Fashion’s enduring love of celebrity has recently found expression in a new guise — the rise of celebrity children as models and brand ambassadors.
Flick the pages of any glossy and you’ll see many beautiful faces that have a nagging familiarity — the pouty lips and tumbling blond mane of that Bardotesque blonde in the Hudson jeans adverts, the olive skin and liquid brown eyes of that girl who’s the face of Forever 21 and the elegant expressive face of the model in the Lancome Hydra Zen campaign. Why do all these beauties strike a chord? It’s all down to their celebrity DNA — the Hudson girl is Georgia May Jagger (parents Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall), the Forever 21 ambassador is Amber Le Bon (parents Simon and Amber le Bon) and the Lancome model is Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann (daughter of Isabella Rossellini and grand-daughter of Ingrid Bergman).
In the midst of the biggest financial meltdown in living memory, advertisers and brands are looking for faces that will not only sell their product but also seduce consumers with glamour, excitement and a famous pedigree to boot. In a marketplace crammed with product, standing out from the rest has become a survival skill. A beautiful face is now no longer enough to convince consumers to part with their ever-diminishing disposable income — there has to be an extra dimension, the celebrity X factor, if you like. Witness the plethora of A-list actresses now promoting fashion brands and beauty products — the pages of Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire are crammed with talented thespians who a decade ago would have snubbed such endorsements as detrimental to their artistic credibility. Now that advertising is no longer seen as compromising, celebrities are not only happy to lend their fame and beauty to brands for a considerable fee, their offspring are looking for a piece of the pie too.
The list of model offspring is diverse and sometimes frankly surprising. Just last week Cindy Crawford’s 10-year-old daughter Kaia was seen modelling for Young Versace, while Noel Gallagher’s 11-year-old Anais has signed up with Select modelling agency and has already been photographed by none other than Mario Testino. From the world of rock and roll, there’s Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lisa Bonet and rocker Lenny Kravitz, now the face of Vera Wang’s Princess scent and a muse to New York designer Alexander Wang.
Other rock and roll royalty who have taken to the catwalk include Riley Keough, grand-daughter of Elvis Presley who modelled for Dolce and Gabbanna at 14, Daisy Lowe daughter of singers Pearl Lowe and Gavin Rossdale (aka Mr Gwen Stefani), Alexandra and Theodora Richards, daughters of Keith Richards and model Patti Hansen, Mia Tyler, daughter of Aerosmith singer Steve Tyler, and Pixie and Peaches Geldof, the wild child daughters of Sir Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. Tali Lennox, daughter of Annie Lennox of Eurthymics fame is enjoying a particularly successful modelling career. The striking, self-possessed teen is the current face of Mango for A/W 20011/2012 and has also modelled for Burberry, Christopher Kane, Miu Miu, Kenzo, Prada, Missoni and Marc Jacobs.
Other model offspring come from artistic backgrounds that wouldn’t naturally lend themselves to high fashion. Take Sophie Dahl, the curvaceous odalisque of that infamous Yves Saint Laurent Opium advert. Her parents are the writer Tessa Dahl and actor Julian Holloway, while her grandfather was the celebrated children’s author Roald Dahl. Current fashion favourite Dree Hemmingway, who has graced the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and has modelled for Chanel, is the daughter of actress Mariel Hemmingway and the great grand-daughter of the iconic American author, Ernest Hemmingway. What would the forthright, heavy-drinking socialist have thought of his descendant promoting luxury brands ? One can only imagine. Fame is a funny beast — Lydia Hearst, another model offspring, is the great grand-daughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and the daughter of kidnap victim Patty Hearst, who notoriously held up a bank with her kidnappers, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in 1974.
Even the world of politics has its model offspring. Hudson has added Patrick Schwarzenegger to its list of model faces. And just in case accusations of sexism might arise, the 17-year-old son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, has posed shirtless for them. Lauren Bush, niece of former President George Bush, has also pursued a modelling career. Now married to Ralph Lauren’s son David, she faces into her new role as Mrs Lauren Lauren. Now that’s branding.
In Ireland we also have our model offspring — there’s Rosanna Davison, daughter of Chris De Burgh, Aisling Quinn, daughter of model mum Gillian and former Irish international Niall Quinn, and Max Irons, son of actors Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack.
For the typical celebrity offspring, becoming a model makes perfect sense as their potent mix of wealth, looks and glamour lends them that air of effortless cool that brands are so keen to tap into. For these kids fame is a family business the way plumbing, retailing or farming is for mere mortals. The only drawback for these model offspring is the inevitable comparisons with their famous parents. The sense of competition with your parents may not inspire the greatest sense of self-confidence in a fledgling adult.
The endemic quest for fame in contemporary pop culture is likely to ensure the continued high visibility of model offspring. Celebrities now see fame as normal. See J Lo’s advertising campaign with her two year old twins, Emme and Max, “spokesbabies” for Gucci’s new childrenswear line. The company made a €1 million donation to UNICEF’s Schools for Africa Campaign for J Lo and family’s participation but one can’t help feeling that those children are starting on the celebrity exposure circuit at an extremely tender age. One only has to look in recent years at 12-year-old Ava Sambora, daughter of Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora, modelling in a fashion show at LA fashion week and nine-year-old Noah Cyrus, little sister of Miley, launching a lingerie brand for Ohh La, La Couture to feel misgivings about the trend for the insatiable quest for celebrity endorsement.
Celebrity is now a commodity and many celebrity children are happy to use their surnames as a brand-name to give them an accelerated start.
Fame for them is the family business.
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