind celebrities’ security gates. Unless they’re a reality star showing a very edited version of their home life or an Instagram influencer offering highly curated photos, celebrities’ home lives are often inaccessible and guarded by a team of publicists, social media coordinators and personal assistants.
Entry inside will cost you. Kim Kardashian reportedly charges $300,000 to $500,000 for an at-home Instagram post, while People paid $14 million in 2008 for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s first baby photos. Michelle Obama snagged a lucrative Netflix deal for her post–White House documentary.
On TikTok, the New Hollywood teens post for free, posting unfiltered moments seemingly without concern for those carefully crafted celebrity personas. Publicists must be having TikTok-induced heart attacks.
Julianne Moore’s 18-year-old daughter, Liv Freundlich, recently posted a version of the “You Bitch” meme where she rushes up to her unassuming mother and shouts “You bitch!” before storming off. The video is jovial — Liv is goofing on her mom for not letting her buy, of all things, a smartboard.
In another, Moore (clad in an oversized red sweater and her hair up) laughs, bemused, while Freundlich mocks her. Seemingly unknown to Moore, her daughter has overlaid the video with the text “when your mom is acting surprisingly decent so you talk shit about your dad with her instead of talking shit about her with your dad.” The only person tough enough to roast the Oscar-winning Moore is her daughter.
The surprise celebrity appearances are viral gold for the kids and free publicity for the parents. Freundlich’s three TikToks featuring Moore are her most viral, each with over 20,000 views.
“Their kids are pulling the curtain back a bit and showing what happens behind the scenes, and the celebrity parents are vying to be the cool mom or cool dad,” says Brad Witter, a former Us Weekly editor of 10 years. Talk about a Game Change.
TikTok’s Tabloid Future
Celebrity kids were supposed to be off the table. In the mid-2010s, California passed several laws limiting paparazzi from photographing children of public figures without parental consent. Actresses and celebrity moms Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner and Kristen Bell lobbied for these protections and boycotted tabloids running photos of their children.
The oldest kids kept hidden from the public are now bringing us the insider content we once relied on paparazzi to snag. “The children are giving it to you, so it’s not the voyeuristic kind of hiding-behind-bushes, scaring-the-kids kind of thing. You can feel better about consuming that,” Witter says.
There’s a clear benefit for tabloids, too. A TikTok posted by a celebrity child is fair game to cover and even offers newsworthy scoops. In April, Chris Cuomo began broadcasting his nightly CNN show from the basement of his home after testing positive for COVID-19. His 17-year-old daughter, Bella, offered the inside scoop on what her father’s much-publicized self-isolation was like, posting to TikTok her voyage to his quarantined layer. The TikTok made its rounds, mentioned in the Daily Mail, People and the Wall Street Journal.
Celebrity news outlets balance a fine line in covering notable parents while respecting their child’s privacy. Jodi Guglielmi, a reporter for People, tells me the magazine reports on TikToks only when a celebrity parent actively participates in it — or reposts it to their personal accounts. “We won’t post something that just Laura Dern’s daughter is in,” Guglielmi says. “We let the parents lead the way.”
It’s unclear if TikTok virality will matter in the long haul for celebrity teens who already have access to wealth, privilege and connections. Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Hollywood icons Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, recently admitted to the New Yorker that nepotism factored into her star-making role in Halloween. “I’m never going to pretend that I just got that on my own, like I’m just a little girl from nowhere getting it. Clearly, I had a leg up.”
Harper, Freundlich and Cuomo have yet to publicly announce an interest in acting. Still, the longer they’re quarantined at home with famous parents, the more TikTok guest appearances to come. Hell, maybe one of them will become the first Golden Globe Ambassador to reign over Zoom.